Our visa interview

My wife and I appeared for visa interview at the US consulate, Chennai,  the other day. A new experience,  it was.  We had got our first visa without interview.  They had this drop-box system then(1998),  for fuddy-duddies wanting to visit their NRI sons/daughters.  You handed in relevant documents to the security staff at the consulate gate by nine any morning; and collected your passports with stamped visa the same evening.

Personal appearance was for youngsters.  When our son Ravi sought visa for higher studies (in 1994,I believe)  they used to queue up overnight on the pavement outside the consulate.  Proxy was allowed and the going rate for a stand-in through the night was Rs.100. We hired my office boy Jeeva to spend the night on the consulate queue, so that Ravi could swap place with Jeeva on the morning of the interview. 

When I met him the morning after Jeeva told me not to worry –  Ravi would get visa for sure. As Jeeva put it,  the consultate queue was no patch on the Friday rush at movie theatres.  Jeeva,  a veteren of scores of cinema-house queues,  had never once failed to get the tickets.  Jeeva was among the top ten in the consulate queue.  How could then Ravi not get a visa, he reasoned. I loved his cut and dried reasoning,  and his theatre queue anology.  And true to Jeeva’s word, Ravi got his visa. Getting ticket for a Rajnikant movie at Satyam would have been tougher.

I missed Jeeva on our interview day;  could have done with his pep talk.  The visa interview can be a life-altering experience for parents with NRI sons/daughters.  So accstomed we are, to visiting our only son and family periodically,  that I can’t imagine a life without US visa. 

On the interview day my wife and I were at the consulate half hour before before time – 11 a m.  The orderly way they regulated, what seemed, an unending stream of visa-seekers reminded me of Tirupathi,  where they regulated the flow of pilgrims through holding areas,  with seating arrangement, water-cooler and closed-circuit TV at every holding stage. Unlike in Tirupathi,  the waiting area in the US consulate is fully air-conditioned.

 Interview area resembled railway reservations counters,  with several visa-seekers being attended to simultaneously.  Many other couples like us were in queue, waiting in unspoken silence, and anxious to get it over with. The man ahead of us in the queue kept removing his thick-framed glasses, every now and then, to wipe his forehead with a hand-kerchief.  He looked conspicuously over-dressed, wearing a dark suit in Chennai summer.

Another gent preceding me in the final queue  appeared over-prepared for the interview.  In response to a routine query he came up with a speech. I heard him say, apart from spending time with his son and family, he planned to do New York, visit Niagara, and take the opportunity to meet people and understand American culture.  This was when the interviewer cut him short politely, with a smile, assuring a visibly anxious parents that their visa would be couriered to them within a week.

We got a similar assurance , after a brief exchange.  The interviewer didn’t even want to see  the papers I carried – my son’s affidavit of support, his job status, tax returns, my house tax receipt,  fixed deposit cerificates. Asked about the purpose of our visit, I mentioned our grandsons, with whom we wanted to spend time. Interviewer welcomed the idea, saying it was a nice way to spend time in retirement. 

To his question on my income, I said, I had none.  Somewhat surprised at my response, he asked, ‘Not even pension’?  To which I said my wife and I lived on remitances from our son.

Was he a US citizen? No, a green-card holder.

The interview was over.

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5 Responses

  1. Nice to hear that you got the visas without any problem.

  2. i heared sometimes they are not giving visas to parents who comes here to look after pregnant daughters.saying thats a job and they cant give them visiting visas for that job:),they need to get a job visa for that purpose:)

  3. Well observed post. And informative to people like me who are yet to travel your route. Surprising that even with you confessing to ‘no-income ‘ they let your through. Glad you made it.

  4. Forgot to add that I think your family is terrific – in the way your son is supporting you financially . In these days, when parents are shunted around from child to child, this seems so good.

  5. hi gvk..

    hope u remember the para in that story we once discussed, the grandpa going to NY…and the experience in front of the US embassy..

    your article took me to that and the experience my late parents underwent in front of the embassy. It took them 3*24 hrs if i recall.. though after 16 day time hrs a boy had to be employed to hold the position at night..

    let’s talk when u get here..

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