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ramkashyap

Kingston, Jamaica: H1B Interview Experience & Complete Report

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Lately I am seeing some increased activity/interest in visiting Kingston Jamaica consulate for H1B stamping in this forum. I would like to share my experience hoping that helps.

 

Background:

Consulate: Kingston, Jamaica

Date: Sep 9, 2013 – 9:00 AM Appointment

Visa: H1B Renewal

Previous Stamping: H1B - Ottawa Canada, March 2012

Employment: EVC Model. Employer, Vendor and Client Letters available.

Education: MS from US University.

 

I would like to break this post into multiple parts: Interview, Travelling, Staying, Consulate, Passport Pickup and Conclusion

This could get long; grab a bite if you want to. J

 

Interview:

Greetings Exchanged

VO: Who do you work for?

Me: XXX LLC. <Employer name>

My friend from the same company appeared for a 7:00 AM appointment. We happened to go to the same officer unknowingly. His Visa was issued as well.

 

VO: The other guy who came from your company! Do you know him?

Me: Yes. We came together

 

VO: Why are you here?

Me: For my H1B Renewal interview.

 

VO: I am asking why Jamaica! (With a very friendly expression)

Me: To get my Visa renewal completed and to see around Jamaica.

 

VO: (After typing in the system for few minutes) I know you want go get out of here once you get your Visa. Somehow Indians started liking this consulate (with a witty smile). Please keep this red stub careful and collect your Visa on Wednesday afternoon 2 PM at the same place. They kept the passport and the 797 as well.

Me: Thank you very much. Should I assume my Visa is approved?

 

VO: No assumptions needed. Your Visa is issued and we do not see any procrastination unless something drastic happens.

 

My interview lasted for 2 minutes at the most and I did not have to open my file honestly!

 

Travelling to Jamaica, Outside the Consulate, Collecting Visa : Dos, Donts,and my thoughts.

 

Travelling to Kingston, Jamaica:

When flying to Kingston, purchase both way tickets. Keep in mind to buy separate one ways and buy a refundable return fare. I bought just one way as I did last time to Canada. In Canada, I was not asked where the return ticket is. In Kingston, I was stopped in the customs and my friend as well, asking for the return ticket. They made me purchase a return fare to the US. My friend did not have a valid Visa and he was forced to purchase a return ticket to India. This turned out to be more nuisance than you think. Buy a full-refundable fare return ticket 3 days from your Visa appointment date in Kingston. These tickets could be pricey but you should not be worried at all. After your interview (or even after getting into Jamaica), you can cancel these without losing a penny and buy the actual tickets.

 

Staying in Kingston, Jamaica:

If you want to stay in a hotel, stay in New Kingston only. Room rates could be pricey for this city, around 120 USD per night. I do not have firsthand information on hotel rooms here. Last time when I went to Canada, I had to stay 8 nights and that burnt a hole in my wallet. This time, anticipating the same, I tried to play as less-fancy as possible. I stayed at a BnB place in the Beverly Hills area which worked out so well for me and my friends as well. The place was super affordable and not at all hotel like. If you need more info, PM me from my profile. The property owner recommended a driver and I hired him throughout the trip. Kingston by itself is not fancy by any means. Do not expect any Caribbean or touristy experience in Kingston.  The place is a dead rubber after 9 PM, at least the areas which may interest you. J

 

The Consulate:

The lines outside the consulate could be very very very long.  Appear at the consulate ONLY 20-30 minutes prior to your appointment. You can stand in the long line, and mention to the security that you have an appointment in 30 minutes. They will take you to the front. All people in the queue come too early hoping that they will be let inside. Typical!

One of the staff members will look for the following for a H1B interview:

Passport.

Appointment confirmation letter, NOT DS 160 Confirmation.

Recent Photograph (even though the DS 160 has one).

I-797

They will arrange them, staple and direct you to the security entrance.

Once screened, you will be directed to the next building which is like 200 feet away. I felt like the Chennai consulate which I went more than 5 years ago.

Here comes the actual part! You will be asked to sit and someone will be moving the waiting people forward. When your turn comes (which took 45 minutes for me), you will enter the actual building, stand in line again and get a token after the desk staff verify your name and information in the system. Your passport will be affixed with a bar code for the Jamaica consulate at the rear, your 797 will be stapled to the passport, and a token number will be stapled to the appointment confirmation print out. Go inside, get seated, wait for 40 minutes again and then you will be called for finger prints.

After the finger prints are done you will come out of the building and wait in the opposite row of chairs outside the actual building in the corridor (kinda) and wait again.

When your turn comes, you enter the building again and stand in the line waiting to be called for an interview. That is when the interview happened, FINALLY.

 

Passport Pick up:

I appeared for the interview on a Monday and I was asked to pick up my passport on the Wednesday (Sep 11, 2013 – Hope the souls RIP for what has happened 12 years ago).  Went to the consulate again at 2 PM, and saw no line, sighs! Went through the security and entered the building. You will go to the open window where they are giving passports. Gave the red stub, the VO gave me and my passport was returned. Thank You!!!

Since I cancelled my full fare ticket I bought tickets for the following day and came back to Boston.

 

Conclusion:

My explanation looks exhaustive, but the experience was more exhaustive and tiresome. On the interview day, I stepped out of the Taxi at 8:30 AM and walked out of the last gate at 12:15 PM. That is almost a 4 hour window you will have to keep moving, waiting, waiting and then go to the interview. The life saver part is they have a refreshment stand in the waiting area inside the consulate where you can get some drinks and food.

 

Comparing my experience to the previous one in Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa consulate is very small compared to the Kingston consulate. The wait times are less, number of people attending is less, and you will be in and out fast.

Why did not I go there again? My Canada visa expired and did not want to apply when I have an option to go to Jamaica without a Visa and my employer encouraged me in all aspects as well. End of the day, listen to your gut.

 

The intent of this post to present my experience as much as I could but by no means to bias anyone’s decision in choosing a consulate of interest at the time of your interview. On a personal front, I still hold to the same argument I mentioned a year ago, whether you should go for an interview or not, in this post: http://bit.ly/10P2kx4

 

I wish everyone the very best and good luck in your endeavors.

 

Cheers!

 

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congrats and it was all good information. 

 

I already purchased round trip tickets. do i still need to purchase another  one-way ticket back to the US?

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congrats and it was all good information. 

 

I already purchased round trip tickets. do i still need to purchase another  one-way ticket back to the US?

Thank You. If you have already purchased round trip there is no point in buying another one way ticket. Hope you get your passport by that time. If not, you can purchase another one way then.

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kashyap,

 

I am planning to go to jamaica for stamping. I need your advise. 

 

I need to know how to book the appointment at the embassy.

 

Please contact me at *****************@gmail.com.

Edited by MurthyAdmin
Members who wish to share their personal contact information may do so by updating their profile and making it available to fellow members.

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HI Kashyap .

 

Thanks for the detailed info . I have come on F1 to US and converted to H1b now after completing my masters. MY F1 end has expired earlier this year but i was always in status. Is this the kind of situation your friend was in , with a nto valid  . Do you suggest me to take a return ticket to the US or India or Canada ( I have my tourist visa to Canada ).

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HI Kashyap .

 

Thanks for the detailed info . I have come on F1 to US and converted to H1b now after completing my masters. MY F1 end has expired earlier this year but i was always in status. Is this the kind of situation your friend was in , with a nto valid  . Do you suggest me to take a return ticket to the US or India or Canada ( I have my tourist visa to Canada ).

From my experience and understanding, I would purchase 2 separate one way air fares:

US - Jamaica (Basic Cheap fare)

Jamaica - US (Fully refundable)

 

When you enter Jamaica, if the Port of entry officer asks for the return fare, you can provide the return fare without any hesitation. Hope that is where it ends. If the question arises that the current stamp on the Passport is expired and you run into a situation they will ask you to purchase a ticket to India then and there. Try to get some understanding before hand on what kind of ticket you should purchase (I will look for full refundable flexible fares). This is all precautionary steps, not that you will have to face this situation. The experiences among my friends were different. So I better not provide a conclusion on this topic.

At one point I thought it would be better not to provide this information since it may scare someone. It sounds scary but it is only the hoops you will have to go through. Later I thought I will share so that others will not run through that scenario and make it as seemless as possible.

 

LMK, if I can answer anything else.

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Hi Kashyap,

     Do you know anyone who attended VISA recently whose petition/extension is approved no sooner than Aug 27th and their PIMS was updated and had no issue with the PIMS during the VISA interview..? and also did you notice anyone attended on the day you attended and had issue with PIMS and how long is the wait for PIMS update in Jamaica..?

    Thanks in Advance!!

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Hi Kashyap,

     Do you know anyone who attended VISA recently whose petition/extension is approved no sooner than Aug 27th and their PIMS was updated and had no issue with the PIMS during the VISA interview..? and also did you notice anyone attended on the day you attended and had issue with PIMS and how long is the wait for PIMS update in Jamaica..?

    Thanks in Advance!!

Honestly, I am not sure at all. I did not see a trend in PIMS update for Jamaica and I guess no one can give a ball park number as well.

If it helps, I've attended the interview 62 days after my 797 approval notice was received and submitted the DS160 9 days prior to my interview. If there is a process to confirm the PIMS update, please reply here. I am not aware of such process.

Cheer!

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Congrats and thanks for sharing your experience.

 

Kashyap, I have inteview on Dec9th(Monday). What would you just for the flights. Is it better to reach on Sat or Sun( keeping in mind flying from MI to FL in Dec and snow) . And for the return flights I am planning to book one for Wednesday night and Friday night ? It this fine ?

And how safe is it for female. Is it better to stay near consulate or little bit far from it.

Thanks in advance !!!

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Dear rrm85,

 

Sorry about the late response. I am on vacation currently.

 

Your Question is more general in nature rather than visa related. I am answering as someone interested and cognizant about air travel. 

 

For a Monday interview I would recommend starting on a Saturday keeping the weather in mind. I prefer to be on the safe side than speculating for something really important like a Visa. It is totally up to you. Coming to the safety for a female, recently someone I know well went for an interview and stayed at the Liganeau in New Kingston. On a personal front I recommend not to roam outside in the Kingston area after 7 PM. That doesn't mean it is an extremely unsafe place but to keep yourself in safer shoes. If you can PM me, I will send a guy's cab details whom I felt really comfortable with. He will take care of you through out from the airport pick up, consulate drop, passport pick up, showing around, etc...

 

All the very best and good luck.

Congrats and thanks for sharing your experience.

 

Kashyap, I have inteview on Dec9th(Monday). What would you just for the flights. Is it better to reach on Sat or Sun( keeping in mind flying from MI to FL in Dec and snow) . And for the return flights I am planning to book one for Wednesday night and Friday night ? It this fine ?

And how safe is it for female. Is it better to stay near consulate or little bit far from it.

Thanks in advance !!!

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Dear rrm85,

 

Sorry about the late response. I am on vacation currently.

 

Your Question is more general in nature rather than visa related. I am answering as someone interested and cognizant about air travel. 

 

For a Monday interview I would recommend starting on a Saturday keeping the weather in mind. I prefer to be on the safe side than speculating for something really important like a Visa. It is totally up to you. Coming to the safety for a female, recently someone I know well went for an interview and stayed at the Liganeau in New Kingston. On a personal front I recommend not to roam outside in the Kingston area after 7 PM. That doesn't mean it is an extremely unsafe place but to keep yourself in safer shoes. If you can PM me, I will send a guy's cab details whom I felt really comfortable with. He will take care of you through out from the airport pick up, consulate drop, passport pick up, showing around, etc...

 

All the very best and good luck.

Hi Kashyap, I am attending visa interview in Kingston. Can you suggest me the place (motel) to stay and the cab driver details so it can be helpful. 

Thanks

Arun Kumar

*************@gmail.com

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Hi Kashyap, I am attending visa interview in Kingston. Can you suggest me the place (motel) to stay and the cab driver details so it can be helpful. 

Thanks

Arun Kumar

****************@gmail.com

Check your email. Arun, it would be better to mask your email as per the terms before the mods mask it.

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Thank You. If you have already purchased round trip there is no point in buying another one way ticket. Hope you get your passport by that time. If not, you can purchase another one way then.

 

Thanks for the info Kashyap.. 

 

So if I buy a 2-way tkt to US, there are chances that they may not allow me into Jamaica, unless I buy return tkt to India?

How did that work?.. which tkt did your friend buy? .. because most tickets that I saw from jamaica to india go thru USA or canada .. and that needs transit visa.. 

getting transit visa is equally painful as getting any other visa.

 

Thanks,

Sri

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Thanks for the info Kashyap.. 

 

So if I buy a 2-way tkt to US, there are chances that they may not allow me into Jamaica, unless I buy return tkt to India?

How did that work?.. which tkt did your friend buy? .. because most tickets that I saw from jamaica to india go thru USA or canada .. and that needs transit visa.. 

getting transit visa is equally painful as getting any other visa.

 

Thanks,

Sri

You MAY be asked to buy a ticket to India. AFAIK, for you to transit thru Canada or USA you do not need a transit Visa before hand. I could be totally wrong here. Someone should second me.

My friend bought a non refundable one way ticket via Canada to India and the Jamaican immigration let him enter Jamaica after that.

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You MAY be asked to buy a ticket to India. AFAIK, for you to transit thru Canada or USA you do not need a transit Visa before hand. I could be totally wrong here. Someone should second me.

My friend bought a non refundable one way ticket via Canada to India and the Jamaican immigration let him enter Jamaica after that.

My Bad. It is a FULL REFUNDABLE

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Thanks for the info Kashyap.. 

 

So if I buy a 2-way tkt to US, there are chances that they may not allow me into Jamaica, unless I buy return tkt to India?

How did that work?.. which tkt did your friend buy? .. because most tickets that I saw from jamaica to india go thru USA or canada .. and that needs transit visa.. 

getting transit visa is equally painful as getting any other visa.

 

Thanks,

Sri

Hi sri , even I'm thinking the same....did you get any info on transit VISA...How to fly from jamaica to india . Let me know if you have done any research on it ...Thanks!

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My Bad. It is a FULL REFUNDABLE

Thanks Kashyap for all the info you posted here. Do you have any idea how to fly back to India if any thing is not approved?

 

Let me know if any....Thanks!

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For everyone asking for return flights to India from Kingston without transiting via the US, I just did a search on Expedia. Came up with an itinerary, but (1) it is REALLY expensive, $3k+, and (2) it has a stop-over in London, so you'd need to get a UK transit visa stamped before leaving the US for Jamaica.

The itinerary for that is:

Leaves KIN at 6.40pm, reaches London Gatwick at 8.30am, and the connection leaves LGW at 9.45am and gets to Mumbai at 2.30am via a stopover in Dubai.

There might be other options available too, you just need to search, people!

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Thanks Kashyap for all the info you posted here. Do you have any idea how to fly back to India if any thing is not approved?

 

Let me know if any....Thanks!

 

 

For everyone asking for return flights to India from Kingston without transiting via the US, I just did a search on Expedia. Came up with an itinerary, but (1) it is REALLY expensive, $3k+, and (2) it has a stop-over in London, so you'd need to get a UK transit visa stamped before leaving the US for Jamaica.

The itinerary for that is:

Leaves KIN at 6.40pm, reaches London Gatwick at 8.30am, and the connection leaves LGW at 9.45am and gets to Mumbai at 2.30am via a stopover in Dubai.

There might be other options available too, you just need to search, people!

 

If at all you will have to return to India, it is better to leave from Montego Bay, Jamaica (Airport code: MBJ). Condor Airlines operates direct flights to Munich and Frankfurt. Transiting through Germany doesn't require a stamped Visa. Once you are in Germany, you know your way to India. :)

Going to Montego Bay is easy from Kingston. There is a bus service from the New Kingston area to MBJ area everyday and the charge is approx 35$. My cab driver said he would charge 200$ when I asked. This is all good information to have it handy, but I really really hope none of us has to do this. Cheers!

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