I have decided to start from the beginning. Obtaining J-1.
I am not sure if it is generally like that, but obtaining a J-1 visa was pretty easy. That said, getting residence permit in Sweden was much easier, on application level only. In Sweden, you fill in one form, you pay one application fee, then you wait… you wait… and you wait… Where as for getting a J-1, you fill in several forms, pay fees to several places and then you get it, that’s it.
The first step is waiting for documents from the university. They have to get this DS-2019 form. To get that form from them, you need to fill in a form. Once you have the DS-2019 form, you can go ahead and pay the SEVIS fee which is also called I-901 form. Print the proof of SEVIS fee payment and keep it safe. Then, start your visa application by filling in the DS-160 form. Keep in mind: You need to have a digital copy of a biometric photo of yours. Some photographers do offer that. If you are in Stockholm, Fuji Foto Center at Ostermalm has an excellent service.
This form is tricky. You fill out many pages of information, type in your previous travel information to US, the names of two people in your home country (not quite sure about the reason behind this request), yada yada… You pass all those stages, and you think I’m all done. Well not yet, you have to upload that photo of yours. Here comes the annoying part. Not every browser works with this website. I have tried Chrome, Safari, Opera and Firefox. I’m not sure if it was Opera or Firefox that worked. But one of these surely does. If you get a problem with the photo, save the application and try in at another browser. When you complete the application, book an appointment with the embassy. Of course you have to pay a fee for this too. At the embassy, you will provide many many more documents than DS-2019, SEVIS Fee, DS-160 and your offer letter from your new boss but won’t care 🙂 They will take only these and then decide whether or not to give you the visa at that moment. It is still good to have those documents with you though. You’ll never know what they will ask.
The embassy will send the passport via mail. In my case, it was just placed inside the mailbox. I would have preferred a more secure way but hey I have got the visa within 2 months. The whole process, including the waiting times for DS-2019 etc. By the way, the fees adds up to 300-360$.
The whole process of getting J-1 actually is a sign of how your first week will be spent. But more on that next week.