Sunday, April 08, 2007


Friday I got off work a bit early, met Jodi on the Century Park metro platform, and we rode the train to Shimen No 1 Rd. It was Friday, and that meant that the US Consulate was having their twice-weekly US Citizens' Visa Hour from 3:30 to 4:30. Get there by 3:30 and grab a number, hear a 30 minute speech from the officer in charge of the visa interview team, and then get a chance to talk to him one-on-one.

I won't talk about what was in the prepared speech. Mostly he repeated what was on the website but in a more organized and thorough fashion. Almost all of it was interesting, even if some of it veered off into subjects that were not relevant to me: student visas, etc.

The one-on-one was interesting. The whole room is quiet at this point, and one person goes up to the window and talks into the microphone. Since the consular officer's responses are broadcasted over a small speaker and the citizen must speak relatively loudly to be heard through the glass, the whole room gets to eavesdrop on the conversation. That Friday's cases were a Chinese-American man who wanted to sponsor an old friend and TCM practicioner to come to the US to treat his parents; a lawyer who was very unhappy that one of his associates had been denied a visa to start an English-language training program this summer and was looking for both an explanation and an expedited interview; and a third one who I can't remember.

Number 4 was me. In a previous weblog entry I mentioned some of the questions I planned to ask, which I eventually condensed down to three. Here are the questions and answers:

"Tell me about the CITIC Prior Travel Expedite Service."
I was told to file the application application at a CITIC bank location and tack an extra RMB 200 onto the normal application fee to get an expedited interview appointment. This may soon change to "interview-as-needed", which could mean no interview, just an appointment for fingerprinting. Since the interview is still required at this point and we have one scheduled for Friday, this isn't really useful for us.
"My wife has a prior visit to the US, and is pregnant. How will these affect her chances this time around?"
The officer said that prior visit will be a plus. For the pregnancy, we need to prove that she is too far along to travel and that the planned travel dates are for after the baby's due date. (Actually this question was badly phrased. I should have asked him to take into consideration that the kid will be an American whether or not it is born in the US.)
"What do I need to bring when we come to process the kid's American citizenship?"
Besides the usual set identification documents listed on the consulate's website, the visa officer emphasized that it was important to bring documents proving that I had lived in the USA for 5 years, 2 of which were after the age of 16. I think I have some college transcripts and old W-2's lying around.

So I thought that attending the Visa Hour was definitely worth it. The prepared speech was well organized, and the one-on-one time answered the questions I had, and the visa officer in charge (Christopher) was extremely polite and helpful; even when talking to the bordering-on-livid lawyer. Us, we're still gathering documents for Friday's appointment.


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