With the end of ground school fast approaching, we were required to start the U.S. Visa application process. The first part was the application form consisting of many questions about my background, family, previous travel to the U.S. and the purpose of my visit among other things. The second part required a visit the U.S. embassy in London for an interview / appointment. The building (as pictured) towered above those on embassy row and sports an impressive eagle on the roof.
Having previously been involved in the Camp America summer exchange program, it happens to be my third visit to this same building within the past five years and the appointment style was therefore nothing new to me. Sadly, our appointments were scheduled for 8am which meant setting off in the early hours to get there in plenty of time and avoid London traffic. Just as with the U.S. medical, CTC covered the transport cost and provided us with a minibus to get there and back.
Application Process / Application Form
Prior to starting the application CTC's administration team came to chat with us about the process and gave us each an application pack which walked us through what to enter at various stages of the application form. We were also advised that due to the type of visa we were travelling on (M-1) that we'd need to wait for a form known as the SEVIS to arrive at CTC in Goodyear where it would be signed before then being sent on by snailmail to Southampton. Why the U.S. Department of State requires it be done in this way given the electronic era we now all live in is beyond me, but I suppose that's the way it is! The majority of the forms took about a week for it to arrive.
Now, if you've ever had the pleasure of completing the U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form, or the DS-160 as it's more commonly known, then you'll understand just how arduous the application form is. I spent a fair amount of time on this form being sure to check, double-check and even triple-check the information I entered before submitting it. The form wanted to know about each of your past visits to the United States and other nations within the past few years and for some of the CP amounted to a lot of thinking!
Once all of our group submitted the DS-160 application form we then arranged our appointment with the London embassy. This required a payment of £135 per visa applicant which CTC promptly paid for us given the all inclusive nature of an Integrated course. After speaking with ground school staff to find a date which best suited our tuition, we booked ourselves on to the 8am appointment on January 6th.
Embassy Appointment... oh, and Tesla.
Having previously been insured to drive a group for our U.S. medical, CTC saved the hassle and provided the two previous drivers a vehicle which certainly made transport much easier. Sadly, those vehicles weren't Teslas if that's what you're thinking, read on to hear about that bit. We set off for London at 5am to ensure we got there in plenty of time and parked at Westfield London for £8 which is perhaps the cheapest parking I've ever come across in London. It was then only 5 stops on the Central Line and a short walk before we were at the embassy itself. We made good time with 10-15 minutes to spare.
On arrival we waited to be signed in, went through airport style security, waited for processing and after a further wait had a final interview with a U.S. official. The interview was nothing too taxing and was conducted at a counter similar to that you would find in a Post Office. It consisted of questions about my intentions in the U.S., clarification of information on the DS-160 and, if required by the official as not everyone is asked, evidence that I had sufficient funds available to pay for my training for which I provided my BBVA paperwork. Other cadets in the past have also been asked for proof of living expenses too. If you're reading this as a future/current trainee about to visit the embassy yourself then I'd advise you try to get evidence together for both cases if you can. The SEVIS form will actually highlight the cost of the U.S. based training you need to provide evidence for. Of course, if an airline is paying for you I'm not sure what your procedure would be.
Thankfully, our whole group was in and out of the embassy within an hour and all of us were approved!
After our appointment we all met up to return to the minivan. As we walked through Westfield a few of the group wanted to drop by the Tesla store for a little peek. There is no denying that the kit in those cars are incredible and perhaps one day I may treat myself, BUT.. with a price tag starting at £480 per month I'll have the BBVA loan to think about first! Maybe it'll be a treat on reaching four stripes, yet that's a long way away yet!
That's all for this post, and the visa marks another thing to tick off the training checklist. Our time at ground is running out and our flight date of the 1st of March will soon be upon us. I'm quite excited for the US now but with it so close i've lost the drive to work. I'm sure it'll come back soon though, in fact i'm going to go and do some now - albeit tired after being up since 5am!
I'll write some new posts on Module 3 topics soon! Until then...