How NOT to go America

I had to go to San Francisco, California to attend Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. I requested a conference invitation and they accepted it because of this. After that all I needed is Visa so that I can attend the event.

First thing you will need is HDFC Bank reciept so that you can fill a form for getting Visa. I got the HDFC receipt without and problems. The HDFC receipt takes 48 hours to activate. After 2 days I filled the form from their website and took interview appointment. My interview appointment was 18th March 2010. Before that we have to submit documents to VFS.

On Monday, 15th March I woke up around 6.00 AM. I got the 8.24 AM Churchgate train from Virar. Toooo much rush. Got a seat at Bandra but had to get up on Dadar so that I can get down at Mumbai Central. Got a cab from Mumbai Central and reached  VFS application center to submit the documents. I showed them my documents. And we had the discussion:

Me: “My Interview appointment is on 18th,  I need to submit my documents today”

Security: “Sir, you should have been here on Friday itself”

Me: “Why? I came here 3 days before my appointment. its written in your website”

Security: “You have to come here before 3 working days”

Me: “Ya. So? I am here 3 days before”

Security: “Tomorrow ( 16th March ) is Gudi Padwa and its not working day for us”

Me: “OK.. Now what?”

Security: “You are a No-Show applicant now. Read the procedure for No-Show applicants”

The procedure for No-Show applicants is given here. The No-Show applicants have to come after atleast two days after the scheduled interview appointment to reactive the HDFC receipt so that I can select new interview appointment.

So I went there on 20th April with my dad. Super rush again in train. Got a seat on Bandra again but again had to get up at Dadar. Got a cab at Mumbai Central and went to VFS Application centre again:

Me: “My interview was on 18th, I am a No-Show applicant and I want to reactivate the receipt”

Security: “You have to come after 2 days of your scheduled appointment. So you can come tomorrow

I didnt speak much with them just came back home but learned one thing: “READ THINGS AND UNDERSTAND IT PROPERLY!!!”.

Next day woke up early again. Got the train around 7.30 AM. This time my friend Chetan was with me. As usual didnt get the seat until Bandra. Reached VFS application center at around 9.30 AM. Security allowed to get inside the application center. Went inside. A young lady at the counter took HDFC fee receipt and the passport from me. Tapped keyboard for sometime. and told me:

Lady: “Your receipt is re-activated. You can fill the form again to get new interview appointment again”

Happily went outside and discussed it with my friend. We decided we will goto some cybercafe and fill the form and submit the applications today itself. Went to cybercafe but didnt get any dates. Came back to home.

On 25th I saw interview dates were available. But the date was 15th April. And the event was from 14th April to 16th April. Something is better than nothing. Started filling the form. Fixed the appointment of date 15th. At the same time my friend checked the date for Hindi interview. 14th was available. I cancelled the appointment of 15th and fixed the date of 14th Hindi interview. Cool I had the interview dates now 🙂 But I was going to miss first day of the event.

Next day again checked the VFS website. Dates for interview in English was available again. Me and my friend decided that we will cancel Hindi interview and fill again. So I filled the form and got the dates for interview appointment in English. But still I would have missed one day of an event even if I get my passport back on 14th itself. But again, Something is better than nothing.

I was still checking the VFS website to get earlier dates. On 28th, dates for appointment were available. Date for English appointment was 9th April. 9th was definately good for me. Wouldnt have missed any day of event 🙂 So we started filling the form. But form was not accepted as I hadnt cancelled appointment  of 14th. I cancelled the appointment for 14th and submitted the form again. But my HDFC receipt code was deactivated for 90 days!! Called VFS and they told me you can cancel appointment only  twice 😦 Now I had nothing. My existing date was cancelled by me and wasnt able to book new appointment.  I told this to my dad, my dad called my uncle to create a new HDFC receipt from HDFC at Borivli as I cant do that in Virar. He created the receipt and handed over it to my dad. But the receipt still needed 48 hours to activate.

Checked the dates on 31st. This time 8th April was available for English interview. But by the time I was filling the form dates were gone 😦 But 7th April was available for Hindi interview. Filled the form and got it 🙂 Left the office at around 1.30 PM. This was first time I went to VFS application center and I got a seat from Virar 🙂 My friend was with me. We reached VFS application center by 3.15 PM. But it was closed:

Me: “We want to submit documents. Why is it closed?”

Security: “We are open till 3.00 PM. Read the board”

Me: “But your call centers say you are open till 5.00 PM”

Security: “Its a call center which is open till 5.00 PM, not the office”

There was no point arguing. It was my mistake, I should have called them first.

Woke up early next day. Got the train of around 7.15 AM. Some generous group of people gave me a seat at Borivli 🙂 Reached VFS application center. Submitted documents without any problems. They offered me some service. Using which I would canteen, bus service, would not have to stand in lines for interview. Had to pay Rs.250/- for it.

Woke up early again on 7th. It was my interview day. Was very tensed. I had the blessings of my parents, inlaws and wishes of my fiancee and my sister with me. My dad was with me. We reached the VFS application center at 9.30 AM and my interview time was 10.30 AM. They let me in at 9.45 AM. Went inside. Still very tensed. There was a canteen inside. Because of tension I didnt eat anything. After sometime we went in bus and reached American Consulate. Saw many people standing in lines there. It was so hot I wondered how were they standing. Because of the service all the people in the bus were allowed to enter the consulate without standing in lines. Went inside. Got a seat there. People went inside the cabin for interview and passed it. And the people who failed added more tension. What will it be? Yes or No?

After some time my number was called out. I went inside  cabin. Interviewer was american guy. Very decent and very well dressed. He smiled:

Interviewer: “Hi”

Me: “Hello sir”

Interviewer: “You filled the form for Hindi interview. I was wondering why would you go to US when you cant speak english”

Me: “That not a problem sir. I had to choose Hindi because English dates were not available and I have to reach US by 14th.”

Interviewer: “Do you mind continuing in English?”

Me: “No problem. We can continue”

Interviewer: “Alright. Why do you want to go to US?”

Me: “I have an invitation from the conference in San Francisco. Conference is Linux Collaboration Summit.”

Interviewer: “Do you have sponsorship letter?”

I gave him a sponsorship letter.

Interviewer: “Who is paying for the trip?”

Me: “Linux Foundation is paying $500. I am paying the rest”

Interviewer: “But I dont see anything written about it in this document. Do you have anything that says this?”

Me: “No. I dont have anything. They just mailed me about it”

Interviewer: “Can you bring it?”

He gave me a paper and told me to come tomorrow.

Interviewer: “I want you to bring some proof that they are paying you $500 and the reason why are they calling you and also an employment proof that you are working here in India”

Me: “Sure. I will get it tomorrow”

So it was not Yes and not even No. Went to office got the employment documents. Also mailed Jennifer Cloer of Linux Foundation to mail me documents regarding this. Took the documents with me and went  to VFS office next day.

Next day I was standing in a queue from 9.00 AM. The security guys took all documents and passport from me and gave me a token. I entered the consulate at 11.00 AM. Got a seat. Tensed. Now it was 2.00 PM and I was very frustrated now. My token number was called atlast at around 2.15 PM. Inside the cabin saw the same guy. He was reading my documents:

Interviewer: “Thank you for bringing this documents. And sorry I had to call you again, I just wanted to make sure you are the person you claim and you are employed here”

Me: “No problem sir”

He started tapping on keyboard. I asked him:

Me: “Sir, do you need anything else?”

Interviewer: “No. This is it. Your visa is approved”

Me: “Thank you sir 🙂 🙂 :)”

Interviewer: “Today is 8th. You will get visa on monday (11 April). So plan your trip accordingly :)”

Me: “Thank you sir 🙂 🙂 :)”

Left from the consulate called my family, inlaws, my fiancee, my sister that I got Visa. Everyone was happy 🙂 Also took Cathay Pacific Airlines tickets for Monday.

Reached home and dad told me get the passport tomorrow (9th April) itself if possible.

Went to VFS next day. But my Visa wasnt arrived. So now I had to go on Monday (11th April).

Passports are returned after 5.00 PM. Reached there on time. It was 5.00 PM. But the security was surrounded with almost 50 people. I thought “Now what?”.

Me: “I want to get passport today”

Security: “Sir, we are not returning any passports today due to technical failure”

Me: “I have todays tickets!!!!”

I showed him todays tickets.

Security: “We cant do anything. American consulate has to send it here. They havent sent it today. And it may take 1 week”

After 1 week means after the event. Thats it. No hopes now.  Went home. Cancelled the tickets.

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13 thoughts on “How NOT to go America

  1. All the time when we try not to say the same “This is India…my friend” thing having a hope that India’ s changing, such incidents let you down.

    I hope, actually am sure that you will get an opportunity soon. You still a Linux guru!! 🙂

  2. No worries, as long you don’t leave India – you are in safe hands. 🙂

    Besides, your experience explains what the top B-Schools must be teaching, patience.. one could only learn such kinda stuff at queue’s at places such as the Post Office, PPF, PAN, National Skills Registry, etc. Either you get exhausted by the procedure or end-result must come out as pointless NOTHING. After all we INDIANs claim to have invented it – ZERO!

    That’s simple math – my dear friend.

    Leaving all this behind, you must be positive in your next attempt. I am sure there are better days ahead. When one opportunity is missed, another thousand possibilities emerge.

  3. Yo Kunal,
    I’ve had a lot of troubles for the Summit, as you I’ve requested visa+passport and I get everything in 4 days (passport+visa+flight+hotel). Now due to a “random name volcano” located don’t know where I’m still stucked here in SF, you may laught a while if you want it. Call it retaliation law 🙂

  4. OMG, this would be a bookmark I would come back in future 🙂
    The end part was pinching, I was seriously hoping for a good outcome.
    Holidays is something to be alert of… my recent bsnl downtime repair was delayed for 5 days just because of one holiday in between.
    When I went to the office to complain after trying phone complaints around 10 times, the guy on desk is like “So nau after 5 days you are comingaa?” I was like WTF!! couldn’t react the way I wished due to age considerations.

    Wish you luck next time…

  5. Surprisingly I had a very smooth passage for getting my Visa and travel to US in 2008. 🙂

    The only complaint I have against them is you still have to stand in Queue when you have been already scheduled for an interview. That feels so humiliating. 😦

    BTW, while the gentleman before me was refused a Visa even though he is all dressed in 3 piece suit and everyone in the queue were all worries. 🙂 I was in my trademark jeans and t-shirt and the kind lady just asked me 2 questions, when are you going to US and when will you be back. She wished me luck for my visit to US of A.

    Almost same thing happened at the immigration counter at US Airport. The officer just asked me two questions, who is paying for my trip and how much money I am carrying. 🙂

    They must have been surprised that I was traveling light (a 20″ suit case and a back-pack) in-spite of being an Indian!

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