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So, as I said I had to travel to London from Manchester in order to attend my Visa application appointment. Now, here you have three options.
- Drive to London
- Stay in a hotel the night before
- Get a train into London
I did option 2. I did this because the appointments are early in the morning, so if there was traffic or any train delays I didn't want to be late. So I took a train to London the day before and stayed the night and walked to the embassy in the morning. Hotels in London can be expensive, but if you use websites like Booking.co.uk, you can find a bunch of hotels and I paid about £115 for a hotel in the Mayfair district. This didn't include breakfast, but I just went to the nearest McDonald's and bought a cheap breakfast that would be enough to fill me. If you get any spare time, then visit some sights. I visited the Sherlock Holmes museum and the Oxford Street. The subway is really easy too.
When you first get to London it can be overwhelming because of how busy it is, but don't panic. Someone will always be willing to help you, so use the tongue in your mouth. Remember you are going to be going abroad alone, so London is just a starter. Find Euston subway station and use your bank card to pay with contactless. You literally just scan it and scan it again when you get to your final destination, it won't ever take anymore than £6. The subway lines are very quick and hurt your head sometimes, but once again, ask someone. They will help! Download the London tube app on the play store to help you see the schedules and use Google Maps to walk. I walked to the embassy from my hotel. It took about 20 minutes but I felt very safe and it was very easy to follow the maps.
So, let me take you through my embassy experience. I've already done another blog on what you will need, so let's assume you have all of these things.
- So, as I also said, they only let me line up 30 minutes before my appointment. People under a tent will make the line and tell you what to have out ready. When you reach the tent, someone will scan the bar code on your instructions sheet.
- After this, they will send you to the security office, but before you are allowed to go in, a staff member will take your passport and check it before allowing you to head in.
- When you go into security, they will scan you and your bags. Try and be prepared for this so it makes it quicker.
- After this, head out of the security office and you will now be behind the fence. Security will be walking this perimeter with guns, so be prepared for that. Remember they are there to look after you, not hurt you, so don't panic. Keep walking around until you approach the steps to the main doors. Head through those doors and walk up to the desk.
- They will take your passport and give you a ticket number. You will then go into a waiting room, take a seat and keep an eye on the screen. When your ticket number appears, it will also show a gate number. At the side of the room, there are booths that are similar to a bank. Go to this.
- Hand the officer the documentation they ask for. Be prepared for questions. The officer asked me about what I study and got into a conversation with me about screen-writing. They are very friendly so don't worry. They will not make you feel disrespected in any way.
- After this, head back near the doors. Members of staff will tell you to take another seat before calling you to another line. Line up again and prepare to head to another booth.
- When they call you up, they will take your fingerprint scan. Ask you questions about your family and why you are going abroad. Again, don't worry. It can sometimes feel intimidating but they are doing their job and they have to check EVERYTHING. The officer will then give you a leaflet that tells you about your rights in the States. They will explain that your passport will be sent back to you in the next 7 working days.
- Leave through the doors closest to you and head through the security gate to exit.
- Wait for your visa to come back.
You can check your visa through a tracking service on the website. It will keep you up to date on the process that your visa is going through. My experience at the embassy was good, and it was quick considering it was busy. The longest I waited was probably about 25 minutes for my ticket number to be called, but be patient.
Don't be on your phone in the embassy. Turn it off. Photographs are not allowed.
Don't litter or use bad language. You have to show respect for them to grant you the visa.
Be patient when waiting for your visa—my visa got to my house in about a week or two. It was very quick, so don't panic. The visa will be stamped into your passport. This is so important so you cannot lose it.
If you can go with someone then great, but they cannot go into the embassy. I found that it was nice practice to go into a big city alone because it prepares you for going abroad. I would recommend doing this and I definitely would recommend staying in a hotel the night before if you don't live close. If you miss your appointment you have to wait for another one and sometimes they may not give you one in time before you go away. Try and book your appointment as early as you can in advance. This can only be done during the week.