Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Applying for US visa in Germany

I got a paper accepted in one of the two biggest robotics conferences. This conference is supposed to be held in the US. So I had to apply for the visa. I asked the conference chair to send me an invitation letter to present my paper there. Then I checked the US embassy website in Germany. The nearest embassies are in Munich and Frankfurt. Frankfurt has a one week waiting list for appointments, whereas Munich has two weeks time. So I chose Frankfurt. Their website lists the requirements. There is a $10 application fee for filling the online application. Then there is €112 visa fee to be submitted to another agency. This agency sends an email confirmation of fee payment within 3 days. Then I got the sponsor letter from my prof. I reserved a time slot on a Monday at 9 am. I went to Frankfurt on Sunday and stayed at a friend's. 

On Monday morning I got up early and went out. I had seen the route plan on the Internet and so we went about to search for the tram station to take the tram. This tram station had two platforms on two different streets for two different line runs. We got to one platform, but found out that the relevant tram doesn't run from here. So we searched for the other platform, and asked a lady about it. She told us the location of this platform but said there is a transport strike today. Great!!! Like the transport strikes in my city weren't annoying enough, that they follow me here as well. Good thing a few buses were running. So we got on a bus. I called the embassy to tell them that I would be late because of the strike, and the guy there said ok in a careless manner, which surprised me. Anyways, the bus took us to a station about one km from embassy and we walked towards the embassy. 

The embassy is a big structure with a lot of space. There was a small queue outside the embassy for the initial counter. There were some sheds with benches along the queues with heaters in them. The heater did feel good as it was a little cold. When I reached the counter, the lady told me that there is a form missing in my documents. She gave me a map of the local area with addresses of local copy shops. The nearest one is an imbiss with a south asian owner. She told me that it is the nearest but most expensive. He had a laptop and color printer. It took me a long while to find the form, fill it and print it. Many people were coming there to do this, so it was a common thing. I also helped a couple of ppl there in finding the info they needed. One family hadn't submitted their fee, so they needed much more to do. Anyways, I got back to the embassy where they checked my documents and let me in, while giving my friend a map of the local cafes to roam around and come back after about 1.5 hours.

Inside, the process was pretty simple. The visa officer was a young guy who asked some simple questions, and then asked whether I can leave my passport with them. I got my passport back within 3 weeks with the visa.