Today I went to Berne for the Visa interview at the US Embassy. For other fellow travellers who plan to visit the US for more than three months, I wrote down this summary of the process.
First of all, the people working at the embassy were all super friendly and were genuine excited about my plans, I did not expect that.
The first step is to fill out the DS-160 form, and believe me, that’s the hardest part of the whole process! It took me about an hour to complete the form. Luckily you can save the progress and continue later, for example when you have to hunt down some documents (it’s been many years since I was in the military…) or get a photo. When you completed the form, you have to pay a visa fee of $160, this cannot be done with a credit card but there are multiple online banking options. After paying the fee, you’ll get a code that you need to schedule an appointment at the embassy.
The interview takes place in Berne in the embassy. There they will check your plans and make sure you do not intend to stay in the US longer than the visa allows. To make this easy, you should bring some supporting documents. I brought the following items:
An overall map of both Americas with the points of interests I want to visit
A more detailed plan with a route of my plans for the United States
Bank account statements to show that I have the financial means to support myself during the stay
My current work contract
Keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring any electronic equipment into the embassy, print out everything 🙂
I registered an appointment at 9am and when I arrived at 8:40 there was already quite a long queue outside of the embassy. It took me about 50 minutes to get to the first station where the passport and all supporting documents are put into a clear folder and a few questions about your plans are asked.
Next up is the security check, same procedure as on any airport with the difference that you have to power off your smartphone before entering and you will leave it at the security checkpoint. After that a second clerk is waiting to ask more or less the same questions and take your fingerprints. Here I had to wait another 15 minutes.
The last booth is the actual interview, which to my surprise was super quick. He asked me again about my travel plans, then he browsed through the rest of the papers, I gave some fingerprints again and got the final “Your visa is approved and will be sent to you in the next few days”. Waiting time was another 45 minutes, so all in all I spent roughly two hours in the embassy and maybe five minutes of them I was actually talking with somebody 😀
I think having a map of my plans printed out helped quite a bit. Working for a big American cooperation might have helped too but I got only asked twice about it, and one of the questions was if I plan to continue working there afterwards (I don’t).
After watching Rogue One* on Saturday evening with my brother I decided to flee the birthday party going on in the shared apt, got my camera equipment and drove to Wasserauen. Arriving at 2am I noticed that I wasn’t the only one with the same idea, there were at least two other campers at the parking. I set my alarm to 6am and went for a cold nap. Note to myself: Should it get colder than 0• I need some additional layers 😀
Unfortunately four hours of sleep weren’t quite enough and I only got out of bed by 6:45. A coffee later I was on my way to the Seealpsee which currently is completely frozen. Since it wasn’t snowing at all during the last few weeks, the lake was covered in black ice.
By 7:45 I arrived at the lake, to my surprise there were already quite a few photographers on it, I even spotted a couple camping at the lake. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite on my side and the sky was completely covered in clouds. I decided to just enjoy the scenery and don’t bother too much with taking pictures. By 10am the place was crawling with people and time for me to leave 🙂
After a very long drive I arrived at Huberts workshop on Friday at 3pm. I was lucky and there where no traffic jams on the road, thus there was plenty of time left to put the new interior into its place. A few things had to be adjusted to the internal roll cage but otherwise everything fit perfectly. Four hours later we were done and the Landy looked much more like a mobile home 🙂
There are still a few things missing but this is exactly how I imagined it to be!
Going to Argentina in May is not such a good idea. Going to Colombia in May is a bit better, but since I want to see all of the Americas I would have to drive all the way to the south and back up again – which could be fun but also takes a lot of time. Therefore I was thinking about a new plan: I could ship to Halifax.
In May, the weather is already bearable and will only get better
No language barrier
The culture is quite familiar, easy to start travelling
It’s not a big change, could be boring
All my preparation so far was focused on starting in South America
After three days of rain I could finally take off for the first flight of my newest photography equipment, a DJI Mavic Pro quadcopter. Compared to my old DJI Phantom 2 this is a quantum leap in capabilities and quality. This stuff is awesome!
Today I went to ATW for a one day class dubbed “Where there is no doctor”. This was a very interesting day and I learned a lot. It has been fifteen years since I took the mandatory first aid class to get a driver license and even just refreshing the basics felt good. But also a bit more advanced topics where covered. For example this poor little tangerine had to take my amateurish attempts to set a drip infusion, but I did well and it didn’t die ;).
There was a lot of information that I have to digest and my travel pharmaceutical list is getting longer and longer. I hope I’ll never use it!
Today I found a new home! From the 16th. November on I will be living in a shared flat in Wollishofen, five walking minutes from my workplace. The room is spacious and my flat mates seem to be easy going. There’s even private parking where I can work on the car from time to time. The current room owner will be travelling latin america for a few months and will be back by May. Perfect timing!
I’ll post a few pictures after I moved in.