Getting Your Visa: What Happens At The Embassy?

So now that you’ve applied for your visa, and booked your appointment, you actually have to go to the Embassy! Going to the U.S. Embassy can be a pretty scary thought when you don’t really have any idea what to expect. I know I was heaps nervous the first time I went, and I thought they would ask me all sorts of things I’d have no idea how to answer, and I’d mess up my visa and wouldn’t get to go to America for the summer!

But I really needn’t have worried. And neither should you!

In all honesty, yes, it sounds a bit scary, and yes, the amount of forms you have to fill in and paperwork you have to do in order to actually apply for your visa and make an appointment at the Embassy is all a little bit ridiculous, but once you get there you’ll see it’s not so terrifying after all.

So here’s a step by step guide to what actually happens on the day of your U.S. Embassy Visa appointment.

**UPDATE**: The London Embassy has now moved location so these instructions won’t be exact, but the process is still fairly similar. You can find at updated post here.

US Embassy sign
Image Source

Step 1:

Arrive in plenty of time – I would say at least 30 minutes early, if not more). Make sure you have all your documents to hand. This includes:

  • Your Passport
  • US visa size (600×600 pixels) photos
  • Printed copy of your DS160 confirmation page (with your photo on it)
  • Interview Appointment confirmation letter
  • MRV fee receipt
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Visa Issuance fee (if applicable)
  • A letter explaining your travel purpose (and something proving you will be returning home/leaving the USA).
  • A copy of your placement letter/contract from camp
  • Current bank statement (preferably showing that you have $500+)
  • Signed DS2019 Form (don’t worry if you don’t have this yet… see Step 2)

Sometimes they will want to see all of these things, and other times, the majority of it won’t even be touched, let along looked at, but you should have it all nonetheless… just in case!

Step 2:

Depending on your agency, you might be met outside the embassy prior to your appointment by a rep, who will be there to answer any questions you might have. They will also have your DS2019 form ready for you to sign and take into the Embassy with you (if you don’t already have it).

You can’t take any electronics or bags inside the Embassy, so you can either leave your stuff with a friend or parent outside (if you’ve got someone nice enough to go with you!), or with the agency reps (loads of people usually do this), or there is a pharmacy round the corner that will store your stuff for a small fee (they also do visa photos).

**UPDATE** I just had my visa interview and you are now allowed to take phones and small bags inside the embassy, but no laptops or larger luggage. Wahooo. Check this video out for more info

Step 3:

Join the queue outside and go through security. There is a little hut that you walk through and put your smaller belongings through a scanner (watch/keys etc). It’s a lot like going through airport security!

Step 4:

Follow the signs (and everyone else) around the building and into the main door. There will be someone sat at a desk who will ask what you’re there for, may take a look at your papers, and then will hand you a piece of paper with a number on. This is your place is the queue.

Step 5:

Go up the stairs into the main room. There will be lots of chairs and lots of people waiting. Take a seat and wait for your number to come up on the screen at the front of the room.

London US Embassy
Image Source

Step 6:

When your number appears on the screen, it will also have a number next to it for which window/booth you need to go to. These are all along the right side of the room. Find yours and go up to the window. Be patient and smiley!

The person behind the window will ask to see your paperwork – hand them just the bits they ask to see.

They will then need to ‘ten-print’ you – this just means they take an electronic scan of all your finger prints (including thumbs). They will ask you to put your fingers and thumbs onto a little box next to you and will instruct you as to what to do.

Step 7:

Once you are done with that person, they will give you all your paperwork back and you will be told to go around the corner to the next set of windows.

There will most likely be a queue here (full of other people getting their J1 visas) and it will be very obvious what you are required to do.

Step 8:

Once you get to the front of the queue, go to the person behind the window. They will once again want to look at all your documents, and will ask you a few questions about where you’re going in America and what you’re gong to be doing there. They will then confirm if you’re visa has been granted, keep your passport and DS2019 form and tell you that your passport will be ready with your visa in about a week.

Step 9:

Head to that courier desk, fill in the form you’ve been given – it just specifies the address you want your passport sent to, and if you want to pay extra for speedy processing (not worth it unless you need your visa asap).

**UPDATE** There is now no courier desk, as  you will either be picking up your passport from a particular location (that you choose when booking your appointment), or you will have already pre-paid for the delivery service.

Step 10:

That’s it, you’re done! Head outside with a smile on your face, knowing that you’re off to America this summer!

Your passport (with visa stuck inside) & DS2019 form should be ready to be picked up/delivered within about 2 weeks, but it’s usualy much quicker than that. The last time I went to the Embassy, my visa was on my doorstep about 3 days later!


If you want to see exactly what happens and what it all looks like at the embassy and exactly how it will all go, click here to watch this super handy video from the US Embassy themselves!


15 thoughts on “Getting Your Visa: What Happens At The Embassy?

  1. my paasport has been signed by the counsellor nd i paid the visa fee after my interview of $ does it confirm my visa??


  2. Hi i applied visa to Austrian embassy through VFS agency. The embassy kept asking me to comply additional documents. I was happy because i was feeling like they gave me chances to be able to complete my application requirements. But after all i sent. They didnt email me if its done. If its issued. Or granted. I had to email them first to ask about my pasaporte and right then they told me they already handed it to my agency and got a reply from agency that they handed it to 2go to send it to me. But after 4 days still nothing. And they didnt even tell me whats the status of my processed application. What this tells you? Please give me an honest notion. Thank you very much.


    1. Hi Cristina, unfortunately I would be able to advise you about visas and processes from the Austrian embassy, as I have only ever dealt with the US embassy. Good luck with it all!


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