The first time I applied for a visa to the USA, the Embassy rejected it. I didn´t plan on telling my story since I was kind of embarrassed, but Visa USA Now motivated me to do so, since it could help others who were also interested in the procedure.
It was the day of the interview, and I dressed for the part entirely. I don´t usually wear a suit, but I decided that was the day I was going to. I also needed to go for a letter I requested from a former employer, saying I was a good fellow and all that. Lima´s streets were clear and not that jammed that day, or at least the route the cab took wasn´t, so I had time to go for the letter of recommendation, and I arrived at the embassy at 9:40 a.m., just 20 minutes before the exact time.
At this point, I had my first surprise. No one had told me anything about the whole procedure before, and somehow I supposed I had to first stand by in a waiting room, for the embassy staff to eventually call me so that I could have the interview. But no, I entered a place full of people. I had to leave my mobile phone at the entrance and then go through a metal detector. Then I had to walk about 60 feet, where I encountered a security guard that reminded me I had to have my passport, payment receipt and DS-160 form with me. I provided those documents and entered a waiting room with around 240 seats. I had to look around for an available place since they were all occupied.
I remember I sat next to a girl that was around 30-40 years old. She asked me a lot of questions about the form; told me she wasn´t sure she had filled it out correctly. I went through her form for a moment but didn´t get a chance to form an opinion since her group got the call, and left. There were still some people around, many seemed nervous, pacing all over, moving their hands or fingers, some went to the candy machine, some bought coffee. Other people went over their documents over and over again. I thought I had brought loads of documents myself, but it turns out there were people that brought a whole novel with them.
After almost an hour, an official called my group, and we went into a room with about 300 seats or so. There were four security windows, with the embassy officials on the other side. More than 400 people were in my group and only four officials for us all. This was one of those other misconceptions I had since I supposed the interview would be in a room, with the embassy official on the other side of a desk. It´s not, he or she is actually behind a bulletproof window.
I accepted the fact that I was going to be there for some time, and I started talking to some of the people around me. First I met this farmer from Ica who told me he planned to visit his brother in California. I was surprised since he only had the standard documents, plus a recommendation letter from an employer. I had a complete folder with additional materials. There was also a middle-aged woman that told me she had always dreamt of traveling to the USA, but that it was her first time visiting the country.
They finally called my group, and 4 of us made a small line. I could hear what the official told the other applicants. First, there was this man with his son.
I correctly heard when he said he had a visa, but then I heard them reject his son´s permit. Then it was an old man´s turn, not even a minute went by, and Embassy officials declined his visa also. Then it was a middle-aged woman´s turn, and I remember she was pretty loud, so everyone heard she had previously lived in the USA and that now she planned to go back as a tourist. She too got denied. At that point, I look at the person behind me with fear. Did they approve anyone their visa?
It was finally my turn. The embassy official was a man, about 40 or 50 years old. He said hello and asked what my motive was for traveling to the USA. I answered I was visiting as a tourist. He wondered how long I planned to stay in the USA and I answered that around a month. He also asked if I had relatives in the country, to which I said yes. The thing is I hadn´t mentioned that in the DS-160 form because these were the cousins of some cousins of mine. The officer noticed this and asked why I hadn´t said this. I got nervous at this point and couldn´t give a coherent answer. The officer went on to other questions such as what I worked at, how much I earned a month, how long I had worked at this company.
In the end, those awful words nobody wants to hear: Unfortunately, we cannot grant you a visa to enter the United States on this occasion, but you can reapply in the future. Here is a letter explaining our motives, have a good day. I left frustrated, thinking about all the documents I had gathered without results. The interview lasted no more than 5 minutes and the officer never even asked for any of my papers. I afterward spoke to a girl that also got her work visa denied that morning. It appears only the unlucky ones had the interview that day.
I decided to get the help from professional advisors for the next time, and a friend recommended Visa USA Now. I paid the corresponding fee, and they helped me all through the process. They gave me some handy pointers and told me what I had done wrong the first time. That second time I applied, it was all a success. I did it about three months later and incorporated every suggestion Visa USA Now gave me. It was a whole different experience the second time. I´ll tell you what some of the pointers they gave me were in another post, and also details about the entire experience.