Qian and I started the US immigrant visa process for me last December. After much form-filling, document preparation, a medical, and lots of waiting we were informed mid-July that I had been given an appointment for an interview at the American Embasssy in London on Monday August 15th.
I stayed in London overnight so I didn't have to make a very early start from my parent's house in Bedford and risk any delays on the train or underground. I was feeling quite nervous after 8 months of waiting for this moment but I managed to get a fairly good night's sleep.
You're not allowed to take any electronic devices into the embassy, which includes mobile phones and car key fobs, so I left my case with laptop and phone in the left luggage office at Paddington Station. I then walked across Hyde Park to Grosvenor Square in the early morning sunshine.
I was carrying quite a pile of documentation. Copies of all the forms and documents Qian and I had sent during the various stages of the visa process, extra US-sized passport photos, and a small album of photos of Qian and myself together during the last year. In the event I didn't have to show any of these items.
My appointment was for 9am but I arrived at 8am. There were only three people in the queue outside the embassy and I was inside within five minutes after passing through a very solid security booth and a fenced off walk round to the side of the building past heavily armed police. At the reception desk I was given an 'I' appointment number. There were already about 50 people in the waiting room which, as everyone says, is just like an Argos store with screens and announcements letting you know which number is ready to be processed.
I had to wait for about 90 minutes until the handful of immigrant visas before me had been called. There are about 20 booths but only 2 of these were being used intermittently for I numbers, the majority of the cases being N numbers, presumably non-immigrant visas. My heart sank when the woman processing my case said that they did't have the results of my medical examination. I started to think that I wouldn't go any further that day but she took details of when I had the medical and made a note to contact the medical practice. After taking my fingerprints she asked a few questions to confirm some of the details on my documents and then gave me a form to fill in delivery address for my passport and visa documents.
I went back to the waiting room and sat there for another 20 minutes before my number was called again. I saw a different woman this time. The first thing she did was hand me an envelope containing a CD of my chest X-Ray images, saying "you'll need to hand this over when you enter the USA", and also the original copies of birth certificate, etc. At that point I began to feel more optimistic. She scanned my left hand fingerprints to verify my identity. I then had to raise my right hand and take an oath about the truthfulness of my application. She asked me when Qian and I had met and that was the only question. I had to sign part 2 of form DS-230 and finally she warned me that if I was flying into the USA with a connecting flight to my destination I should leave plenty of time because there might be a delay in immmigration secondary inspection if they were busy. I was beginning to feel quite euphoric at this point and blurted out something like "is that it?" and she replied with a smile "yes, that's it". Luckily there was a glass partition between us because otherwise I might have been tempted to give her a joyful hug.
I then queued up to pay for the courier to return my passport and visa. I was lucky to arrive at the courier desk when there were only two people in front of me. A few minutes later there were about 30 in the queue. Once I'd paid for delivery there was nothing else to do and I was out of the embassy by 10:30am.
The courier arrived at work yesterday, four days later, with the package containing my passport with the visa inside it and the mysterious envelope which must not be opened and is to be handed to the immigration officer when I enter the USA.