The dreaded Embassy Appointment….is it really as bad as people say??

After obtaining a position at camp and completing all the paperwork for your J1 visa it is time to read over the instructions for booking an Embassy appointment at least a million times before taking the plunge and booking it…

The whole experience can be intimidating. If you are lucky enough to live near an Embassy then the process will seem less of a chore but for many, it will involve a day trip or even an overnight stay.  Try and make a weekend of it, perhaps meet up with some new camp friends if you can co-ordinate your appointments or at the very least find something else fun to do to incorporate into your trip.  Doing that will reduce any anxiety you may have leading up to the appointment.

On the day, it all begins with someone checking you have your forms and sending you through security – it’s basically just like going through airport security. Each Embassy will be different but they are usually like mazes, with instructions to go up this elevator to this floor and wait in three different areas over the course of your interview – confusing but easy to follow all the same.   You will typically be asked a few questions by a few different officers about what you will be doing in the States and any plans for after you have finished working. The questions are easy to answer because all you have to do is be honest, but even simple question like being asked what camp you’re going to, its address and what you’re going to be doing there can be intimidating, especially the first time. Don’t sweat it! Just answer in short, polite sentences.

Looking around you might see lots of people with lots of different papers which can be stressful because you feel like you don’t have the right ones, but remember that there’s lots of different reasons people need to go to the embassy. It’s important to ensure that you have all the papers you need, as well as the back up ones that are recommended just in case, such as proof of funds. It makes it easier if you are organised so perhaps try having one plastic sleeve/folder for the essential papers and a separate one for the back-up ones. Only bring a few personal items with you – phone, wallet, passport and paperwork – they don’t let you bring anything into the embassy anyway.

Once you have answered their questions and paid the required courier fees (which admittedly hurts a little) they take your passport for processing. This can be super stressful as everyone understands the importance of a passport but try to remember that they are a Government organisation who can be trusted and they only keep your passport as long as necessary, usually just a couple of days.   They deal with thousands and thousands of passports and it is very very rare for a problem to occur with returning somebody’s passport so try to be reassured that it will be in safe hands.

As a tip, try booking the first appointment of the day, as there isn’t a chance for a backlog to accumulate so you are likely to be in and out in under an hour. But if you do find yourself in a windowless embassy for hours waiting for your turn then look around, see if you can spot a fellow counselor and strike up a conversation…. this could be the first  of many camp friends you meet along the way…