Entries tagged as USA

Renewing my U.S. visa

The first time I traveled to United States since I left North America in the mid 1990's was back in 2006. South Korea was not on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) at the time. So I, like most of the Korean nationals, first needed to come to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to submit an application for a B1/B2 non-immigrant (visitor) visa and go through an interview. I wrote about the entire experience in detail, including the long lines.

The resulting visa has served me well for the past decade, even after South Korea was admitted into the VWP on November 17, 2008. This was because valid visa holders don't need to get the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) clearance. But it ultimately expired and because I have an upcoming business trip to the States, it was time to renew it.

Old passport on the left, new "biometric" passport on the right

There have been considerable changes in preparation. In 2006, the "electronic" aspect was that the application forms (DS-156 & 157) were downloadable and that the interview could be scheduled online. As I write this, the form was changed to DS-160 and the entirety of it could be entered online (including the photo), needing only a simple "confirmation page" to bring in instead of the entire form. Also, payment process became simpler. There are no separate interview fee and processing fee anymore - it's all included in the processing fee now. And depositing the fee online to a uniquely generated account number (doubling as a "proof of payment") became possible in addition to the traditional option of having to visit a bank branch. However, the price has risen from $112 total to $160 for the B1/B2 visa.

Once the payment was made and the form was filled, the next step was to schedule an appointment for the interview. But since I was renewing the visa, I was apparently eligible for the Interview Waiver Program (IWP). Thanks to this, I was allowed to use the drop-box service at the interview reservation page after answering several questions to confirm my IWP eligibility.

Naju branch of Ilyang Logis and Hanjin Express

Drop-box service basically means I can "drop off" the necessary documents (passport, confirmation page, etc.) at a branch office of a contracted courier (Ilyang Logis, in this case) and it would be shipped to the embassy for processing at no extra cost. There was one such office at the small town I live in (Naju), so I decided to pay a visit. But as you can see here, it was expectedly small and the staff had no idea that such service existed. Apparently, I must have been the first person to try this at the place. After contacting the head office and getting the instructions, the staff collected the documents I brought and promised me that they would be sent soon. They had to be put into a special packaging that had to come from the head office, so in reality it took about three business days instead of going out the same day.
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Today's "The Toon-Box"

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On iPhone's carrier lock, int'l warranty, etc.

Some interesting claims have been raised about various things related to iPhones on a local forum, so I'd like to lay out what I know of this subject.

On the eve of the official sale of iPhone 6, there was a claim that the differentiating factor of the two different models (iPhone 6+: A1522 & A1524, iPhone 6: A1549 & A1586) lied in whether it was unlocked in the first place or not. The A1586 and A1524 models were supposedly the unlocked ones, as it basically covers all LTE bands around the world, and thus being a "world phone" of sorts.

The truth is, iPhones being locked to a carrier or not never really depended on a specific model number. Let's see the A1584 / A1524 first. They're going to be sold by the three telecom companies in Japan.

[iPhone LTE Information]

The Japanese carriers are known to apply carrier locks to the models sold on contracts, while the Japanese Apple Stores also carry the unlocked ("SIM-Free") versions as well. So, those models would have both carrier locked and unlocked versions.

Now let's take a look at the A1549 / A1522.

Verizon and T-Mobile in the United States have the phones unlocked, in terms of GSM/WCDMA. For AT&T, if you're buying at a discounted price on contract, carrier lock will apply. In Canada, the Apple Stores have the unlocked versions.

So the iPhones may be locked or not regardless of the model number. Model numbers are tied to what carriers they will be sold from.

As for Korea, I predict that the A1586 / A1524 will be the ones to be released, if iPhone 5S is any indication. For the 5 and 5S models, the ones released in Hong Kong subsequently saw light in Korea. A1586 / A1524 are to be released in Hong Kong in the cases of iPhone 6/6+.

The models released in Korea have been unlocked since iPhone 4S regardless of whether it was sold by a carrier or not, so iPhone 6/6+ will be no different.

As for the Korean wireless certification issues in terms of import regulations, some considerations are needed. The certification is done by the model number, so once the process completes (Apple Korea applied for the certification on September 11), the iPhone 6/6+ models sold in places like Japan or Hong Kong should technically be certified as well.

But since the KCC certification logo may be missing on the back, you may have to provide the proof of the certification and the model number on the phone should import process stall. There's an exemption for personal import of one uncertified device per person, but this is indeed for the uncertified ones, so it couldn't be used against importing a certified one. But if this doesn't solve the issue, it's not clear how to go about it since there aren't many reports relating to this.

For service & repair, iOS devices come with local warranties by default. This is pointed out on the warranty itself.

[Apple iOS Hardware Warranty]

"Apple may restrict warranty service for iPhone and iPad to the country where Apple or its Authorized Distributors originally sold the device."

This appears on the other countries' versions as well. In fact, even the Hong Kong versions of iPhones, which bear the same model numbers as the Korean counterparts, have often been reported to have the repairs turned down in Korea.

There is a mention on the information on the unlocked version that, if you want to use it overseas you should get that version. But this is because you can use the local SIM card while traveling. Carrier-locked version prevents that. The Japanese version of the information was less than clear on that, but the Canadian version was better worded.

About the Unlocked iPhone (Japan)

"่ค‡ๆ•ฐๅนดใฎใ‚ตใƒผใƒ“ใ‚นๅฅ‘็ด„ใ‚’็ตใณใŸใใชใ„ๅ ดๅˆใ‚„ใ€ๆตทๅค–ใงๅœฐๅ…ƒใฎ้€šไฟกไบ‹ๆฅญ่€…ใ‚’ไฝฟใ„ใŸใ„ๅ ดๅˆใฏใ€SIMใƒ•ใƒชใƒผใฎiPhoneใ‚’้ธใถใ“ใจใ‚’ใŠใ™ใ™ใ‚ใ—ใพใ™ใ€‚"
"If you don't want a multiyear service contract, or if you want to use a local carrier overseas, the SIM-Free iPhone is recommended."

About the Unlocked iPhone (Canada)

"If you donโ€™t want a multiyear service contract, or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone is the best choice."

In other words, Apple never said "if you bought the phone from overseas and bring it home, you can ask for a repair locally" on that page. If you could get one repaired, then you were lucky, not because the policy allowed it to happen.

Getting a U.S. visa

The Korean passport

I had been thinking of visiting United States for a while. There were relatives and friends I could visit. I might also attend some trade shows. Alas, my U.S. visa expired over a decade ago, and Korea still isn't under the visa exemption program for United States. After all those years of missing out, I decided to get it over with and get a U.S. visa recently. It was a bit of work, but I decided to do this on my own instead of letting an agency take care of it.
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