Home > visa/ passport/ travel suggestions > New US visa process @ Chennai US consulate (DS-160)

New US visa process @ Chennai US consulate (DS-160)

If you are looking for information on how to fill out an application for a US visa interview in Chennai, schedule a visa interview, your best resource is VFS’s website here. There, you should be able to schedule appointments as well as get a general overview of what documents you need to take with you. Having appeared for H1B visa stamping thrice at the Chennai consulate, I have summarized my experience below and have also listed some of the non-traditional documents I was asked for in those interviews. Hope you find it helpful

Here is my most recent experience applying for a H1 B visa (renewal/ reval) at the Chennai US consulate (in Feb 2010) after they introduced the new DS-160 process.

The fundamental difference between now & before is that we have to upload a photo per the specifications at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/guide/guide_3877.html – A couple of things to note are:

  1. Make sure there is no shadow in the photo – usually a good professional photographer should be able to achieve this. While this is easy to get done in India, Kinko’s in the US did a bad job for me!! so, watch out for that.
  2. The face should be dominant in the photo – occupying about 75% of the picture – if it is done right, you should only be able to see a small portion of your neck & shoulders and nothing below.

I had taken a photo at Kinko’s & uploaded to the website – the website accepted it. (I was quite happy that it did & thought that was the end of it). However, at the consulate, the lady at the counter asked for a “photo without a shadow” – obviously, this has not been posted as a requirement in either the VFS’ web site or in the consulate’s web site. In my case, the photo was rejected by the person in the counter at the consulate – The lady at the counter gave me a re-entry slip (for the guards in the front) & asked me to go obtain a new photo.

Luckily, in my case, VFS seems to have planned for the eventuality that the majority of the photos will not match the specs and do have a person inside the consulate who can provide this picture. I am not sure how long this will continue. If it doesn’t, there are quite a few professional photographers nearby – if you have to come outside, ask either the guard or an auto driver directions to either the Kodak or Konica showroom. This is within walking distance – so, don’t fall prey to the auto drivers.

Once the photo was cleared, the lady put my documents in a packet & asked me to consult with her colleagues – there are a few VFS folks milling around, supposedly guiding people. They are usually in such a frenzy that they can border on being rude. Ask them to read the note on top of your application twice and ask them to direct you to where you need to go – first time applicants seem to be getting directed to the next building for the interviews. Renewals or Re-evaluations (revals) for folks who have had a visa that has expired recently were examined within the first complex itself.

In my case, one VFS chap pointed me to the next building & a sensible lady looked at my app again and had me wait in the right queue.

After doing the musical chair and got to my turn, I got a polite US consulate officer. She asked me to produce my I-797 (Notice of Action), the full petition (I-129), an employer verification and pay-slips.

Of these, the I-797 & I-129 are listed in the US consulate web site as reqd documents. However, based on what the I-797 says in its body, that document is to be retained with the petitioner (your employer). So, you may have to ask your employer to provide you with the original so you can get your visa.

The I-129 is the petition itself – which tells the story of why you needed to be hired & contains the LCA and other documents.

The surprise for me was the “employer verification” – I have made it a habit of carrying a letter from my supervisor at work at all times. I challenged the officer saying that this was not on the web site, to which she agreed amiably that this was not “technically required” but, she wanted to see proof that I continue to remain employed & have a job to go back to, in the United States, which I thought was fair. I did have the letter & provided it to her and she issued my visa & bid me a good bye.

So, rule of thumb is to carry any document that proves that you continue to remain employed, have maintained your status lawfully. Other documents that I carried with me & have been asked to provide in the past were:

  1. copies of my tax returns from the past few years,
  2. copies of most recent pay stubs
  3. bank statements, (good to show entries corresponding to pay stub deposit, if you can)
  4. photos of my workplace (to prove there is a real office where other people work as well.)

I was told I will get my visa within a week by courier – that is a bit disconcerting as I have to leave this week. I assume that is their standard SLA, but expected to & didreceive it sooner than that. I will post again to let folks know what happens.

Hope this is useful & please let me know any questions.

An Appeal: I have started getting a lot of visits to this post. If you have a visa interview & go through it in Chennai, kindly take a minute to come back and drop a note to update this post with your experience. I’d like to make this blog a little more relevant to people who are looking for info & your help will be greatly appreciated!!

  1. malini suresh
    December 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Hi shrini,
    I am malini. i had my h4 interview today. It seemed like everything went fine. After reaching home,i had a doubt as to why dint i go through the photographer queue which was so long. Was a bit worried if i have missed a step in the interview process. After reading this post i am kinda relieved. Thanks a ton. 🙂

  2. February 10, 2013 at 2:12 am

    I really was initially seeking for suggestions for my own blog site and
    uncovered ur blog, “New US visa process @ Chennai US consulate (DS-160) | Krishna’s Blog”, do you really mind if I actually utilize a bit of of ur ideas? Thx ,Amparo

    • krishnashrinivas
      February 10, 2013 at 3:17 am

      sure – feel free to use the info. Please provide a link back to this blog .. as is normal practice. best, krishna

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