About the blog: My long time live in partner had got his L1 visa stamping done in November 2021. In a couple of months he had moved to the US. We were yet to get married. What we were looking at was an indefinite long distance relationship. The only way to stay together was to get married, meaning preponing our wedding date which was originally scheduled for December 2022. Here is my experience of securing an L2 visa, as a dependent on L1A. I appeared alone for the visa interview at Kolkata consulate.
I hope this blog post helps anyone who is option for a US dependent visa and planning to appear alone for the interview.
Please note, read the visa rules regularly. It keeps changing, especially during the extraordinary time as now that we are living through.
Our Marriage and the Start of Visa Procedure
We married in January 2021, during the peak of Third Wave Corona when almost everyone in Kolkata had contacted the virus. In fact my grandfather had passed away just a week before and the grandmother was hospitalized. I tested negative just a day prior to the marriage date. It was a mess in short with more number of family being infected with the virus than the healthy ones.
A small intimate ceremony was conducted at my in law’s place with 40 people. Government mandate was to call up to 50. I say this because often the VO at the US consulate usually asks for a grand wedding ceremony photo.
We registered our marriage with the government of India. Our marriage was conducted through a special marriage act where no religious identity was required.
We secured the marriage certificate in few weeks.
That was the first step at securing an L2 visa.
If you have married earlier, and have got a marriage certificate (either through Hindu marriage act or Special marriage act), the certificate should do.
We did not have to change any name on passport either. I did not change my surname either. But you can and that strengthens the marriage proof.
A number of fraud or human trafficking incidents get conducted through visa loopholes which is the reason why visa rules are incredibly strict. However, if your marriage is founded on legal grounds there is absolutely no reason to get a rejection.
Preparing to apply for L2 dependent visa
A friend of mine was also undergoing visa process in the similar time frame.
They were a family of three, married for 6 years with a two years old kid. They applied for the L1B visa at Chennai (that is the only place where they process it) and got it smoothly without any trouble. The wife who applied for l2, the dependent visa, was not asked anything. But then she was accompanied by the husband, primary applicant. They also took the toddler child along. Children under 12 years of age are not required to visit the visa interview center physically.
My case was different.
I was applying for L2 after wedding. In my mind, I had to establish the wedding. An intimate wedding under exceptional circumstances, where no Hindu wedding ceremony like Sindur and saat-phera involved would raise a few eye brows. We also married immediately after the husband had secured visa.
His visa stamping happened in November. We provided notice at the register office for wedding in December. On January 16, we got the marriage solemnized.
Applying for DS 160
Filling up DS 160 was the next step as we got hold of our marriage certificate. You have to disclose a complete list of the countries you have visited previously, your work history, social handles, education. You need to delve really deep into your life’s information. No incorrect or missing information is encouraged at this step.
The DS 160 form can be auto filled. Please turn on that option on chrome (or any other browser your are using).
You can also note down all the links at a notepad as you start with the process. Once you submit DS 160, you can not change or edit anything. You have a month’s time to make necessary changes hence please be very careful.
We opted to check for slots during end of January. I had a trip to Thailand pending for March. I did not want to miss this trip. I wanted to to secure a date post the trip to Thailand.
You can always start filling up DS 160 from the scratch since the page times out a lot. Before submission ensure you have done all the corrections.
The next step is to move on to the Visa fee payment and interview slot booking process.
Fee payment :
As of today applications are required to pay 190$ USD via the CGI federal website (link below). Payment can be done through bank or via card payments. I paid via NEFT transaction. Once the transaction is done, it will take some time for the payment details to be automatically reflected in the website. Be patient and wait till it reflects.
In case of an erroneous payment, the transaction will auto-fail and the amount will be refunded in the source account. You can check your account statement as well to know the transaction status. Note that your account statement might immediately reflect payment success / failure however it would take some time to get updated on the website.
Getting a slot for the visa interview
To secure a slot for the visa interview, we tried from February and secured a date sometime during Mid May. I opted for Kolkata consulate since that is also my home-center.
However, by the end of February Putin decided to declare a war. We were eying an imminent Third world war as media roared. The husband had reached Manhattan. I was in Bangalore. Our future for a happy conjugal life seemed to be bleak.
One day at 3 am India Standard Time, the husband checked for slots on an earlier date. We were lucky. We got it on March 16!
So, the date proceeded for about two months. I had to re-plan everything. the move, the shifting, the travel and work commitments. I was happy to do so nonetheless because getting a slot on a closer date is precious under today’s circumstances.
Many people suggested the following tips while booking slots:
- Check only 4 times a day with approx 4-6 hours gap in between each login and do not exhaust all your tries in the morning itself keep one for the evening or night. Note that every click (consulate location change and date change) is counted as one check. Overuse may lead to your account being locked, which takes about 3 days to be available again. Usually, the info in the slot booking telegram group will be helpful for booking. But for me, in most cases, it never matched. When slots were open for me, it wasn’t open for other people and vice versa and this is a common occurrence. I also personally recommend not booking place holder slots since every booking is valuable and we have only limited tries for re-scheduling.
- New Delhi usually has more number of slots available. It is always easier with New Delhi.
- It is okay to have the VAC and Consular appointment on the same day as long as they are about 3 hours apart so that the information is reflected in their systems. In the case of Chennai, Kolkata these 3 hours are enough to go from VAC to the consulate as well.
- Make sure to not exhaust all your tries, keep one for backup till the day of your appointment. This way if for some reason you can’t make it on the day of the appointment, you can reschedule.
- Try to avoid booking appointment days as Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to avoid crowds / long queues.
Things to carry for US L2 visa interview
I carried an accordion file folder. It had multiple documents and a few pictures of mine.
Documents I carried with me for the L2 visa interview:
- Spouse’s I129S, I797 & I94
- My passport Original
- Husband’s passport entirely photocopied
- DS 160
- Appointment confirmation letter
- Marriage certificate
- Husband’s visa photocopy
- All my educational documents (from STD 10 to Master’s degree. all original copies)
- All my work experiences including internship
- Marriage certificate
- Marriage invitation card
- Husband’s pay stubs
- Husband’s joining letter
- Vaccination certificate
I suggest carry any sort of additional document that proves your spouse’s employment in the US.
I did not carry any electronic equipment. I did not carry any umbrella.
Water was available to drink in the campus.
If you are carrying a child, they make sure you can carry a small bag with baby care products.
My VAC date was a day prior to the interview date. In Kolkata. It was done by an outsourced company. It did not take more than 30 minutes. I could carry my phone along.
At VAC, they require only the following documents –
1. DS 160
2. Appointment confirmation letter
No other document is necessary. You can also go a little bit early / late & inform the guard outside about your timings. They will send you in accordingly.
– You will be asked to wait in the queue outside the building. Once they let you in, you will be asked to wait in queues on the first floor, followed by the second floor. Then, you will stand in front of an officer behind a glass partition who checks your DS 160 and passport & will ask you about your details.
– Name and date of birth were asked by the officer. They check your name with complete spelling, letter by letter. Then, they will stick a label with your details on your passport and give it back to you.
– After this, you have to go get your photograph taken in the next room. Here, first a security check will be done, post which you have to wait in queue for your turn. Another officer will be present behind a partition here – you will be asked to scan fingerprints of your right hand and your left hand respectively. After this, your photograph will be taken and then you’re done.
– They will stamp your DS160 at VAC and this stamped copy has to be carried to the consular appointment.
Visa Interview experience
My interview was scheduled at 9:30 am. It did not take more than 5 minutes.
I reached the Kolkata US Consulate located at the Ho Chi Minh Sarani (the land allotment sarcasm though) 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time. My father dropped me and was waiting at a medical center nearby. he is a doctor and he usually visits this center for work.
I stood in the queue while the guards came to check for visa appointments. They ensured we are not carrying anything apart from documents.
What do you do?
When did you marry?
How many people came for the wedding?
On this, I said 40. He frowned. I said it was during the first week of January. The VO was like oh okay I understand. I think he was in Kolkata at that time.
Where does your husband stay? Where in Jersey City?
Can I see your husband’s visa?
That is it. You took my passport and said you are ready to fly within a week!
I opted for premium delivery and paid INR 600 for the passport to get delivered at doorstep. It came within next 5 days.
What to wear for the interview
I wore a salwar kameez with a gold bangle, gold ear ring and a gold chain with diamond pendant. In our culture, newly weds wear a lot of jewelry. I also wore a hint of sindur, although I did not wear it on my wedding day. Those marrying by the special marriage act, do not need to perform any religious ceremony in India. Nonetheless I wore sindur because I did not want to explain so much to the VO (in case they would have asked).
Please wear something formal, comfortable. In Kolkata it can get pretty hot and humid.
For job interview though, it is imperative to create a formal impression and wear proper coat and shoe.
Why you must not worry about the L2 Interview process
As a single woman and freelancer, the worst decision I took was to quit job before securing a US travel visa which is usually valid for 10 years. During Trump rule, things did not really look up. Visa rules became more stringent.
I was always apprehensive about applying for a US or Schengen visa as a single freelancing woman with an Indian passport. Visa privilege is a thing.
I feel this added stress to the entire process of securing an L2 visa for Us when I finally married a person who moved to the States with a work visa. However, from my experience, if your case is genuine, you are being truthful in the interview and all your paperwork are in place, US Visa at least the dependent one would not be that big a trouble!
Do not stress much. You do not have to go through any agent either. I sought after help from an agent in Bangalore. They sucked out INR 17000 from me but was mostly unavailable. They did not help up with the tedious process of slot booking either.
Look confident, practice well, remember everything about your husband’s job and you are in for a treat!