One night in Madrid to get a USA J-1 Visa
Before we could move to the USA, to start my appointment as Fellow at Harvard University, there was one last hurdle to overcome: the Visa.
The process to get a Visa (any Visa, but in my case a J-1 Scholar Visa and a J-2 Dependent Minor for my daughter) is very straightforward in theory, and often in practice. But that doesn’t make it any less nerve wrecking.
You carefully followed the guidelines and requirements, gathered all requested documents (and a few more just in case), and went to the website to schedule an appointment at the US Embassy for the in-person interview… only to find out that while you need to be in the USA in September, the first appointment they offer is in May next year!
No worry, you think, because there’s an “expedite” category for exceptional cases, like the start of an academic appointment. Only… when you request it, there’s no answer, only an acknowledgement of the request. The days pass and you wonder if there’s anything you did wrong, or if you will be given an acceptable appointment date. You get nervous, you call on the phone. They’re very nice, but they tell you there’s nothing they can do, you have to wait. Even with a Harvard letter of appointment (fair enough). But you can’t. You need certainty. You need to buy plane tickets, you need to rent an apartment, you need to register your daughter in school… So you call again. And again. And again. And eventually, a very nice lady tells you “the secret”: cancel your appointment, and reschedule one. Cancel again, reschedule again. And keep doing that until you nail the appointment you need, because if you’re lucky someone will cancel on the date you need, and if you’re online at that moment, you can get that slot. And, guess what? It worked!
August 16-17 we went to Madrid, staying at the very nice Palacio de los Duques Gran Meliá Hotel, attended the interview, and a few days later we received our passports via mail. Harvard, here we go!
Here are some photos.