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PyCon US diary - Applying for a US visa

by Abdur-Rahmaan Janhangeer

The hardest part of going to the US I bet is the visa application process. It’s a 10-page form with various kinds of questions, much like a multi-disciplinary Olympic track which includes archery, skiing, and shooting. I travelled and applied for visas before but the US visa form is interesting.

First of all, you need to solve a captcha and be given an application ID to complete your visa later, pretty standard procedure for countries with long visa forms. The UI comes from the 90s but is very functional.

The visa type was quite surprising. There are no traditional straightforward tourist, business, or study types. There are B1, B2 and I don’t know what kind of weird letters. We figured out we needed a B1 visa which covers tourism and business.

Of particular note, I noticed that the picture in the form requests to be how you are in everyday life. It is mentioned that if you wear headgear, you should include it. If you wear glasses, the same. This I guess hints towards the open culture America has. This is different from the picture that you have to submit physically which requires to be in passport format, without glasses. For the first one, I took a smartphone picture with a uniform background and passed it through a software online transforming the picture to a passport-size ratio.

The visa also asks about companions traveling with you and the organization paying for the travel. Must tell Mariatta Wijaya or Ewa Jodlowska or Laura Graves to put the PSF address and phone number on the website as we had some trouble finding them. Then it also asks traditional infos like where are you staying at etc. They also ask about your financial details.

At the end, it gives you an application confirmation PDF which I downloaded. I’m glad I did as the UI to get it back is a maze and I just gleaned the submission ID from the PDF. Next, I needed to book an appointment. There is a separate system for appointments needing the submission confirmation ID.

There is confusion concerning Thursdays being reserved for other nationalities after clarification turns out that Mauritians can apply on Thursdays as well. Cool as the slot is usually free. I booked the earliest Thursday and it was all set. You can edit your scheduled appointment anytime to an earlier or later slot. Sometimes people cancel their’s, so you need to log in each time to check if you are in a hurry. Each time after booking, you have a booking confirmation number. Thanks, Lafleur Marie L for clearing the confusion.

Your booking confirmation number is needed to enter the consulate. This number also ensures you have a valid visa submission number since you need the latter to book an interview with a consulate.

Interview experience coming next …

Note: Penning attending a US conference experience to help anybody who one day needs to go to the US.