USCIS has taken several commendable steps over the last few years to simplify the process of getting a US Visa and make it hassle-free for the applicants. However, there are miles to go before the process is really hassle-free and no one knows it better than the applicants, who have to go through the process.
As an applicants, there are a few steps you can also take at your end to reduce some of the pain and anxiety from the process. And of course being informed about the process, timelines etc also helps.
Qualification for the Dropbox Option:
While the Dropbox option has been there for a few years, USCIS revised the qualification criteria for Dropbox option towards the end of 2015 to expand the scope of those who qualify for this option. Depending on your visa class, age etc., you may or may not qualify for Dropbox. Click here to understand whether you qualify for Dropbox or not.
Alternatively when you fill you application in US Travel Docs, you will be asked a bunch of questions towards the end and it determines whether you quality for Drop-box or not.
Documents to be Submitted for Drop-box
You need just a few documents when going through the Dropbox option but it is better to carry all those documents with you as if you were appearing for a personal interview at the US consulate. These documents will be of great help if you find yourself in an unexpected situation like 221g etc..
When you go to the Stanley Dropbox location, their representative will verify your documents. You will need the following:
- Passports – Current as well as all the old passports. Make sure you carry the old passports otherwise they’ll just ask you to come back with all the passports.
- A copy of Dropbox confirmation letter.
- One recent photograph, which is less than 6 months old and not the same as your previous visa photograph.
- One copy of your latest 797 approval notice. If you have dependents, you will need a copy of your 797 for each dependent, their I-539 approval notice and copy of both the parent’s passport 1st page in case of children.
Photographs are likely to be rejected for some reason or the other. Irrespective of the photograph guidelines provided by US Travel Docs website – I’ve heard photographs being rejected for the several reasons and some of the lane ones are:
- Photograph should not be more than 15 days old.
- Head is not straight
- Shadow below ears.
- Ears not completely visible.
In some of the places like New Delhi – there are instant photo shops in the opposite building. I’d recommend you get your photographs taken from these places. The photographer at these places know for sure the requirements of a US visa and do the needful editing to meet the requirements. I’ve always had the Costco, Walgreens photos rejected and had to get the photographs taken again.
Dropbox locations for dropping off your documents and picking up the passports is mentioned here.
I’d strongly suggest you do not plan a trip, which is shorter than 2 weeks when going through the Dropbox option. For some reason, passports submitted via Dropbox take longer to process than the personal interview option. With personal interview, you can expect to collect the passports within 2-3 business days but with the Dropbox option, it is usually 8 business days.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to get the passports within 2-3 business days even with the Dropbox option but if it starts get delayed, you’ll have to go through a lot of unwanted stress, including monetary loss due to ticket cancellations. A lot of my friends have had this experience and hence, I wanted to state this categorically.
There are two status you can check: Status of your visa and status of your passport.
First thing first – Checking the status of visa frequently will not help at all because the status is changed only once a day at 3:30 PM. So, if you do need to check status, checking it once around 4 PM will be good enough.
You can check the status of your US visa at the CEAC website using your application ID. If your visa is getting delayed beyond a reasonable time (I’d say beyond 8 days), you can call the NIV National Visa Center at 603-334-0888 from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight EST, excluding holidays.
To check the status of your passport, you can login to your US Travel Docs application or check the status here by providing your passport number. Alternatively you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you send an email, provide your passport number in the subject line and make sure your email body has no content.
You can also contact US Travel Docs team but I’ve found that they only provide canned official responses, which does not help much. You can email them at email@example.com or contact them at +91 120 4844644 or +91 40 46258222 or+1 703 520 2239.
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