Neha recently got her F1 Visa stamping approved since she couldn’t travel to India for stamping. She’s part of the F1 Visa Facebook Group. She had shared her F1 interview experience with travel logistics about how she got her F1 visa approved from the U.S. Embassy in Belize (South America).
I reached out to her to do a live interview, and here’s the recording of our conversation.
Here’s the edited version of her Facebook post for additional details:
I live and work in the US on my H1B visa (after completing my undergraduate degree in the USA).
I’m starting a graduate program (Yale Law School) this year and switching to an F1 visa.
I am an Indian citizen and could not fly home, so I chose to apply as a Third Country National in Belize.
I called and emailed around 16 different U.S. embassies before deciding on applying from Belize. There were 4 main reasons:
- The U.S. embassy in Belize had appointments available. When I put in my application, the wait time showed 28 days on the website, but I was able to find something within a week.
- The U.S. embassy in Belize accepts applications from “Third-Country Nationals (i.e., non-residents in the country) who are switching from H1B to F1 (this is considered a “first-time application.” It does not matter if you had an F1 visa in the past, it is still considered a “first-time application” if you’re changing status from H1B to F1. A ton of embassies, including Mexico, told me on the phone that they don’t allow first-time visa applications for third-country nationals).
- You can travel to Belize without a visa as long as you have a multi-entry U.S. visa (I used my H1B visa to enter Belize. Getting a separate tourist visa for a country would have been a big hassle, and this is why I chose not to do this in Canada).
- You do not have to quarantine once you are in Belize as long as you show a negative covid test on arrival.
One MAJOR caveat: You need someone to pay the visa fee in cash before you can book the appointment.
I got fortunate because I found someone in Belize who was willing to do that for me through my network.
Alternatively, you could make multiple trips to Belize (first to pay the visa fee and then again to go for the appointment), but it would probably require a ton of resources.
Actual visa process:
I arrived in Belize from Boston on a Tuesday; my appointment was Wednesday morning.
They told me the visa was approved as soon as my interview was over.
The online tracker showed the visa was “issued” on Thursday, and I got my passport back exactly 7 days later (i.e., the Wednesday after my appointment).
I know how frustrating the situation is for others trying to get their visa processed right now, and I hope reading about this experience helps think up creative ways to get it done.
Did this experience help you? Please do come back to share your experience that could help others.
Neha attended the F-1 Interview. If you decide to take this route to attend H-1B or other visa types, I want to hear your experience.