This post is actually long overdue, because the visa was one of the first things we tackled for the big trip through the USA. As Swiss, an ID is perfectly sufficient for our trips through Europe, and so we didn't even have a Swiss passport. But it is mandatory for a visa for the USA, so we made an appointment at the passport office for the first time.
The appointment at the passport office
In the canton of Bern, everything can be done in a very modern way via online registration, and we have chosen the holiday season for this. It was our first big milestone in the planning, and we were so full of anticipation. And as is sometimes the case during the holidays, you suddenly don't even know which day of the week it is today and so the appointment was forgotten. I have to say that something like this usually doesn't happen to me. I was pregnant with our first son when I last forgot an appointment and that was 8 years ago!
We have apologized in all form and made a new appointment. At the passport office they didn't find this so funny, because we as a family occupied four slots at a time and there was such a big gap for them, because we weren't there. But we did not forget the second appointment. The photos were taken in no time, and so we were proud owners of four new Swiss passports.
The visa application
And exactly with these new passport numbers we could now apply for the visa for the USA. These applications needed a lot of patience and time. Everything was read through twice and everywhere we made sure that there was no typing error anywhere. The whole thing was quite nerve-racking, because it is always written everywhere that the application will be rejected directly if the information is wrong. Of course, we filled in the questions truthfully, but some questions were quite tricky to answer, because you didn't always understand directly what exactly was meant. But at some point the longest form was filled out and the fee was paid. So we only needed an appointment for the interview.
The interview in Bern
For the appointment in Bern we had to take our bigger son out of school, as the appointment was on a morning during the week. We briefed to the boys thoroughly that they really have to be on their best behavior for the time in the American embassy. On the invitation to the appointment it was very clear that one should neither come too early nor too late. As punctual Swiss, we arrived at the American Embassy in Bern exactly at the time indicated. It was raining heavily that day and the queue in front of the embassy was incredibly long. We got panic! How are we supposed to arrive on time at the embassy with such a queue? So I politely asked the last person of the queue if we could pass, but it soon became clear that we would all be late for our appointments. It is not important when you get to the counter inside, it is only important that you arrive at the embassy at the time indicated. Still very nervous we stood in the rain about an hour before the embassy until we finally made it to the security check. Afterwards it went quite fast and soon we were asked about our trip by a nice young man. He was very interested in the planned route and told us where he already was and where he would like to go. At the end of the conversation he told us that our applications were approved, and we literally hopped out of the embassy.
A short time later our beautiful new passports with the inserted visas arrived at the post office and immediately got a new protective cover. These four pretty little books cost us almost 1000 francs! But the first big hurdle for our USA trip was overcome.
We had heard many horror stories about arbitrary visa decisions and unfriendly treatment at the American embassy. Filling out the forms is a bureaucratic marathon, but even as a layperson it is quite feasible. And we were treated very friendly and fair everywhere. Now we all have a visa for the USA which is valid for 10 years. So we don't have to do it that soon again. Of course, you can have these visa applications done by a specialized office, but we were happy to save this money and fill out the applications ourselves. We would definitely do it that way again.