In order to increase the probability of my fiancee passing her K1 interview in Colombia, I thought it important to have a firm understanding of how the process evolves specific to the one consulate that performs the interviews: Bogota. So, prior to my fiancee's interview, I extensively searched the internet to see how the interview would take place. I found legal services that promoted themselves as authoritative on how to prepare for an interview, but they were quite generic, and I would bet almost none had ever participated in an up to date Colombian interview. And, first and foremost, I was searching for information specific to Bogota. I did find about four testimonials, but I can now say, after having participated in the interview process, their information was stale. Over the past five or so years there have been substantial changes.
So, I try to offer you a detailed and up to date understanding of how the K1 Bogota interview proceeds. Know that all consulates operate differently, and that my only intention is to give you a firm understanding of what happens specific to this one consulate. For instance, I read that some consulates do not allow the petitioner to even enter their grounds, not alone present for the interview. Also know, my experiences are limited to one morning at the consulate, and that I am not a professional who seeks any reward for what I present. I simply write to help others. No one wants a negative outcome at their interview! The investment of love, time, and money is great to even get to the point of being granted an interview, so if I can help tip someone's hand towards greater success, I am happy for that. Keeping all this in mind, let us proceed . . .
I would get to the interview about two hours early at the very most. An hour and a half would be ideal. It is not helpful to present too early. As you read on you will understand why.
Initially, you will stand in a cluster along a short line of shanty buildings across the street from the consulate, which is blocked by a large black iron fence outside a grassy area. You are called to proceed forward by blocks of time; somewhere around one hour prior to each hour of the clock. We were scheduled for 8 am, but left this area at 7. An attendant will summon everyone and walk you to the next stop.
If you arrive late, you can bypass the cluster next to the buildings and follow your way around the black iron fence next to the freeway. There you will come to a temporary gate where an attendant is. You can get help here.
Your hour group is lead by security around a portion of the perimeter stopping just forward of an iron gate. At this point you form a line generally based upon your appointment time. Here several workers will give you a list of the paperwork the consulate wishes to review, as well as their order. I never found any of the workers to be less than fully helpful and kind, and they are obviously Colombian natives. Count on them only speaking Spanish! Once they quickly review your papers and have you shuffle them into correct order, they give you a green initialed sticky paper circle to wear.
By the way, a substantial number of the papers the consulate asks for in their mailed preappointment packet, as of our interview date, they did not ask for, or in any way review. I would highly recommend you take everything included in your List Of Documents instruction page, and then be happy when they do not ask to see all! For those in the line today, they did not take any fiancee divorce papers. Also, they only took two of the six fiancee passport pictures. Do make sure your fiancee's name is written on the back of these pictures! They did not take the translation of the fiancee birth certificate. And, though one was required in our case, they did not take any baptismal papers (or anything else to corroborate the birth certificate). They did not take a copy of my employment verification, or any of my pay stubs. However, they did take four months of my checking account statements, though I am not self employed, and my most recent 1040. I had older 1040's, but they were not interested.
So, for our October interview, they required the following papers: fiancee passport, two fiancee pictures with her name on the back, a certified birth certificate less the translation, a police certificate less the translation, evidence of support form (make sure the petitioner signs!), the thicker of the two medical packets given at the end of the exam (unopened!), the petitioner's certificated divorce papers, their last 1040, and several months of the petitioner's checking account statements. Obviously, this is a much more streamlined approach than what is found in the consulate instruction packet 3,4 under List of Documents.
You are then ushered into a small room where security insures you have a paper circle, while you place your removable belongings, to include your belt but not your shoes, through a metal detector. This is mostly as you would do in an airport. You will also pass through a metal sweep. By the way, security allows cell phones to pass through, despite what your consulate instructions say. Once through that, you pass a dorr and are finally inside the consulate grounds.
Now, everything you access is outside, and while many areas are sheltered only from above, some are not. There are clean bathrooms, and a small concession stand. Upon entering, you will be shown from a series of seats completely dependent upon your appointment time, where to sit. Once again, a worker will examine your papers, and insure they are in the correct order.
In short time you will be given a numbered ard and called into a small line located close to your seat. Once your card number is called, you then step forward to your first window. The windows throughout are completely the same. The glass is virtually all inclusive, and only allow a few sheets of paper to be passed through an underneath slot. You can only communicate via one phone hanging next to each window. Everything is very rudimentary.
Here a consulate official reviews your records and inputs information into a computer. When done they give you another card with a number. The officials ask a few questions of the fiancee, to simply clarify what paperwork they review. These individuals speak fluent Spanish as well as English. Expect the conversation to be completely in Spanish, unless you request otherwise.
You are then directed to the opposite side of the grounds where there is a long series of windows and seats. There will be a very long line on your far right side. These are people applying for B1/B2 visas, Student visas, and the like. You do not wait in this line. Simply take a seat on their opposite side and wait for your number to be called.
Once you advance to a window your interview begins and hopefully ends here! Our interview lasted all of two minutes. The officer only asked these questions: how many times had I visited my fiancee in Colombia, and for what duration (three times for a total of 28 days)? How did we meet (through YouTube)? What was my profession (expanded dental hygienist)? The complete conversation was in Spanish. During that time the officer took my fiancee's fingerprints through a little box on the left side of the window. I was standing next to my fiancee throughout the interview, and though the officer knew I was there, she never required my participation.
There has been much internet discussion on how helpful it is for the petitioner to be present for the K1 Bogota interview. I can tell you that the two ladies immediately before us came alone, and both passed with fairly quick interviews of about five total minutes each. I saw at least one other lady pass her interview unaccompanied. She approached a different window. I do not have any sense of how long her interview was. I did see where one unaccompanied young lady failed, but again, I have no sense of how long her interview lasted. Just generally watching all the lines, I can certainly say that most passed their interview. And, you can tell when someone passes, because they will leave the window less their passport.
I was surprised by the small amount of time the consulate officers spent reviewing the packets prior to the interview. When they did so, they would walk out of view from their window. The interviewers I watched spent two minutes or less. Taking this into account, and also considering the limited logistics created by the window, I submit that your initial material submitted to the USCIS should be especially comprehensive yet concise in showing the solid depth of your relationship.
After experiencing all of this, without a doubt the petitioner need not be present for a positive outcome. However, if there are questions that arise about the petitioner's financials, or anything else that would likewise require clarification, the fiancee will not fail the interview, but a second interview with the attendance of the petitioner will probably be necessary. All things being equal, I think the presence of the petitioner, provided no clarifications are needed, advances only a slightly more favorable outcome.
About the demeanor of the embassy personnel, again, those you encounter outside in the courtyard will be nothing less than helpful and very polite. They are limited to their native language. I actively observed a handful of officers at the window, and while a few seemed to be quite jovial and engaging, a minority seemed curt and would probably not be the type you would ever wish to share even a short luncheon date with! :-(
About what to wear to the interview. I have read over and over to not wear jeans. Wrong! Three of those that quickly passed wore jean outfits. My fiancee was dressed completely in jeans. Certainly I would recommend a tidy and coordinated outfit, but I think anything beyond that is very much like having the petitioner present; in a case where benefit of the doubt is required, it may just put your over the top. Better than anything, however, is simply being prepared with the proper paperwork, and giving short, sensible answers to all questions.
At the end of the interview you will be told of the outcome. If it is favorable, they will keep your fiancee's passport for a turn around of about two weeks, to include weekends. Their web site touts a turn around of three to five days, but we know of one other fiancee who also passed the interview, and it has been a week and a half and she has yet to receive her visa. Our officer volunteered to send the visa back to us via courier, at no cost. Earlier, we had not signed up for that service. In exactly two weeks my fiancee's visa was ready, but needed to be picked up at the consulate (ASC). Whatever method of delivery, you will receive an email announcement from the site
I hope all of the details above were helpful! The most important ideas I can communicate to you, considering my reading and limited practical experience, are these:
1. Though they do not ask for everything, have ALL of your paperwork ready as listed on your instruction packet of 3 of 4 under List of Documents. Do consult my writing above as to what they do not ask for. If you make an appointment and do not have these items, from what I have read, go to the interview anyway. If they do request those papers lacking, your fiancee may still pass the interview. However, a visa will not be issued until the necessary paperwork is provided. 2. It does not help to present inordinately early. 3. If it is winter, wear warm clothes. Your stay will be completely outside. Jeans are fine, but be somewhat prudent in how you dress. Use common sense. Also, cell phones are allowed. 4. Count on all interactions with the consulate personnel being in Spanish. That includes the officers, unless you request otherwise. 5. If you have extra material you wish to show the officers, make sure it is a stapled few pages, and not larger than legal sized paper. Only then (at least unfolded) will it slide under the window. Do not count on showing things through the glass! 6. Stay calm. Practice your questions! From all I have read, for sure they will ask the questions I referred to above. Really, the process is straightforward, and not intended to be difficult. 7. Be sure the original package you send to USCIS is well constructed and presents a detailed, qualitative, yet precise presentation of your meetings. If you can include Skype or email logs, that is helpful. All of this will certainly make your interview easier! Keep in mind, it takes more effort for the interviewer to review newer information than it does older, because of the time it takes to pass information through the small windows, time to collate on their side, and the fact that they have already invested the time to review your initial packet. 8. Submit a strong set of 10 pictures! A few should include the fiancee's family. Best if they show an imprinted camera date. Make sure everyone is smiling and having fun! Anything of questionable taste should be removed. 9. Present for success at the interview! And, though the process is arduous, costly, and takes time, look beyond this and feel happy that you have the chance to tell the tale of how you met, where you have been, and where you will go. This is your moment to show that you have real love and affection for your chosen person!
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