The One About The Day I Had My Visa Interview

As part of the move over to the US, I needed the appropriate Visa to move over and work in the US.

Let me tell you what happened to me so as to possibly help anyone else who wants to go down this path. And it's going to be a LOOOONG post.

I sent an email to find out about the process and got back the following flood of information

From: AMVISA []
To: Frank Arrigo
Subject: RE: Scheduling a Visa Appointment

The U.S. Consulate General, Sydney Visa Office has received your e-mail inquiry. We will make every attempt to respond within four working days, however, we have found that 95% of the inquiries we receive are readily answered by information available on our website, so meanwhile you might find the links below helpful in directing you to the information you are seeking.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide updates or status checks on pending visa applications via this or any other email address.

Please select the category below that most closely matches your inquiry, and then click on the link provided. This will take you directly to the information about your visa inquiry on our website. Please do not send your inquiry more than once as duplicate inquiries will only delay our response time.


How to apply for a visa (including how to make an appointment). Please note that, except for official government travel, our office does not accept mailed, emailed or faxed visa applications. You must submit your visa application at the time of your interview:

Visa Waiver Program- Australian nationals and those of 26 other countries do not need a visa for visits of under 90 days for business or pleasure if certain requirements are met:

Visa Application Forms- the same application form is used for every category of non-immigrant visa, and must be completed online, printed out and brought with you to your interview

Expedited Interviews:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Non-Immigrant Visa Categories:

Tourism and Business Travel:

Transiting the U.S.:

Study in the U.S.:

Temporary Work in the U.S.:

New E3 specialty work visa:

Official and diplomatic travel:

Religious Work in the U.S.:

Exchange Visitor Visa:

Journalist and Media Visas:

Declaring arrests and/or criminal convictions:

The importance of applying early:

Visa Denials:

Contacting a U.S. Embassy, Consulate or other Post:


The U.S Consulate in Sydney is pleased to introduce a new online inquiry service. For those interested in obtaining immigrant visa information, or petitioners and beneficiaries who need to update information for their case, please follow the instructions below. We encourage you to use the email address for all immigrant visa needs.

Immigrant visa inquiries must be submitted by:

E-mail to or

Mailing your request to:

U.S. Consulate General, Sydney

The Immigrant Visa Unit

Level 59, 19-29 Martin Place


In person on any Thursday (except U.S. and local public holidays) between 8:00am and 12:00 noon (must be screened by our security guards before 11:45 a.m. to gain access to the section)


Please do not send your inquiry more than once. Duplicate inquiries will only delay our response time. We will make every attempt to respond to your inquiry within five working days.

If you have reviewed all of the information on the web site and still have questions regarding visas, you may also contact us at 1902 941 641 or 1800 687 844 (charges apply), Monday through Friday except holidays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EST. Please be aware that, due to the heavy volume of calls, you may experience delays in reaching a visa specialist.

U.S. Consulate General, Sydney

Visa Services

OK - lots of URLS, lots of information to digest.

It boils down to this

What do I need to apply for a U.S. visa?

If your visit does not meet the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program you need to apply for a visa.

All applicants (except officials and diplomats, whose requirements differ slightly) must have the following:

  • Application Form DS-156 (Feb 03 edition): This form must be completed by all applicants for all visa types. Failure to answer all questions on this form could result in significant delays. Parents or legal guardians of children under 14 years old should sign this form on their behalf.
  • Applicants are required to fill out this form online. After filling out the DS-156 online, please print out all three pages of the form and bring them with you on the day of the interview. Please note that filling out the form online does not transmit the form to the Consulate. Handwritten forms will not be accepted.
  • Download Form DS-156.
  • A color or black and white photo: The photo must be less than six months old, 5 × 5 cm, against a white background, and show you facing the camera directly. Details of photo requirements.
  • A valid passport or travel document. If you have held previous passports please bring them on the day of the interview.
  • Original cash register receipt from any Australia Post Office showing payment of the non-refundable visa application fee. No other form of payment is accepted. The current application fee is $120 Australian dollars.
  • A self-addressed Express Post Platinum envelope, Registered Post envelope or courier satchel for the return of your documents. Failure to provide this will cause a delay in the processing of your application.
  • Issuance fees may apply. Fee information.
  • Additional documents as required (see below)

All male applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, and all applicants who are citizens of Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Sudan must also submit:

So, I book my interview using the VisaPoint service and get the following instructions in an email

Please arrive at the embassy 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. The appointment time is not the exact time of your interview. You may not enter the Embassy with guns, cellular telephones, photographic or video cameras, electronics such as radios or other equipment, including computers. Please do not bring any type of electronic equipment. Please do not bring any large bags, briefcases or backpacks.

Bring all required documentation, including the MANDATORY printout of the electronic version of the DS-156 (EVAF) to your appointment at the U.S. Consulate General in Sydney. On the day of your appointment, please report to level 10 of the MLC Center for security processing. The Sydney Consulate General will no longer issue your visa on the same day as your interview. Please ensure you have a self-addressed paid envelope for your passport to be returned via mail.

For emergency or expedited appointments or to change an appointment you may fax the consular section at: (02)9373-9185 or email your request to: This may be useful for students who may be trying to enter the United States to begin a school term.

Please make sure that you bring to the interview a receipt from the Australia Post for EACH applicant showing that you have paid the U.S. Non-Immigrant Visa fee of 130 Australian dollars. The only individuals exempt from this fee are those traveling on official government business and those traveling as exchange visitors sponsored by the U.S. government.

Serious stuff. No guns, huh? That I can manage. No cellular phone! What! You have gotta be kidding.

Anyways - the appointment was a few weeks away and besides I had a trip to go on.

Fast forward a few weeks. I gave just flown back from 2 weeks in the US. My flight has arrived in Sydney at 6am.

I go home, shower, print out some forms and head into the city with Moira and Rigo - because the rules state

All Applicants must appear in  person  for an interview at the U.S. Consular Office serving your state.  Children under 14 years of age and adults over 80 years of age who are also Australian citizens or Permanent Residents, and official and diplomatic visitors may not need to appear in person.

We head into the MLC building for our 11am appointment, and since we need to "arrive at the embassy 30 minutes before thew scheduled appointment time", we head in early.

We park the car and head up to the 10th floor.

The first thing we notice - security guards. Then we notice the queue and the scanning equipment. It's like being back at the airport.

We queue up and wait......

Finally it's our turn to talk. I show the guard my passport and the appointment papers.

She wants to know why Moira and Rigo are there.

I tell her that they are part of the appointment.

She tells me that they can't come in because their name wasn't included on the appointment.


Moira leaves the building in disgust- Muttering something like I couldn't organise a Piss-Up in a Brewery.

Anyways - I move onto the next phase.

I get scanned, searched and leave my phone behind at a little cloak room thingy.

Another queue awaits.

Finally I get to speak to some. Is this the interview?

No, it's the person that checks all my forms

  • Passport? Check
  • Application Form DS-156? Check
  • A color or black and white photo? Check
  • Original cash register receipt from any Australia Post Office showing payment of the non-refundable visa application fee? Check
  • A self-addressed Express Post Platinum envelope, Registered Post envelope or courier satchel for the return of your documents? Check
  • Supplemental Application Form DS-157? Check

I pass this next phase and get ushered into another queue to wait for a 'special elevator', before I can ask about Moira and Rigo and getting them processed, as well as my other 3 kids who are under 14.

Another security guard calls me and puts me into the elevator. He presses an unmarked number and whooosh I head up to the floor. Don't ask what level it was, because I don't know and *if* I did know, I am sure I couldn't tell you.

I step out of the elevator on the unmarked floor and there are 2 more security guards. They ask for my papers and then make me walk through another scanner thingy. Wasn't I already scanned? At what point in the process would I have had the opportunity to.... oh never mind, I go through the scanner again.

Next I get sent to a door down a little corridor. I walk in and it feels like I have been transported to the US. It looks like every other US government office - dingy, grey, over crowded, stinky. How do they do it? I went to grab my phone to take a photo, and then remember it had been taken from me. Bummer.

I get a ticket from one of those ticket waiting dispenser machines, sit down and wait. I was number 397 and they were currently processing 381.

Time passes. 382, 383, 384, 385, 386, 387, 389, 390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396.

I'm excited. I'm next!


I jump up and saunter over to window #5. Is this the interview?

She asks for my forms.

I tell her the story that I need to be processing myself and my family.

She asks where is my family?

I tell her that the security guard wouldn't let them in.

She rolls her eyes in disgust.

Seems like it is a regular mistake.

She writes me a note, makes a phone call and sends me back down to get my family. She tells me I can jump the 3 sets of queues.

OK - now I head downstairs to tell Moira the news.

I get back to the 10th floor and there are no Arrigos to be seen. Great.

I try and call her. Opps -- No Phone. Grrrrr

I get my phone back from the cloak room and call Moira. Ring, Ring, Ring. Finally we connect and she heads back to the floor.

I fill her in on the details, show her my note which lets us jump the queue and we head to the front on the (substantial) queue.

At the point of the story, you would think the worse would be over. Right?


At the head of the queue was a woman who didn't respect the note. She had waited and there was no way she would let *ANYONE* get ahead of her. Let's call her Ms B.

The security guard who had blocked Moira's entrance saw me waiting and ushered me forward (the phone call from windows #5 did the trick). Ms B stepped up and demanded she go next. Rigo was getting angry. Moira was ready for a fight. I am sure all of this was being recorded by secret FBI cameras and would go onto my permanent record. I did the only thing I could do and let Ms B go ahead of me. Life's too short.

So, we go through security *AGAIN*.

We wait *AGAIN*.

We see the form checking people *AGAIN*, but this time they check the other five sets of documents.

We get ushered to the special elevator *AGAIN*

We get out on the unmarked level *AGAIN*.

We go through the other security post *AGAIN*.

We go into the next waiting room *AGAIN*.

I jump the queue and go see Windows #5 who grabs all the paper work and tells us to sit down.

Progress? Maybe.

We wait ... 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396.

397 is called, over in Window #2 this time. We all head over there. Is this the interview?

Nope - fingerprint scanning.

We sit down, wondering what's going to happen next.

We wait ... 387, 389, 390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396

397 is called, this time it's Windows #6. Interview?

Yes - It's the interview.

The guy asks me about my job, what I do for Microsoft. Makes a comment about Vista. Says he really likes the Surface stuff. Asks Rigo if he knows what school he is going to and then tells us to sit back down.

That's it? The interview took a whole 150 seconds - if that.

We sit down. Maybe it wasn't the interviews....

We wait ... 393, 394, 395, 396.

397 is called, and we go to the cashier windows. Whaaa?

We pay our fees and we're done.

Total Time Elapsed - 3 and a bit hours. Felt more like a life time or two.

On our way out, we say good bye to the guards on the unmarked floor. Moira and I are talking about the experience and a guy who was standing near us pipes up and asks me about Microsoft. Turns out he is the guy who went through my paper work. We have a chat about life in America, in Australia and working for Microsoft. It's kinda weird since he knows *LOTS* about me. Maybe this is the interview? The secret interview you have to catch you off guard. Am I becoming paranoid???

Oh - there is a nice twist at the end.

As we leave the unmarked floor, we notice Ms B still waiting to be processed. HA -- revenge is mine!!!

So - that's the story of how I got my visa.

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Comments (12)
  1. Kevin Daly says:

    Hmmmm…male applicants between 16 and 45 – that would be "People we want to measure up for an orange jumpsuit".

  2. Bart says:

    Encouraging post :-). I have to interview at the US Embassy in Belgium next week for my H1B visa to start at Microsoft Corp in October. Fingers crossed!

  3. Samiq says:

    so funny same happen to me when I used to work at Intel… I got to the embassy @ 730am, left the embassy @ 3pm and the interview for my L1 visa, lasted like a minute and a half…

  4. Man..that’s bad….John had less trouble going from Canada through the US to Australia without a passport!

  5. Stephen says:

    I actually just went to barbados for my h1-b yesterday. Other than the rediculously long lines, it turned out to be fairly painless. The interviewer was friendly enough, and didnt even glance at the folder of documents i had (resume’s, bank statements, letters from Microsoft, diploma etc…).

    Now that im back in the virgin islands i have to mail them my passport, and wait 7-10 days to get it back with my visa intact. October 1st ill be at new employee orientation in redmond 🙂 WOHOOOOO!

  6. Garry Trinder says:

    Frank.. you just convinced me never to move to CORP  🙂 heheh.

    This reminds me of a cartoon I watched years ago (Asterix & Obelix) and how they go into the hall of records to get a document stamped so they could compete in the Roman Olympics or something like that.

    They started out patiently until they get to the end and the clerk goes "Sorry, you need to fill these out in triplicate form, please go back to the sta…" that’s when Asterix & Obelix begin Roman bashing and the scene cuts to Roman clerks flying out the windows.

    Cartoons rock.. your experience would of had me in handcuffs as i’d be quite aggressive by the 2nd hour 🙂

  7. Vit says:


    yes, Asterix & Obelix did kick ass in the movie. However, the fun part was that they didnt pass this test by using force. They were supposed to get a form stamped but instead Asterix started asking for a form with a different name that no one knew about. this resulted in the whole department going crazy because they could not find it.

  8. Bob Meade says:

    We are reminded once again that our Australian Government functionaries carry on which much less B.S. than those of some other places.

  9. Davo says:

    All I can say is… FARK!!! Your indeterminate time in the dog house just got… more… indeterminate! Btw, tell Moi Moi, the longer you spend in the dog house, the more likely you’re going to end up in the cat house!!! Hahahaha

  10. Seeh.. so it looks like the same everywhere in the world.

    I experienced similiar frustrating steps to dwell through the maze of US Embassy and their offices to get my business visa just to visit US :>

    After that experience I stopped jocking at Polish gov offices, comparing to US embassy they are nice, understanding and efficient (before visiting US embassy I’d thinked that there was nothing worse that having an appointment in Polish gov office)

  11. RC says:

    This reminds me of jury duty.  Took all day and was just dismissed.

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