I've always loved photoblogs. I feel like I'm more of a visual person than a writer. Sometimes though my brain loves to tell stories and thanks to Inquirer, one has been published already. So this blog will be a mix of both: things I see through my lens or letters I type down on my laptop. (: Best viewed using Google Chrome.
A Detailed Account of my USEM Interview
Thursday, September 9, 2010, 12:36 PM

Hmmm. I’ve just realized at this point that this might be a very long post so bear with me as I want to be as detailed as possible.

Interview Date: 08 September 2010
Time: 7:00am

I woke up at 2:46am, earlier than my 3:00am alarm. Whilst our housemaid cooked a meal for me, I took a shower. It took me a while to prepare. I woke up J at around 4:30-ish. He stared at me, smiled, and said “Happy 14th month!” I smiled back at him. He still looks sleepy but we had a few small talks before my brother arrived at home and was ready to drive me to the embassy. Before 5:00am, we were heading to España and reached the embassy grounds 15 minutes before 6:00am. When I got there, I realized I forgot to drink water before I left the house. So I went to one of the vendors and bought a bottle of water from him. The funny thing is he asked me, “Ma’am, seawoman ka…” after like a 3 second pause, “…o K1?” In all honesty, I wanted to say seawoman! :p When I spotted a seat, I quickly moved and sat down, drank more water and started to pray the rosary. Before I knew it, guards were calling applicants who have a 7:00am schedule.

There is a special line for K applicants and it was there where I saw May, who I've met from VJ. She actually saw me first and won our bet but I guess I was too tall not to be noticed. :p And we met three other girls who I’ve mentioned on a previous blog entry. I wasn't able to get their names but we had interesting conversations with them.

Here are the next steps

GETTING INSIDE THE EMBASSY
-To get inside the embassy, the guard will ask you for a valid ID and a copy of your email appointment confirmation.

-Next step is the common security measure where they will check the contents of your bags and folders that you might have hand carried.

-Since May had a previous K1 interview, she was very familiar with the embassy steps already. So, we followed her as she lead us inside the embassy. We turned right from the aisle inside the embassy and followed the arrow for Immigrants.

-There’s a small booth where they would ask you for your DS forms and Blue Receipt from BDO. Be sure to have 2 copies of DS156 with photos, 2 copies of DS157, and one copy of DS 156K. After that, you’d be given a number which will be important for all the next steps. Please note that they flash the number in random order. So you need to check the Queuing Board attentively.

-A number flashed and it was the number of one of the fiancée in our group. She then proceeded to finger scanning. Whilst in my case, my number flashed on a window of a pre-interviewer.
7 + 1 = 8 
Maybe that's my lucky number! :)


PRE-INTERVIEWER EXPERIENCE
-An old guy, almost same age as my dad I think, interviewed me. I heard, “Good morning, Karen. Ang kapal ng files niyo” in a deep voice. I greeted him back and was just smiling. He has all my documents in a folder including my passport, the DS forms that were submitted earlier and the files that J sent to USCIS with a stamp “APPROVED” above it. 

-He then asked me to write J’s complete name and my signature on the DS 156k I’ve submitted earlier. He was so nice. Whilst I was writing things down, he mentioned a street name and asked if I live near that street. I said yes. He continued telling me that one of the shops in that place was owned by his friend and that he used to always visit so he was very familiar around the area where I live. I smiled at him and answered a few more question unrelated to me or my visa application.

-After the small talk, it was time for business. He asked me for my Birth Certificate, CENOMAR, and NBI Clearance.

-He then asked me my complete name and my birth day and he literally put a check mark on my birth certificate.

-Next thing he asked me was the financial documents of J. He said he needed the ITR, the W2 and employment letter. I was so anal and just submitted a quarter of an inch photocopies that I’ve already bundled up and labelled. The only thing that was original in the file was the two-page I-134. He browsed through the papers and placed another check mark on J’s annual income. And he said, “Oh, okay naman 'tong income.”

-He asked me for pictures and I had 50 in all which were 48 pictures from our vacation and 2 Great Image studio pictures. No need to put the pictures on an album or a scrapbook. Mine were just pictures itself that I’ve labelled and dated at the back.

-After that he asked me if I brought cards with me. I said yes and asked if he wanted the photocopies or the original. He wanted the latter so I took the plastic bubble mailer which had all the cards and Phil Post/DHL receipts inside. I was sorting the cards but he told me just to give him everything.

-I was asked if J sends me money. Another yes echoed as I told him that he sent me money for the paperwork and other things related to our visa application. I thought he needed copies of those and I was excited to show him how neat I’ve compiled all our evidences. But no, I guess he was satisfied with my answer.

-Seems he got everything he needed. He then asked me how J and I met and when did he visit me.

-He asked me if we had prior marriages and if we have kids or if I was pregnant. I said, no to all those questions. He then made a comment saying, “Good. Yung iba kasi [pumupunta] dito pang-apat na fiancée na!” I was just looking at him, unaffected. I guess I’m used to those stories because of reading too much content on VJ. :p

-After all the questions, he actually wished me luck. I said my cutest thank you of course. ;)


Sat down beside May and our new nameless friends. We all had different pre-interviewers. We were like little kids who were comparing notes on what were the questions or which documents or proof were asked from us. Well in the end, it was only the financial documents that were constant but all the rest were different. I was complaining that I prepared my proof of genuine relationship but was never asked about it. The other fiancée, I think Anna was her name, was anxious because she wasn’t asked to submit pictures or letters. So yeah, tip here: just be sure that you have everything that is listed as requirements. It is better to have complete files than being paranoid that you’re missing something. And since pre-interviewers ask for different things, better be prepared than sorry.










FINGER PRINTING
-My number was not flashed nor called but my name and the window number was announced. We lined up at Window 34 where an African-American was doing the finger scanning.

-I was asked for my number, showed him my number and read it aloud. He looked through the folders and when he saw mine he went, “Oh, the big one!” And I was giggling like a kid. :p By this time, the original copies of the cards, receipts, financial documents were added. It looked as though it was 6 inches thick!

-He asked me for my name and birth date and proceeded with finger scanning. He was cute when he told me not to be nervous and to just REEEEELAX. He had funny hand gestures to match that too.


This is the appointment confirmation that was returned to me after all the process.
Stamped on it is "BIO F/S Done"








It took a while before my number flashed for the consul interview. I was looking at the ceiling when May told me, “Kinakabahan ka rin eh. Ayaw mo lang ipakita!” I actually wasn’t. I told her, I was memorizing all the important dates that might be asked. Anna said, “Oo, day, tinatanong” with the most adorable Davaoeña accent. And I went back looking at May pestering her with, “Sabi sayo eh!” I have more dates to memorize because J got to the US when he was 14 and got naturalized seven years after. So I thought that those might be asked, but they weren’t!


CONSUL INTERVIEW

-My number flashed and this time I knew it was for the Consul Interview. There was an old lady sitting beside the door so I thought she needed to go first and I have to sit beside her. But the girl from the embassy assisted me in opening the last door on that aisle and I saw an African-American lady with dreadlocks. I thought she would be my interviewer. But I was pointed to go on the left side where a white American wearing plaid was sitting. I had my biggest smile and said Hi! But he looks like he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or either he hasn’t had breakfast yet or even coffee. He told me to place my index finger on the finger scanning machine. After that I just sat there, stared at the clock behind him that said it was exactly 9:15am. He had my thick file on his right side. He started giving me back the photographs I submitted, it was now in a ziplock. He also gave me back the pile of cards and receipts which had rubber band around it and had a big black metal paper clip on top. They actually arranged it for me! :p


-He started looking through pages of my file. He kept flipping page after page after page. I was just sitting there staring at him while he was doing that. He wasn’t talking. I got bored and so I looked at people walking at his back. After around 5 minutes of dead and awkward silence, he then asked me to raise my right hand and he made me take an oath.

-Questions that were asked:
            1. My name
2. My birth date
3. How did you and your petitioner meet?
4. And when was that?
5. How many times did he visit you?
6. What were those dates?
7. What does he do for a living?
8. When are you planning to marry?
8. What do you do for a living? (I am unemployed since May 27, 2010. So, he then asked me another question.)
9. What was your previous job then? (I told him that I was employed for almost 3 years and told him the nature of my previous job.)

-I seriously cannot remember if he asked me for J’s complete name. But in between those questions, he was typing details (perhaps of my answers) on his computer. He took more time flipping through my files than actually looking at me and asking me about J. He had a blue paper and he drew a straight line vertically and he started signing that and other pages on my file. He placed a stamp on my paper and without looking at me said, “Your visa has been approved. Wait for them to call your name and they’ll give you more instructions.” I was just smiling. I didn’t know what to say because he wasn’t looking at me. When he lifted his head he then started, “Congratulations and take care!” He was looking at me when he said that and I felt it was the only time he really meant what he said. I said my thanks, told him I will take care, and headed out of the door.


I started walking back to the waiting area. This time I saw May from afar and gave her a big smile and lifted my right hand to give her a thumb up. She was sitting by herself without the other three fiancées who already got the pink slip and headed home. I talked to her momentarily when our conversation got cut because her number flashed for her consul interview.

I waited for a few more minutes and my name was announced and was told to proceed to Window Y. After two persons in front of me, I was asked my name and my number. He got my files and started entering things in his computer. He paused and asked me if I was interviewed already. I said yes, of course. He looked through my paperwork and tore off the email appointment confirmation. He then gave me a paper for Air21 and the infamous PINK SLIP. He told me to fill it out, go to the Air21 booth to pay for the delivery, and I can go home after all that.



Whew!

Whilst I was filling out the form, I couldn’t help it, I started muttering my prayers. I do believe I passed with the help of prayers. Got out of the embassy and caught a cab from across the street. At 9:44am, I was on my way back home with good news for J. The cab driver went, “Sinuwerte naman ako, buena mano ko po kayo.” And I told him with all smiles, “Nako Manong, suswertihin talaga kayo buong araw kasi approved yung visa ko!” :)

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