If you are a Malaysian and planning to visit the USA for a vacation or on business, then you need to get a Non-immigrant Visa. Well, unless you wish to wait for the so-called “No Visa Needed to visit the US” promise as announced by some minister recently, by all means, wait.
However, if you can’t wait or are as skeptical as I am, concerning the no-US Visa-needed “promise”, then just apply for one.
Before you start, visit this website by the US Department of State – it has everything you need to know about how to apply for a non-immigrant visa. The Americans are really thorough and clear in their instructions – all you have to do is to read every instruction and just follow accordingly. Everything is stated and explained. From my personal experience, the sequence of steps are a bit different from what’s published on the website. So, just to give you an idea of the whole process, let me summarize the present application processes below:
STEP 1: Get your Photograph ready
Even before you start filling up the online application form DS-160, you should get your photograph ready. All the requirements for this photo are listed out comprehensively here. Believe me when I say “comprehensively” as full instructions are given on the exact size, photo composition, facial expression, what to wear and there’s even a Photo Tool in the website to guide you on how to upload your photo. It’s not difficult to do this, just make sure your photo fits the required sizing given and there’s no problem uploading your photo successfully when you complete the DS-160 form.
STEP 2: Complete the online DS-160 Form
Please read through the guidelines before you fill up the form. Once you have completed it, do review it before submitting. Once you have submitted, you can’t amend anything in it. Every individual, including kids must complete his/her own DS-160 Form online.
Once you have submitted it online, you get a Confirmation barcode & number via email. You need this number to schedule your interview later. Attached in the email will be your Confirmation Page in PDF format. You need to print out the Confirmation Page and bring the hardcopy with you to the interview.
STEP 3: Create a Profile
Next, go to this section and create your personal profile. You need to have this in order to make payment and schedule your interview appointment.
STEP 4: Payment of Visa Fee
You are required to pay a non-refundable and non-transferrable visa fee after you have submitted your DS-160 Form. Log into your Profile account and select “Fee Payment” from the Dashboard and complete the payment. Do note that it’s non-refundable… you won’t get your money back even if your application is rejected. Presently, it’s RM640 (US$160) and it can be easily paid via online bank transfer and even the online platform called “JomPay”! Now, how easy and convenient is that?! Thank goodness they have now included these flexible payment channels. It used to be very restrictive ( payments could only be made via bank draft or cash bank-in in just a few selected banks!). Full instructions on Payment can be found here.
I paid using the online bank transfer option. Once the payment has cleared (usually 1 working day, for local banks), you will get an email the next day giving you your UID (Unique Identification) number, aka “MRV Receipt No.” You can also see this number when you log into your Profile account.
STEP 5: Schedule Interview Appointment
Once you have your UID/MRV Receipt No., you can schedule your interview appointment via your Profile account. The first available appointment will be highlighted and you can also choose your preferred date/time after that stated “first available” date.
***My advice is: please choose a time slot after 10.00am and try not to select Monday or Friday. I’ll explain below.
Once you have scheduled your interview appointment, you will receive an email for “Appointment Confirmation” with full instructions on what to prepare/bring along for the interview. Print out a hardcopy of this Appointment Confirmation to bring along when you go for the interview.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE INTERVIEW?
Now this is one part of the process which is NOT mentioned or elaborated in their website. So, from my recent personal experience, I’m sure these notes will be useful. Here’s the step-by-step procedure when you go for your interview:
- The early morning appointments (between 8.00-10.00am) will see the biggest crowd at the US Embassy in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. Why? It’s because most Malaysians have this perception on “go queue up as early as possible to get the earliest queue number so that can finish and go home soonest!” This does NOT work here.
The crowd is mainly caused by people whose appointments are much later, yet they go there as early as possible, based on the above perception. There is NO necessity for this. In fact, there will be a delay in calling out the batches. My appointment time was 8.30am and this slot was only called at about 9.15am!
There’s shade and benches at the area where you queue up
- You should arrive at the Embassy, at the most, 15 minutes before your appointment time. There is a reason why a time is given for your appointment. When you arrive at the entrance of the US Embassy, wait for the guard on-duty to call out the time slots. He will do this at intervals for the batches of applicants, eg he will announce “8.30am appointment, please come forward!” Once you hear your time slot called, make your way to the FRONT to queue up (there’ll probably be about 10-12 people per time slot) in front of a window where you have to show your passport and Interview Appointment Confirmation.
Once those have been checked, a sticker printed with your personal information will be stuck to the back of your passport. (see, they will be expecting you & this sticker has been prepared in advance!)
You will have to provide your Identity Card (which will be returned when you exit later) to get a Consulate Visitor Card to enter the embassy. Display this card prominently on your shirt/clothing (chest area).
- Next, queue up at the front, next to the entrance door. Don’t worry, the guards will tell you exactly where to queue. Once you enter, you will go through a security check and scan, just like at the airport. You need to remove your belt/shoes/keys/any metallic stuff and pass through the scanner.
- There’s a counter right after the security check for you to record and surrender your mobile devices eg handphones, tablets etc. You will be given a number disc to claim your item later when you exit – keep this securely.
- Yay – finally you get to enter the embassy building. Walk up the steps, enter through the glass doors and go through another security check. Yes, the 2nd check and scan! The Americans don’t take any chances, for sure.
- After the security check, turn LEFT and go to a counter where your passport will be checked and you will be given a Queue Number for your interview. The interview cubicles are also located here. You will then be instructed (there are guards and embassy staff there to guide you) to go across to the Waiting Room and wait for your number to be called. The Waiting Room is really comfortable with lots of seats, reading materials and TVs to keep you occupied. The washrooms are also located here.
- I waited about 15 minutes here and the guard came over to call out the Interview Queue Numbers, in batches. As my number was 107, I joined the group of applicants with no.100-110. We were then ushered back to the interviews section (the area where you got your queue numbers).
- Here you will be instructed to queue up in a cordoned zigzag line and wait for the first available officer in the cubicles to interview you. The doors of the cubicles are actually kept open and you can hear what’s being asked in there!
- What kind of questions are asked at the interview? Well, the first question asked will be “Why are you going to the US?” This will be followed by standard questions (well, I got asked these) like “Have you ever been to the US before?”, “Do you have any relatives in the US?”, “Which countries have you travelled to recently?”
** Be consistent in your answers based on what you have filled up in the DS-160 Form.
** Answer every question truthfully. Don’t underestimate the US Intelligence – they would have done their background checks, thoroughly.
** My belief is that the decision on whether your application is successful or not has already been made based on the information provided in your DS-160 Form and their background checks. I think the interview is just part of the procedure and not really the deciding factor, unless you present conflicting information at that point.
- You will be informed on-the-spot whether your application is successful or not. If successful, they will keep your passport to incorporate the visa and your passport will be returned to you after 1 working day. You can choose to have it couriered back to you or collected at their courier agent’s office in Petaling Jaya.
My interview was quick & easy – I was asked just about 4-5 questions and at the end of the 2-minute (probably less) interview, I was informed that my visa application was successful and the officer wished me “Welcome to the US & hope you enjoy your visit there!”
On my way out, I collected my mobile phone and NRIC at the gate. The time then was just after 10.00am and I noted that there was hardly any crowd at the main entrance by then. Hence, my advice to choose an interview slot after 10am. Mondays and Fridays are usually busier, generally speaking and if you can help it, try not to go during school holidays!
So, there you go, the whole process is not as daunting as many thought so. I’m told that every year, tens of thousands of Malaysians apply for non-immigrant visas to visit the US and 96% of these applicants are granted a visa.