This is a note to the Bhutanese who are traveling to the US for the first time. I have heard stories here and there that a few people got scammed with hefty amounts by the middlemen who pose as lawyers or people who can process the visas.
Getting a visa to the US is pretty much straight forward if you know what you are doing. But if you don’t, it can get pretty complicated and take you in circles often costing you a lot of money.
Now, first things first. If you are using a lawyer, know who you are talking to. I fear, most of them are not even lawyers but ordinary people like you and me who had done it once, and use the experience to scam money from innocent people. Do a little background check on the person you are trusting with your hard earned money and sensitive personal information. If all arrows turn green, go ahead. A credible lawyer should know it best. Otherwise, it doesn’t harm to do a little research on your own.
Basically, all the information required to process any visa to the US is readily available on their website.
If you are planning to apply for your visa at the Delhi Embassy, you can find all the information here. The instructions are self explanatory so I am not going to repeat it and waste space here. Just click on the links provided and you should be able to read it all yourself.
But, do not just wake up, board the plane and head to Delhi. First, go to their website and study all the details very carefully. There are many types of visas and you need to determine the purpose of your travel to the US. Let’s say, you are just visiting the US for a period of time. In that case, you need to apply for the B1/B2 visa.You need to make an appointment for your visa interview. This you can do online after paying the necessary fees. I am not sure if there is a way to pay the fees from Bhutan as the website says it has to be paid through an HDFC bank. But if you drive to Jaigaon across the border, you should be able to find an approved HDFC bank.
After you’ve successfully made that appointment, you need to put together a set of documents that you’ll need to take to the interview. The common believe is; The more papers you have, the better your chance of getting approved. This, I believe is not always true. Understand the purpose of the interview. The US government encourages you and wants you to visit the US but, they are making sure that you are not here to stay illegally, use welfare funds from the government while you are here and that you are not a threat to the US.
So, how do you go about proving that? Here are a few steps.
First, get a Police Clearance certificate/No objection certificate, whatever you call it, to prove that you have no criminal record. I read in Kuensel that it’s fairly faster these days as they took it online.
Next, you need to prove that you won’t be dependent on the US government while you are here. Go to the bank, get your account statements for the past three months, or maybe even six months. Make sure you have enough money in your account. This is one straight proof that you are able to support yourself during you stay in the US.
Also, get all the papers that states your ownership of properties, vehicles, land.. etc. Anything that has your name on it and says it’s yours. It’s simple logic that if you have enough stakes at home, you are more likely to return. Makes sense? If you are employed, get a letter from your Boss stating how long you had been employed, how long you are taking a leave and when you’ll return to work. This will further prove your ties at home.
If you are a student, don’t fret about about properties listed in your name or lot of money in your account. just be honest about it and tell them you don’t have ‘em. No one will expect a young kid to own properties or have a huge bank account. I would suggest take a letter from your parents saying your are taking a vacation with their permission and that they will support you for the trip.
This reminds me of another common believe about SPONSORS. I have heard that some people are paying huge sums to the alleged US Sponsors for sponsorship letters.
Please do not make that mistake. If you have a real sponsor who is genuinely willing to sponsor you, go ahead, take a letter from them You might as well need his tax returns and bank statement here in the US. Otherwise, don’t!
If you are applying for a tourist visa, having a sponsor in the US can (I think) give the wrong message. If you look at it from the other angle, it also means that you have a ‘tie’ here in the US which can be a reason for you to over-stay your visa. Aren’t you likely to return home if you have no friends, no family or any sort of ties here in the US? Which is exactly what you are trying to prove here DON’T I repeat, pay another US sponsor. You need a sponsor only if in case you do not have sufficient fund for the trip.
Another common mistake. Some believe that showing a pre-booked hotel and return plane ticket at the time of the interview is necessary. I would say it will definitely help as it shows your seriousness about your visit but it’s not necessary. What if your visa got denied? Go through the unnecessary cancellation process often costing you cancellation fees? Their website says they ONLY ADVISE applicants to make the arrangements but it doesn’t say anywhere that it’s mandatory.
Just be honest and tell the interviewing officer you are not wasting money unnecessarily before you got the visa, but will make it as soon as you get your visa. And if your visa is approved, do make sure you have a US address when you board the plane to the US. You’ll need to write it down on the I-94 Form at the time of boarding the plane.
At the interview. Don’t fret about it. It’s just another human being out there and he’s not there to grill you like your boss. Stay calm, be courteous (don’t overdo it), smile, speak in clear audible English and don’t volunteer information, meaning, only answer the questions asked and don’t tell them what you think about your neighbor’s newborn baby. They have very limited time with you to determine if you can visit the US. Also, dress appropriately. Don’t go in there dressed like a junkie. They deal with enough idiots everyday. The immigration officer will ask questions only pertaining to your case. Remember, all questions are asked only to confirm your purpose of visit to the US. If you can convince the officer that you are; ‘Just’ visiting the US for a period of time, you have the funds necessary for your trip, you’ll return at the end of the trip and that you’re not a threat to the US, you may be granted a visa.
This leads us to the famous myth about the visa. Most common people believe, including myself until some time ago, that the VISA is The Thing. That the expiration date stamped on your visa is the length of time you can be in the US soil.
That’s wrong. In fact, the Visa doesn’t even grant you the right to be in the US. The visa is only a permission to enter the US but, surprisingly not to remain here. Don’t panic though. I think I mentioned a form called I-94 somewhere above. You get this form at the time of boarding the plane to the US. You fill it up and the the Security Officer punches in the date of entry and the DATE when you must leave the country. Keep your I-94 Form secured. You need to give it back to the port when you are departing the US. This is necessary so that they know you have actually left the country. Otherwise, you may be barred from future visits to the US.
Also, it doesn’t matter if your visa expires after you’ve entered the US as long as the date on the I-94 is valid as this is your permission to stay here. For a tourist, it’s normally six months.
Ok, this is getting too long so I am going to wrap up around here. Do let me know in the comment section if you have questions. I will answer them as and when I can and of course, if I know it. I really wish to write on Surviving Through Your First Few Weeks in NY. But I guess I’ll make that another chapter.
Please note, I am not a registered lawyer, certified lawyer, wannabe lawyer, anything lawyer and for that matter, associated with anything immigration. All information in the article may or may not be accurate. Whatever I write here, are entirely my personal thoughts and should not be taken as legal advise. In laymen’s term, don’t F#@$*#ing screw me for trying to help you.