An Interview at the US Embassy in Nine Elms
Jane's Visa Interview
With two days to go before my interview at the US Embassy in London I received an email to remind me that I was due to attend, and that it would be held at the new building in Nine Elms. There were also instructions on how to get there by rail and bus; a reminder of the documents I needed to take – interview instructions, passport, DS-160 confirmation; items that I could and could not take with me to the Embassy (mobile phones, tablets, bags, etc.).
The day dawned – I was already at the station waiting for the train by then. It was an early start to make sure I was at the Embassy in time (half an hour before my appointment time). Needless to say, the second train of the journey was cancelled and I had to wait half an hour for the next one. I arrived at Victoria station with 20 minutes to spare instead of my planned 50 minutes. I took a taxi, which cost £12, rather than stress over getting there on the bus or tube. On arriving at the Embassy, the South Pavilion is clearly marked around to the left of the building and it was a very short walk to join the back of the queue. Luckily the day I went was cold and sunny, but there is no cover if it had been raining. There is a wooden bench for anyone waiting for you to come out, but there are no cafes in the immediate vicinity. At about 8:15 am a staff member began to go down the queue checking out interview instructions, DS-160 confirmations and passports. She initialled them. We were then screened again by another staff member who scanned the bar code in the interview instructions and initialled again.
I was then directed into the security building which is on the perimeter, about 30 yards outside the main Embassy building. I was admitted into a through room with glass walls on each side. My bag was put through the scanner and I walked through the scanner archway, exactly like airport security. All clear and I was let out of the door on the other side of the room. A short walk up the slope and I went into the Embassy (some people with later appointments had to queue outside, where there was a little cover if it had been raining). I was instructed to join the back of another queue. This snaked down the room to a desk at the far end. At this point it was 45 minutes since I had arrived outside. After a wait of 10 minutes or so, two staff members appeared at the desk and our documents were checked again. My DS-160 confirmation was scanned again and the number did not flag up as I had had to redo the form after I booked the interview appointment. The woman scanned my appointment sheet which obviously matched up and she printed 3 tickets with my interview number on and instructed me to take the lift to the first floor.
It’s one of those lifts where you enter on one side and exit on the other - into a large room which runs the entire length of the building, and overlooks the river. There are 20 cubicles along the wall facing the window, and rows of seats facing each other down the whole room, at right angles to the window. At the end of each row of seats is a screen, and we were constantly told by the staff to keep watching the screens to make sure we didn’t miss our number being called. The numbers appear in the list on the screen on the left, and are constantly refreshing. On the right side of the screen you watch for your number to flash on the screen telling you which cubicle to go to for your interview. It reminded me of shopping at an Argos store!
Around the corner from cubicle 1, are three private rooms - P1, P2 and P3. If you may need a waiver due to inadmissibilities or a police record, you will be called to one of these rooms first. Your documents will be taken and scanned together with your passport. Your finger prints will also be taken. You will then be instructed to go back to the waiting room and check the screen to await your number being called again.
I was called to a cubicle and my documents were handed back to me and then I had to return to the waiting room again. About 10 minutes later I was called for my interview. The Consular Officer, the first American I had encountered so far, was behind a glass screen and was working on two screens. He checked my finger prints again and confirmed my name. He then asked me questions based on the answers I had given on the DS-160, typing notes as he did so:
- Where I was planning to go to in the US;
- Who I was going with (I told him, with my partner and he said, “That’s xxx, right?”);
- What I did (I told him I worked for a US Immigration Law firm, and he said “No, I meant, what do you do there?” so I was more specific);
- How many children I had, and grandchildren;
- Whether I had a mortgage (this was a trick question as I am a Housing Association tenant);
- Briefly, the circumstances surrounding my Police Caution.
After more typing, he said “Well Ma’am, your visa application is approved” and he stamped it. Almost three hours since I had joined the queue at the South Pavilion I was on my way back to work. My passport was retained and I collected it the following week from the DX office that I had selected during the interview booking process.
- Make sure you have printed copies of all documents you need to take to the interview as there are no printing facilities there, and currently there are no shops offering printing services in the vicinity of the Embassy, although there is a lot of building going on so this could well change;
- There are two photo booths if you forget your photograph – currently £6 a set – just beyond the P1, P2 and P3 rooms;
- There is one unisex/disabled toilet, around the corner from the photo booth;
- There are two water fountains near the toilet;
- There are no refreshments available;
- I walked back to Victoria station along the river and over the Vauxhall Bridge. It took me 35 minutes.
You can also view a YouTube video of the visa interview experience here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOHqCigJ6Jk