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).