So on the 10th of May, my husband and I completed our online applications for our family. Unfortunately though, when we paid the fees and checked the appointment schedule of the US Consulate, the earliest one we could get was July. However, when I checked the US Embassy schedule and found they had available slots for June, we immediately prepared new applications (this time choosing Abu Dhabi as the location), called their customer service to request to transfer our details in the appointment booking site, and we set the appointment for the following month. Fast forward to the day of our appointment, Hubby and I woke up earlier than usual to prepare, and then set off to Abu Dhabi. We arrived at the Embassy a little after 8am and left approximately 3 hours later…relieved and very thankful that our efforts and money did not go to waste ☺
Yup, we were granted US visit visas! All four of us (Hubby, me, Caila and Sophie)! Hurraaaaay!!!!
And considering that there were a lot of people before us who had their applications denied, I just thanked God over and over for answering our prayers and granting us this blessing.
So what exactly did we do to apply and complete the entire process? Here are the steps we followed just to give you an idea:
1) Go to the website https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ and complete the DS-160 application form online.
Provide the required information and answer all questions truthfully. Have a digital/soft copy of your latest photograph ready as you will need to upload it when submitting your application.
Even though we’re a family travelling together, we still needed to submit a form each; so after Hubby completed his, I completed mine and our two girls’ (I made sure to state this information at the end of the application because it asks whether you completed it yourself or had help).
2) Create an account at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-ae/niv/users/sign_in, pay the fee (US$160 per application) and book your appointment.
You have the option to pay using a card or cash. I used my debit card so that we could book the appointment right away. If you opt to use cash, you will need to go to an Empost office and wait for a couple of days.
If you are running out of time and the earliest available date at your preferred location is too far off, you can check the alternative location like what we did. However, you will have to prepare and submit a new DS-160 application form (make sure to choose the new location), and call their Customer Service (04-3768311 or 02-4476084) to transfer the fees and application in the same account. Otherwise, you can keep checking every day for an earlier date to become available and move your appointment accordingly. This is not 100% guaranteed, though.
3) Gather supporting documents.
Hubby and I brought practically every document we thought we would need, but the interviewer didn’t ask to see a single one. However, it is still better to be prepared because we saw other people asked to present statements, records, and certificates. For a list of documents you may need, you can refer to this site: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-AE/niv/information/required_docs
4) Go to the location of your appointment on the scheduled day.
Bring your original passport, photograph, and supporting documents. Do not bring a bag.
At the Embassy, I had to go back to the car to leave my small handbag because it wasn’t allowed in the premises and they didn’t have a locker or counter to keep personal belongings. Mobile phones had to be switched off and these, along with keys and flashdisks, had to be surrendered to the security.
5) Queue, wait, and go through the necessary steps until the interview.
First we had to queue to present our passports and confirmation paper; a barcode sticker was attached to the backs. Then we queued again to enter the first building where we and our belongings (documents, shoes, belts, watches, etc) were scanned. After that, we were held at a waiting room for around 20 minutes. Finally, we were told to go to another building where we were given numbers and had to wait some more.
The first time our number was called, we presented our passports for checking and answered a few questions (Why are you going to the US? When were the photos in the applications taken?). Right after that, we went to another counter to have our fingerprints scanned. Then we waited for a longer time for our number to be called again.
There wasn’t anything else to do except talk to each other and observe the interviews, so that’s what we did. There were a lot who were denied visas, but there were also many whose applications were approved. I did notice, though, that if the interviewer had a lot of questions and asked to see certain documents, it meant that s/he was giving the person more chances to prove that the visit was purely that: a visit…and the applicant wasn’t planning to work or stay in the US longer than necessary.
6) Answer truthfully during the interview.
As soon as our number flashed on the screen, Hubby and I stood up and walked to the counter. The interviewer greeted us, we presented our 4 passports, and she began asking us questions which we all answered confidently and without hesitations. It lasted about 2 minutes until finally she said “Your visas have been approved…” and gave us a slip of paper on how we’ll be receiving our passports.
7) Wait for a notification e-mail with the passport collection details.
We received this 2 days later, and of course we excitedly went to collect the passports the same day. We gave the person at Empost the tracking numbers of the packages, and Hubby and I presented our Emirates IDs and copies of our girls’ birth certificates…and voila! Our passports were in our hands with the multiple-entry visas valid for 10 years!