This one is a non-technical post. I decided to write this because all related information is spread around various forums and often outdated (consulate moved, other procedures). I personally like to be as prepared as possible, so having this online might benefit some people that were in a similar situation as I was and save them some searching. I won’t go into detail on the whole visa process since that’s something best left up to the lawyers (according to lawyers). This post describes things that I dealt with on my own after the initial application was already done.
While filling out a DS-2019 is necessary, it’s all pretty selfexplanatory. The first thing that I’d consider to be a bit out of the ordinary was paying the visa fee using the Roskos Meier Visasysytem. I don’t know how an insurance agency from Berlin got into the job of taking payments for all American consulates, especially considering that the 10$ interview application fee can be paid using a credit card, but I guess that’s a bit off-topic. One important thing to pay attention to is, that setting up an appointment on the internet will allow you to sign up for one about a week from the day you apply. This was at least the case for me in the ‘off season’ (read: H1B applicants are mostly processed by now). You WILL need to show the roskos meier printout when you’re arriving at the consulate. Be sure to check for any bank holidays and weekends between now and your chosen appointment. For me, the confirmation took 4 business days to arrive (+ 2 weekend days and 1 bank holiday). The email arrived at 08:23 in the morning, so it might be an automated system.
At the appointment
I decided to take the car because the VVS/SSB and Deutsche Bahn recently had all sorts
of problems bringing people to where they need to go on time.
As you can see on google street view,
there is plenty of free street parking available right next to the consulate.
I had an early-ish (9.15) appointment and was one of a handful of cars. The employees
seem to have their own parking spots, so I think the street spots won’t be all that
crowded thoughtout the day.
There is also a UBahn (U5) stop right down the street called “Gießener Straße” which will take you directly to the Hauptbahnhof (15-20 minutes).
Date and time
Seeing as I went past 3 major cities on my way to Frankfurt, I decided to add a little time buffer for slow traffic along the way. There was pretty much no traffic at all, so I arrived around 8.30. When asking the security guard upfront, he said that I can probably just stand in line, as long as I have SOME form or appointment, they’ll let me in. So if there isn’t too much of a line, you might as well try.
The road to rome
To end up in the final room that does the processing you will:
- Wait in line in front of the entrance. They have those little heat radiators, so even in a bit of a colder weather it’s pretty pleasant. There are lines for citizens and non-citizens. At the end of the line, you’ll get assigned a number.
- Once you have the number, you move one queue to the right and put everything you have in your pockets (and your belt) in a clear plastic bag that you’ll be handed by the security guard.
- Once they let you into the building, you’ll get directed through an airport-style metal detector.
- After passing though the detector, you’ll have to walk through the courtyard into the next building (with your belongings still in the bag).
- In the beginning of the next building, there’s a little entrace hall with a place to put the plastic bag after you’ve emptied it.
- After that entrance hall, you’ll walk up to the large room where the bureaucratic magic happens. It’s a pretty generic system where you basically stand in a few more lines walking up to the people doing the processing.
In case of a longer waiting period, there are snack machines (German drinks, German candy) and a bathroom available. They put a “dyson airblade” in the bathroom, so I finally understood where all those visa fees ended up at ;)
The “interview questions”
After giving them your passport and fingerprints at the first booth and having
them reconfirmed at the second one, you will be at the final step of your journey.
I didn’t need to give them my print outs of the passport picture. They said that
if the DS-2019 looks fine, they will just take the digital one.
After waiting for my number (the one you got at the very first step) to show up, I was at the last step of the process, the interview stage.
As far as the interview questions go, the were pretty generic in my case. I assume just to make sure I actually know who I am and what I’m doing. From what I recall, they were something along these lines:
- Is X the company you work for?
- What do you do there? (“I’m a software engineer” was detailed enough.)
- How long have you been working for X?
- What does your company do?
- For how long do you plan to stay?
- Which state are they in?
Seeing as both the lady behind the glass and the company I work for were from Massachusetts, I had a bit of smalltalk about how cold winters are in Boston (always a favorite) and how little sun we get around Germany’s latitude. It was all very pleasant and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. After you (hopefully) get the magic “Your visa is approved”, you can exit the building the way you came in.
Getting the visa in your passport means that they’ll take a full page of your little passport book and glue in a colorful piece of paper with your picture on it. It basically says how long the visa is valid for (5 years in my case) and adds additional notes (“must present approved I-797 or I-129S at POE”). You don’t have to be at home for DHL express, they will just put it in your mailbox.
That was pretty much it, hope I could help whoever was directed here by a google search :)