In order to stay in the US longer than 90 days you need to get a visa. In this post I will describe the process of getting one. Keep in mind that I am traveling with STS and that I live in Sweden. Might be different for others!
The visa I applied for is called J1: "The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. Participants are integral to the success of the program. Around 300,000 participants from more than 200 countries and territories visit the United States on J-1 visas each year. Eighty-six percent are 30 years of age or younger. Fifty-four percent are women or girls. More than 1,400 designated U.S. sponsors participate in the program"
Applying for a VISA
STS sent me the stack of necessary papers to fulfill my visa application. A instruction was included, a sevis receipt and a DS-2019. The problem was that the letter was sent to "the guardian of Linnea Karlberg", which ment that I needed proof that my father was my actual guardian in order to get it? Apparently having the same last name, looking similar (we both had sleevless shirts, haha!) and going to the postal office together did not pull it off. So after waiting two days for a personbevis from Skatteverket (the Swedish tax authorities), I was able to retrieve my package.
The second the envelope was in my hands I went on the website of the American embassy. I had to fill out a bunch of information about myself and my family, what my intentions with my US visit are, including 2 contacts that I am not related to. You needed to have your passport and a closeup picture taken against a white background. The process me approximately 1,5 hours because if you are inactive for a long time you will be loged out of the system.. You also have to save each page individually. A confirmation page showed up in the end, which I printed.
Schedule a time at the embassy
The 2nd step was to schedule a time at the embassy. First I had to pay the visa fee, for a total of 1250 kr. In order to schedule a time you need to register with a bunch of information. I got scheduled July 21st 08.15.You pick the date and time yourself. I just took the earliest appointment available.
To the embassy you will need to bring:
- Valid passport, including any old passports containing US visas
- DS-160 confirmation page (which you printed on the website, I believe?)
- One color photo 5x5 cm of yourself looking into the camera, printed on photo paper
- Proof of funds
- Personbevis 120 with all relations in English
- If you have been in prison or ever gotten arrested, additional documents are necessary.
My visit at the American embassy (much more detailed than necessary):
In order to get a visa you must show up at the American embasy. Basically they want to see that you are a real person. During my visit in Stockholm I stayed at Clarion Hotel Wellington. My mom and I walked to the embassy twice the day before so I would be able to find my way next morning. Took about 15 minutes and it was not difficult to find. On July 21st at 06.55 a.m. I walked to the embassy. When I arrived at 7.10 there were 7 people standing in line inside a glass cage/shelter (???).. basically it looked just like a bus stop. Several people arrived right after me so be there on time! Or else you will have to wait in line behind the glass shelter and you do not get to sit down. However, at 07.30 the first person in line was called to stand in front of a bulding with glass walls, on a yellow line. You had to take of your jacket (in my case a hoodie), show your passport to the man inside the door, as well as turn around and show the bottom of your shoes. The instructions are done in English but they are very clear. The person on the inside will look for your name on a sheet of paper with all scheduled appointments. If things look as they should, they open the door and let you in. The first building is just like an airport security check point. All of your belongings are put on a tray and go through a scanner. You also have to walk through one yourself. I was asked if I had brought a cell phone with me, and I actually decided not to since they are not allowed in the embassy anyway. The man was so thankful! I had no jacket, no pockets, no bag nor any electronics with me. Just the important papers, a magazine and a book. Although if you do bring any item that is not allowed inside the embassy, the staff will take care of it, and give it back to you when you exit. The staff told me to exit the first building and follow the yellow line, which points at a second building. In there I was met by a woman who gave me a queue number - 8. After that I was told to sit down. The room was a basic waiting room with chairs, booths and a TV (BBC world news was playing). The room was actually pretty small, only 49 people was allowed at once. Shortly after 8.00 they started to call up numbers to the booths, or show them on a screen. Sometimes the woman told several people to stand in line for a booth. When I came up to the booth a lady asked me to show her my passport and give her my papers. She looked at them and handed back the ones she didn't need. After that I was told to sit down again. It took quite a while, about half an hour, until I was called up again - this time by name (the name on my passport). Now I had to enter a door where I put my finger prints on a scanner and was asked me "Are you going on an exchange?", "Are your parents paying?", "Do you have a host family yet?", "Do you have a high school?", "Where will you live?", "Will you participate in any sport?" - he told me he guessed I would play basketball, and then he said my visa was approved. I got my DS-2019 and sevis receipt back, which I was told needed to be shown once I entered the U.S. I also received a pamplet that I need to read before departure, with information about my rights in the U.S. They kept my passport which will be sent back with my visa in a couple of days. After this I just exited the same way I entered and walked back to the hotel! Left the embassy around 9.00. By this time the line was very long!
You do not have to worry about your visit to the embassy!! Just be well prepared with all your papers and know that you will have to wait for a long time.