Personal experience IV interview at Chennai
I am a retired engineer. Together with my wife, I appeared for the Immigrant Visa interview at Chennai on 30 April 2002.
Our cases ( my wife and I) were sponsored by my daughter, who is an US citizen. Our cases came under the IR5 category.
During the past few months, I was a regular browser of the immihelp.com which gave me a lot of information to prepare the docs and anticipate what is required at the interview. The personal experiences of a few CPers were really elaborate and they were of immense help.
Arranging the docs
I found it extremely helpful in arranging the docs in the proper sequence as required by the US Consulate ( refer to the information in Packet 4). I made the following files ready.
File 1 containing
1. Appointment letter
2. Form OF 230 Part I ( signed)
3. Form OF 230 Part II (unsigned)
4. Marriage certificate ( Original + Copy)
5. Wedding photos - 3 off
6. Birth Certificate ( Original + Copy)
7. Evidence of financial support from sponsor -
a. I 864 from daughter
b. Tax returns for the past 3 years (2001, 2000, 1999) (Copies)
c. Letter from the employer
d. Bank statement
e. Naturalization Certificate ( Copy)
8. Photos ( for immigration purposes, as specified in the Packet 4 letter) 3 off
9. Proof of relationship (Original + Copy)
10. Medical report
11. IRS 9003 form
12. Police clearance certificate ( Original + Copy)
File 2 containing the same documents for my wife.
The above two files will be submitted to the consulate officer.
1. Where nothing is mentioned, it is only the Original document that will be submitted
2. There is no need to submit the X- ray along with the medical report.
File 3 containing one copy of the docs submitted in files 1 and 3. These may not be required at all ( as was in our cases), but it is recommended that we have some extra copies of the docs we are submitting.
File 4 containing the miscellaneous papers like corespondence with the US Consulate, copy of the petition filed by the sponsor ( to the INS), and any other supporting docs for the date of birth etc.
I arranged the docs with proper tags for easy reference and placed the files in transparent folders one folder for each file. It is not recommended that the papers are stapled together as that will cause inconvenience for the consulate staff to separate them. I used the Gem clips to hold the papers. Each file of papers are then held together in a bunch by the large clips available in the market.
Procurement of the docs
It will be helpful to start collecting the required docs a few months ahead of the anticipated date of interview. I have seen a few people at the interview not fully equipped with all the docs required. The following docs are to be procured:
1. Birth certificate For people of my age group, it is likely that they do not have the birth registered at the municipal office. An endorsement from the municipality (check the place of birth in the passport) has to be obtained that the birth was not registered. This will be an easy job and can be done in a few days time. Then an affidavit has to be made by the parents regarding the date and place of birth of the applicant. If the parents are no more, any elderly close relative (who has knowledge of the date of birth) can sign the affidavit. Together with the endorsement, this affidavit will serve as the birth certificate.
2. Marriage certificate This can be obtained from Registrar of Marriages in about 15 days time. It is not necessary that we have to obtain the marriage certificate at the place of marriage. This can be procured at the current place of residence. If the Registrars office is contacted, they will give the details of the procedure to be followed. We submitted copies of the old wedding photos for obtaining the marriage certificate.
3. Wedding photos If we have a photo, we can submit the copies. In fact the US Consulate returned the copies of the (black and white) photos I submitted.
4. Proof of relationship We have to submit originals (and copies) of the documents to prove the relationship of the sponsor with the applicants. If the sponsor is a son or daughter, the best evidence is the birth certificate of the sponsor from the municipality. Otherwise we can also submit any school records like X class certificate, degree certificate etc where the names of the parents are mentioned. As a last resort, affidavits can be made from close relatives who have knowledge of the birth of the sponsor to certify that the sponsor was born to the applicants.
5. Police clearance certificates (PCC) This is an area where I found some of the IV applicants I met at Chennai were not clear. I have also found that the US Consulate was particular asking for all the relevant PCCs. The following points are to be noted:
a. For the applicants who stayed in India all through, it is required to get the PCC from the passport office serving the area of current residence. If the passport is issued from the same office, the PCC is made available within a week. If the passport is issued from another office in India or abroad, it may take upto 45 days. The procedure is straight forward and one has to pay Rs 100 as fee.
b. For the applicants, whose passports were issued not more than six months from the present date ( date of interview), the PCC from the passport office alone is sufficient. If that is not the case (which will be the majority of the cases), one has to obtain the PCC from the local district police office IN ADDITION TO the PCC obtained from the passport office. This needs some follow-up. In my case, I met the Supt of Police personally with an application detailing why I need the PCC from his office, attaching copies of the appointment letter and the note for the requirement of the PCC from the US Consulate. Once he authorized the issue of the PCC, it is just following up with his office staff.
c. For those applicants who resided abroad (as we did), we have to get the PCC from ALL the countries WHERE the period of stay was MORE THAN ONE YEAR after attaining the age of 16. For European countries, there are clear guidelines how to do it and their embassies in India have all the information. Otherwise we can contact a friend in those countries and they can obtain the PCC for you. One has to send all the docs from here. For some countries (e.g African countries), you need your fingerprints to be taken and certified at the local police station and sent to the respective offices/embassies. This is a time consuming and expensive process as most of the countries charge a fee for issuing the PCCs. If you fall in this category, the time to act is now irrespective of the anticipated date of interview.
d. The PCCs from the local sources are to be procured preferably within six months period before the interview.
Accomodation at Chennai
I can not write about the hotel accommodation at Chennai as we did not stay in a hotel. But there are quite a few hotels reasonably priced close to the US Consulate. If you are going to Chennai in summer (as we did), I recommend that you go for AC accommodation. In my view, it is better to stay close to the US Consulate as most of the activities are around the Consulate.
Lister lab is at Jagannathan Street, about 1 ½ KM from the Gemini flyover off the Nungambakkam High Road. We engaged a taxi and our taxi driver knew the place. We reached Chennai around 6=30 AM on 26th April. After refreshing in the room, we reached Lister lab around 9=00 AM. No prior appointment is required. But make sure that you carry a copy of the appointment letter from the US Consulate and a passport size photo ( normal size not immigration size). We filled in the forms ( sent to us by the US Consulate along with Packet 4) beforehand and affixed the photos. We have to carry our passports as well.
The Receptionist will check the passport and the appointment letter and compare the details with the form filled by us. We will be given another form for filling and to be handed over to the Receptionist. Then each candidate is required to pay Rs 600 as the fee ( can be paid in cash). A receipt will be given, which will later be used to collect the reports.
The lab was quite efficient and there was not much of waiting there. The staff had a coffee break around 9=30 AM ( for 10 to 15 mins) and that added to our waiting period. Premeasured blood sample is taken by using a small test tube under vacuum. Then we went for the X-ray. The X-ray operator was quite helpful and speaks many languages. We came out of the lab around 10=00 AM.
It is best to get the photos ( as detailed in Packet 4) at specified places in Chennai. We found two at Chennai both Konica photo shops, around the US Consulate. One is across the road from the Chola Sheraton hotel, about 1 KM from the US Consulate. That was the shop we preferred. Another Konica shop, close to the Gemini flyover, also specializes in these photos. We have to tell them in advance that we require the photos for Green Card purpose. They give 8 photos ( 4 in each size 1 ¼ in square and the other slightly larger). The photographer knows exactly the background and posture for the photo. The prints were made ready in 30 mins time. We paid Rs 100 for each person for 8 photos.
We used the 1 ¼ in size photos ( three) for submission at the US Consulate. Two of them are to be signed on the front bottom. We used the old fashioned ( thick-writing) ball pen. The modern gel and fine-tipped pens were of no use. We wrote the name and case number at the back of the photos. But I found that some have not written anything at the backside of the photos.
We went to the Lister lab around 4=15 PM to collect the reports. They close at 5=00 PM sharp ( not 5=30 as indicated in the letter from the US Consulate). Even though they advised us to report by 4=30 PM, we went there early. Then the X-ray operator told us that the X-ray for my wife was not clear as there was some movement of the body. So she had to undergo another X-ray. They did it very fast and the report was made available soon after. We collected the reports ( kept sealed to be opened only by the examining physician) by 4=50 PM.
We preferred to go to Dr. Mathai Thomas at the Best hospital at Kodambakkam as we wanted to complete all the jobs on the same day. He is the only doctor out of the panel of doctors available after 5=00 PM. I made an appointment with his secretary a few days in advance. We filled some forms giving our details and consent for the vaccinations. We have to carry our passports, appointment letter and one copy of the passport size photo ( NOT the immigration photo).
The doctor opened the envelope containing the X-ray and the reports. He went through the reports and asked us whether we were ever hospitalized, ever had any operations and any other ailment we have at present. My wife was examined by a female nurse and he examined me. We were made to cough a couple of times while he examined the abdomen, spleen etc. He noted down the height, weight and checked our vision. Since we had the MMR vaccine recently, we were given the vaccine for chicken pox. This was news to us. We expected no vaccination from the doctor. The chicken pox vaccination cost us Rs 1,500 each. When we checked with other IV applicants, we found that all other doctors were also administering the same vaccine at the same cost. We paid the doctor Rs 3,900.
When I asked him whether everything is normal, he told us we are fine. We were somewhat apprehensive as my wife and I are in the above 55 years age bracket and we really do not know the standards set by the US Health department. Later on we found at the time of interview, people who are considerably older than us ( and visibly infirm) and one lady in a wheel chair. The medical exam for both of us took about 30 mins. He gave us a personal copy of the immunizations report. He gave us the medical reports in open envelopes.
We came out from the doctors office around 6=15 PM. If parents like us are not familiar with Chennai and do not speak Tamil ( as we are), I suggest that it is best to engage a taxi for a day and finish the lab test and the medical exam on the same day. This will save time and also avoid haggling with the autodrivers at every point.
Interview at the Consulate
After the medical exam on 26th April, we had clear three days off before the interview on 30th April. If the season is right, we may utilize the period to see some of the sights in and around Chennai. We spent most of the day time in the room and ventured out only in the evenings.
On the day of the interview, we reported at the US Consulate gate at 7=30 AM (interview time indicated 8=00 AM). We have to show the appointment letter and passport at the gate before we are allowed. We carried them in a separate transparent plastic folder. No handbags, water bottles and cell phones are allowed inside the consulate premises. We carried all our docs ( in four folders) in a clear plastic bag. We were waved through the gate. We were directed to the building and another check was made regarding the appointment letter, passport and the carrying bags. There was a metal detector (like the security check at the airports) .Then we were asked to take seats in a row of chairs in a large hall.
This is a new building fully air-conditioned and is provided with comfortable chairs. Drinking water is available. I did not check but toilets should also be available. This was a pleasant surprise as we were mentally prepared to be seated on backless benches under a shamiana outside the building. The chairs are facing eight counters from where the applicants will be called. They have seated all the IV applicants on the right side and other visa applicants on the left side. When we entered the hall at 7=35 AM, we found that the front rows of chairs were already occupied. The security guard directed us to our seats in the fourth row. Usually the seats are allotted depending upon the time we arrive. Early birds get the front rows. We learnt that the gate opens at 7=00 AM.
Then a lady opened the counter 7 around 8=15 AM and started calling some H1 visa applicants and collected the papers. By 8=30 AM, counter 8 also opened and together with counter 7, they started dealing with the IV applicants. The security guard picked up the persons starting from the front row (first-come, first-served) and they were asked to form a line in front of the counters to submit the docs. For a family only one member is required to submit the docs. Even though my wife and I have separate case numbers, only I was asked to submit both sets of docs. I submitted my docs by 9=00 AM. I was asked to submit my Demand Draft ( for an equivalent amount of US $ 260) at the counter 1. The lady at the cash counter issued two copies of receipt for the same. We were also given an address label to be filled with the address where we want the passports and visa papers to be sent. We filled the address label and waited.
The collection of the docs for the IV applicants was completed by 9=30 AM. The process was quite fast and efficient. At 10= 00 AM, another lady came to the counter 7 and called our names first (to our surprise as we were not the first to submit the papers). She collected one copy of the receipt we obtained earlier for payment of the visa application fee. She went through all the docs separating the originals from the copies. She returned us the copies of the wedding photos. We submitted affidavits from my mother-in-law and a family friend to prove that the sponsor is our daughter. The copies of these affidavits were used when my daughter filed the petition to INS. We noticed that the lady at the counter has the petitions filed by my daughter. We submitted the originals of the affidavits. She asked us whether we have any other proof. My daughter was included in the passport of my wife ( issued in 1980). Also in the degree certificate of my daughter, my name was included as the father. We gave the originals and copies of these docs. The lady asked us to sign the Form OF 230 Part II. She told us that all the other papers are in order and we can wait for the approval of the consular officer. The whole process did not take more than 15 mins.
By 10=30 AM, we were again the first persons called to the counter 7. The same lady told us that we can now pay the visa fee and collected the address label from us. She returned us the original docs submitted to prove the relationship. We were also given back the copies of the PCCs. The originals were retained by the Consulate. She returned us the original docs for the marriage certificate and the affidavits for date of birth. We had also handed over the draft for Rs 300 to her. Since we have two passports, the courier fee was Rs.350. I told her that I have two drafts for Rs. 300 each. She agreed to have Rs. 50 in cash in addition to one of the drafts for Rs. 300. She gave us a slip authorizing us to pay the visa fee. She told us after paying the visa fee (equivalent of US $ 65 each), we can go home and wait for the packet to be delivered by the courier. We handed over the drafts for the amount and collected the receipt. The security staff in the hall do not allow discussions with others after the visa fee is paid. We came out of the Consulate by 10=45 AM. As we wanted to be present to receive the visa packets from the courier, we reached Hyderabad the next morning. If you choose to stay in Chennai, you can receive the visa packets the very next day through the courier.
We received the packet containing the passports and the visa packets for both of us on 2 May 2002 at our Hyderabad address. The immigration visas were stapled on the outside of the packets with an instruction that the packets are to be opened by an US immigration or health officer. We were advised to check the details on the visa and if any correction is required, we should contact the Consulate within two weeks from the date of issue of the visa. We made a few photocopies of the visas for submission to the travel agent etc without disturbing the affixed visas.
Port of Entry
We arrived at the Los Angeles airport with the visa packets in hand. We had only filled the customs declaration form as there was no need to fill the Immigration forms provided on board the flight. We were directed to the immigration counter dealing with the new immigrants. After checking the contents of the packets, we were asked to sign and affix the fingerprint (forefinger only) on a document. Then we were asked to collect our baggage and come back to the counter. There was no mention of the X-rays which we carried all the way through to USA from India. We collected our baggage and presented ourselves at the same counter after 20 minutes. We had to wait for a few minutes before we were handed over our passports with a stamp for a temp visa for one year. The actual cards are expected to arrive at the declared address in USA after a few months.