Friday, June 22, 2007

Visa, Mastercard, American Express

Visa, Mastercard, American ExpressContrary to what you may think, this post is not about credit cards. It's about the process of obtaining a United States J-1 (Exchange Visitor) visa.

So, my story begins at 8:00 in the morning on Thursday when I wake up. I take the train to Tel Aviv and a bus to the US Embassy, the only US Consulate in Israel. In the embassy I wait in line (line - not queue - this is the American embassy...) for about half an hour and submit all my forms for inspection including my all so precious DS-2019 and SEVIS fee confirmation. They quickly check the forms, and I'm on my way to the next step - fingerprinting.

In America, foreigners don't have privacy rights, and this includes the requirement to surrender your fingerprints. They had to scan me again even though they already had my fingerprints in the system from my previous visa request. The next step is the visa interview.

According to what it says on the embassy website, you need to bring lots of documents to the interview: Salary slips, student permits, and proof that you have ties to Israel. Well, I did bring all that, but the only thing the consul looked at was my invitation letter from Stanford, and specifically on the paragraph saying how much they're going to pay. After this very short interview my visa was confirmed, but I had to leave my passport and all forms behind.

The last step of the process was to pay to have my passport and DS-2019 mailed to be by courier. I payed the 33.50 NIS (US$8) fee by MasterCard, and off I went. The whole process took less than an hour. This is what I call American Express...

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