First of all, thank you very much for all the inputs and experiences shared on this forum. Many of them were very useful.
I went for L1A blanket visa interview in Chennai along with L2 petitions for my wife and 2 kids.
I had VAC appointment on Dec 9th at 11:30 AM and consular interview appointment on Dec 10th at 9 AM.
The VAC experience was rather straightforward. You can carry mobile for VAC interview, but need to keep it switched off. VAC is on 1st/2nd floor of the building. You have to take stairs.
The handling was very cordial. Initially documents were checked and all DS-160s were placed in respective passports. Then we were led to the biometrics windows based on the ticket number given at the first window. Here DS-160s and passports were verified. Some basic questions were asked like full name and DOB. Then photos and biometric data was collected. We had to bring passport size photo for our 1 yr old son but the one we brought was not accepted. They need a 2X2 photo but we took the same photo we used for his passport application, which was not appropriate. The good news was that the reviewer told us that we could take the right photo directly to the visa interview. Fortunately, on the ground floor of the same building there is a center for photocopies, photographs, etc. We took his 2X2 photo right there and left. The whole experience was probably around 30-40 min.
For the visa interview we went around 30 min early at 8:30 AM. There was a line outside the consulate and we were sent to two levels of lines outside the building before we entered it. Then there was an airport style security checks. Everything was ok except that we had a small bottle of hand sanitizer with us which they did not allow. But more importantly, they will not dispose it themselves. They asked me to go out and throw it well outside the building which I did. Then I went back into the building skipping lines.
After the security check, we were led into a room where a lady wanted documents placed in a certain order - 3 sets of I129s, first page of I797, primary applicant passport and primary applicant DS-160. Then we were led towards a second building. There was a long line with social distancing. But curiously (and fortunately!), L1A visa applicants were asked to skip the lines and directly proceed towards the visa interview windows and sit. After sitting for maybe 5 min, the attendant asked me to go and pay the visa anti-fraud fee which I did at a corner window (specifically for this). I paid with credit card and returned to the sitting area to my family. After another 5 min or so, we were asked to stand in line right in front of the window we were all the while seated. The earlier interview going on was also on L1 and it was approved and then it was our turn. The interview went as below:
Me: Good Morning
VO: Good Morning
VO: Can I have your passport please
Me: (I gave my earlier set I had prepared)
VO: Can I have rest of the passports as well
Me: (I gave the passports of my family)
VO arranged the passports, I-129s in certain order and started looking something on the computer and typing.
It must have been 2 min where he worked on the system without talking anything (but it looked like it went on forever!)
VO: So how long you have been working with XXXXX
Me: 3 yrs 3 months sir
VO: Of these how long have you been a manager
Me: 2 yrs
VO: What is your salary in US
Me: 1XX,XXX + Variable Pay
VO: How many direct reports in your new role
Me: I am asked to hire 5 reports sir
VO: How many indirect reports
VO: Total how many reports in your next role
Me: 14 sir
VO: Do you have hire and fire authority
Me: For direct reports, yes.
Then he typed something on the system and asked me to verify my biometrics
Then he spoke to my wife and asked her about her highest qualification which she told him. He seemed to glance at the monitor to verify. Then he verified her biometrics as well.
VO: Your visa is approved. But (XXXX) your son's photograph is missing
Me: (getting ready to submit it)
VO: Oh I cannot accept it here but go to window XX and submit. Please do comeback after doing that.
VO handed all passports back to us.
Then we went to the other window, submitted the photo and my son's passport. the photo was scanned and returned. I think the info was uploaded on the system. Then we returned to the original VO window where another family was being interviewed for L1B and eventually theirs was approved.
Then we again went to the window
Me: Hello sir
VO: Hello, There you are again
Me: We submitted our son's photo (and handed passport)
VO: (checked the system) Can I have all the passports please for stamping the visa
Me: (handed over)
VO: your visas are approved. you are set to go. safe travels.
Me: Thank you sir. Have a nice day.
VO: Thank you and you too.
1. Be well prepared. Being confident is important and confidence will come from preparation. I had prepared 2 1/2 pages of potential questions and my replies and practiced multiple times.
2. Be confident when you speak. take a deep breath(s) before going to the window.
3. Understand beforehand what the visa requirements are and how your application addresses them.
4. Dress professionally and comfortably. I wore a neat shirt and trousers, shoes etc. I did not wear blazer as sometimes at visa interviews it causes some discomfort (from my past experience with another class of visa)
5. Be friendly without being unprofessional.
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