Entries tagged as passport

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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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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