Stop. It's Visa Time
We checked in with the guru herself for all things Visa.
Note: This article was written pre-pandemic and a lot of processes have changed in the world of travel and visas. Although this gives you a rough outline of what's involved in a J1 application, some information may now be out of date. If you're unsure, please check with the Camp Leaders team directly or look for the most up-to-date US government guidelines.
You have your placement and now we need to make it official. It’s time to book that appointment and organise your Visa.
Applying for your Visa and heading to the American Embassy can feel a little daunting but that’s what we are here for; to take the weight of those shoulders, to break it down and make it simple.
I remember being afraid of the sheer amount of questions and paperwork. I had this interrogation type scenario drilled into my head; with the then added stress that if I got it wrong, that I wouldn't be going to camp at all. Not sure if you can sense I was a bit of a worrier?
But I really shouldn’t have feared and neither should you.
We are absolute pros when it comes to the application and the process on the day. So breathe, trust us and let’s crack on.
Applying for your J1 Visa appointment
What you need in front of you right now;
- 'The instructions’ - You can find these very important words of wisdom right here and also on your camp leaders portal.
- A passport style photo of yourself. Firstly make sure you have time to complete the application, although straightforward, the form is in depth and can take a little time to complete. I would give yourself a good hour with a nice cuppa and some biscuits on the side.
Secondly - Crashes are incredibly common on the US embassy website, it is being used all around the world - so it is peak time at all times. If it stops working then you will loose all your current answers even if you have saved it, I have been caught out here before!
To avoid ample frustration and hair pulling, simply make sure you write down your personal reference number (it begins with an AA00) - then if the page stops working or times out, which is likely, you won’t be starting again.
All you need to now do is to follow those instructions! Do not deviate! We shall know if you do. Please stick to the step by step guide, we are watching.
Once you have completed up to step 5 you are now ready to book your appointment on the Embassy portal. A brand new set of instructions just for this section can be found here.
I’ve completed it, what do I do next
You’ve done it. There is now an appointment with your name on it. Wipe that unnecessary stress from your brow and check your inbox as you shall be sent a very important email. Make sure that you upload it to your documents. Then boom. You’re booked in.
Going to the Embassy
People have so many presumptions to what the embassy will be like. With my embassy interview, I genuinely believed that I would be I would be interrogated, sweating, with an intense spotlight on my face.
The embassy is in fact, far less movie like and a lot less intense. The inside being strikingly similar to a post office or bank; with plastic booths and an infuriating ding sounding every few minutes to indicate if it’s your number for the next free stand.
Nothing to fear.
Everyone will need to go to the American embassy in person. Who doesn’t love a day trip to London! (If you’re in Northern Ireland, you can also head to Belfast.)
In London we shall be stood outside, rain or hopefully shine, to ensure you have all your documents and that you are happy. We might even crack a joke or a well timed anecdote it you are lucky; we are a hilarious bunch.
What to take
Before leaving home, use this handy checklist to check (then double and triple check) you have everything!
Handy Checklist of very important things
- ‘Appointment Instructions’
- DS-160 Form
- Copy of confirmation page
- SEVIS Receipt (I-901 form)
- American sized passport photo
- Evidence of Intent to return to the UK
- You have read about the Wilberforce Act
And if attending J Day at US Consulate in Belfast:
- DS-2019 Form
What not to take... When entering the American embassy, you shall be checked in and then guided to a security checkpoint with scanners. Very much like an airport! The American Embassy is very firm on its prohibited list, you don’t mess with the Embassy. Below is a statement issued straight from the top dogs themselves, so take note!
“You can bring your mobile phone, e-reader, iPad or other tablet computer during your visit. But iPad and tablet keyboards are not allowed, nor are laptop computers, suitcases and other large bags. Of course, weapons and other dangerous items must also stay out. The Embassy does not offer storage; nearby businesses may be able to store some items for a fee.”
What happens after
If all paperwork is in order and they’ve taken your passport from you with a smile, then your Visa has been approved. Cue celebration! The embassy will be keeping your passport for up to 2 weeks and will then send back to your selected location.
Once its back, its real! Your printed visa, featuring an unflattering mugshot, is your way into the States for camp. Make sure you don’t lose any of the paperwork given to you as you shall need it all at border control.
But for now, breathe, the ordeal is over! Time to begin the countdown and focus on other exciting tasks… like the big shop before packing!
Visa application jargon buster!
- J1 - This is the Visa programme you are on as a summer camp counselor.
- J-day - This is the specified day you shall be needing to attend for your J1 Visa appointment.
- Ds-160 - The online application from the US embassy, you'll soon know this from back to front. Print out the front page and barcode.
- Ds2019 - We shall be brining this form for you to your embassy appointment.
- SEVIS - We organise your SEVIS paperwork and payment for you but shall be giving you your individual code so you can print the receipt to bring to your appointment.