It’s a requirement of US Law that anyone going for a J1 visa, which is what you’ll be on, needs to have a US visa appointment interview at the US Embassy in either London or the Consulate General’s Office in Belfast.
The camp agency you’ve chosen to go with act as your sponsor while you’re at camp and will give you all the forms you need to fill in, including the DS-2019.
You will get a letter soon, or maybe you already have, inviting you to come to a visa interview for camp at the Embassy. READ THIS LETTER CAREFULLY.
At the US Embassy
It’s pretty serious in there. They’ll take your phone off you at the entrance for safety and you’ll pass through an airport-like body scanner. When I went a few years ago now you took a ticket like you were at a meat counter and then when your number was up on the screen you’d get called up. Could be hover boards now for all I know. It was a long wait. The sorry story of my first year is below, but even second time round that year, and the third time I went the next year I had to wait for at least six hours. I remember it was hot, there were lots of irritable people, there was no space and everyone was restless.
You’re not allowed to take big bags in, so make sure you leave it at Kings Cross, the British Library, the passport shop on Oxford Street or the nearby chemist.
Make sure you take Secret Diary of a Camp Counselor to read while you wait, or another book. If they don’t let mobile phones I doubt they’ll let Kindles, iPads or anything else either. Don’t miss your number and don’t fall asleep.
What they’ll ask you…
They’ll ask you a few questions about why you’re going to the US and when you plan on coming home, but it’s nothing to worry about. Just smile sweetly and remember it’s their job to be suspicious. Once your number’s called you’ll usually be out of there within 30 minutes.
My sorry story
I went out the night before. Had to wake up really early to get the megabus from Sheffield to London. Managed it in a massive rush. Slept all the way there. Phone ran out of battery. Managed to make my way to the US Embassy after asking a million people where it was. Queued for about four hours. Got to the desk and they told me the passport photos I’d taken weren’t good enough. Gave me permission to go out and get some more. Found a dodgy little newsagents nearby doing them for £10. Had to go for it. Went back in with the photos queued for another hour. They told me these weren’t good enough either and that I didn’t have the right forms, so they couldn’t proceed with my application and I’d have to go back another time.
I hadn’t read the forms the agency had given me and didn’t realise you had to go to the camp agency office BEFORE THE EMBASSY interview so they can check through them to make sure you have everything. When I got to a phone charger my agency had been phoning me to see where I was. I had to wait for another interview, pay to go back to London and go through it all over again. With different passport photos of course. Not fun for a poor student.
Please make sure you read all the information your camp agency sends you before you make your way to London. You’ll need postal orders/cheques, good passport photos, your passport and whatever other information they ask for on the forms. Please don’t be an idiot like I was.