Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Visa Interview Experience at US Embassy Malaysia

Assalamualaikum and Hello people :D

Yesterday I went for my visa interview at US Embassy Malaysia, located in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

First thing first, what must you bring?
  1. Appointment Confirmation Letter 
  2. IC / Driving License (preferably IC)
  3. Passport
  4. I-20 Form
  5. DS160 Confirmation Page
  6. Visa Fee Receipt (that contains your Unique ID)
  7. SEVIS Fee Confirmation Page
  8. SEVIS Fee Receipt
  9. Financial Statement/ Affidavit
  10. Offer letter from the university
  11. One passport-sized photo (Bring two photos at least, just to be on the safe side).  

P/s: DO NOT staple all the forms together. Let the person in-charge at the counter check your documents one by one. You don't want to annoy him/ her right?

I actually had picked a wrong day for my interview. My dad turned out to have class on that morning (he's a lecturer), so he couldn't drive all the way to the embassy. And I, for a minute, had forgotten that my sister hadn't finished her EdExcel A-Level Exam yet, and my dad had to send her to college too. So, I had to take a cab (or train) to go there, but it didn't really matter because my mom was there to accompany me. My dad sent us off at KL Sentral and we took a cab from there to the embassy which cost us about 14 Ringgit. Oh for those who are travelling by car, keep in mind that no parking lots are provided by the embassy. Though there is a parking area nearby, you still need to walk because it's quite far. And I'm not fond of walking. So taxi is the best transportation medium. If you want to walk from nearby train station, it will take you about 10 minutes. Still one of the best options available, but just don't wear high heels. Haha.

I arrived at exactly 6.59 am -- the sky was still dark blue and the traffics were still fine although more cars had started filling up the roads.

American Embassy from far.
Taken from Google Images.
American Embassy, Malaysia.

 And... I thought that I was the first one to arrive. To my surprise, many had already lined up, which were all Chinese.

So... "What's wrong with the Chinese?", some of you might ask.
There's nothing wrong lah, but what I want to imply here is that I always and definitely will see more Chinese wherever I go for things like this (meetings, formal events). Malay? None of them or perhaps one or two, so to speak. Seriously, early bird catches worms (this is my favorite quote actually. You'll see me using this sentence repeatedly in this blog). If you arrive early, you can settle down, check your documents, relax, get treated/ served early and finish real fast. There are absolutely no disadvantages of going early. By going early, I don't mean like, if your appointment is at 11 am you gotta arrive by 7 am. That's absurd. Just arrive 30-20 minutes before your appointment and you'll be fine.

Okay, back to business.
I quickly walked to those people and lined up at the back end of the line. I was the 10th, I think. Well, it wasn't really a straight line as no one stood up. We all just sat on the benches provided outside the embassy which were installed in one straight row, so it would still look like one straight line but with people sitting down instead of standing up. Around 7.20 am, the Indian male guard walked towards us and summoned those whom appointment time was 7.40 am to line up. My appointment time was 8.20 am, so I sat still. So, those whom had already booked 7.40 am appointment went to get their visitor pass to enter the building. Basically, you will need your IC and appointment confirmation letter to get your visitor pass. The person in-charge at the counter will keep your IC until you are done with the interview and return the pass to him. He will also check your name on the list and tick it off. The appointment sequences are 7.40 am, 8.20 am, 8.50 am and so on. Those who chose for 8.20 am appointment were called at around 7.40 am and I am so happy to be the first person for that slot :) Feels like my bangun-awal-pagi effort had paid off.

After getting our visitor pass, we were required to line up again, this time to enter the building. If you arrive late, you will notice that there are two lines. The lines are next to each other, but the outer one (close to the benches) is for registration and obtaining the visitor pass. The other line, lying next to the building entrance, is for those who have obtained the visitor pass and are waiting to enter the building.

We were lining up for the security check. The guards would let two persons each time to enter the building and undergo body scan and bag screening. I don't know if this is true or not, but some of the blogs that I read prior to attending the interview mentioned that if you happen to bring a water bottle, you need to drink it in front of the guard. Security procedure. All electronics items are to be left inside the locker. It is safe, insyaAllah :) Like for me, I left all electronics items (including my handbag) with my mother since she was waiting outside. I just carried along my purse and the file that contains all the documents required. The guard was looking for my bag and any electronics items, so I said I left it with my mother. And she said, "Oh, that's good". She was kind. Actually, everyone working there was pretty kind and friendly.

After that, I walked through another door and was stunned by the building. Hehe, serious cantik!

Taken from Google Images.
I couldn't see anything from the outside. After I finally entered the building, another guard told me to take a ticket number from the machine to my left. Press button A, as you are applying for Non-Immigrant Visa (F1 type). Actually, this one no need to tell also... Common sense what.

I was told to wait in the waiting room which was to my right. To my left, next to the machine, was where all the counters were located. Actually, seats are provided at the counter room too, but usually the seats are occupied and apparently, they (the embassy) don't like people to stand, that's why you need to go to the waiting room. But if you come early and there's an empty seat, go help yourself to the seat. Wait for your ticket number to be called. In the meantime, keep calm and take a deep breath. Muahaha.

Okay, I know this is getting boring. And I, too, am tired of typing. So, let's make it short and compact.

I was called three times to the counter. Well, everyone did.

1. Submission of the documents.
- It's either Counter 1 or Counter 2.
- He asked for my interview confirmation page and I-20 form. I took them out from the file.
- He asked me to sign and write my name at the bottom of the I-20 Form (There's a section for our signature).
- One question asked, "Have you been to the States before?". I was like, "Noooo, never". Very childish.
- Actually, I put all my documents in a file folder with clear protective sheets. Heck, I don't know how to describe the file. LOL. Umm, this kind of file? --->

Taken from Google Images.
He asked me, "May I have the passport, SEVIS Confirmation page, DS........".
Before he finished his sentence, I opened my file because I wanted to take the forms out.
So he said, "Oh. Everything's in there? Great. Just hand me the file".
I think it's because it's easier for him to select which ones of the documents are actually necessary and required by the embassy.
- The American guy took all the important ones, to check & key in the details, I suppose.
- Then, he asked me to wait till my number was called for the second time.

2. Fingers Scanning / Fingerprints Scanning.
- It was the counter next to counter 2, but they improved the counter by making it look like a small telephone booth, like a small guard house with a door.
- I was asked to scan all ten of my fingers. Two thumbs, four left-hand fingers and four right-hand fingers.
- Then, she asked me to wait for the third call.
- Finger scanning at Counter 3 or Counter 4.

3. Interview session
- Don't expect the interview session to be a nice, usual kind of interview lah. Haha. You are only going to stand through out the interview. Plus, it's only a short interview. About two to three minutes.
- Interview session at Counter 5 or Counter 6.
- Questions asked by the man to me:
  • Which university are you going to?
  • How long are you gonna be there?
  • Who's going to pay for your tuition fees? He then asked for the financial affidavit from my sponsor.
  • Do you have any bond with your sponsor to work with them later?
- Then, he said, "Okay. You're doing fine. You visa will be approved". I quickly said, "Oh thank you so much! Have a nice day". I smiled.
- He will return back everything (I-20 form, etc) that the person in-charge at Counter 1 or 2 took from you before, except confirmation pages for both SEVIS registration and DS160 form.

By 8.30 am, I was done! Yahoo, Alhamdulillah. I went out, returned the visitor pass and claimed my IC back. And there were nearly 100 people lining up outside to attend the visa interview. Everyone was standing :( It was so hot.. And so tiring.. So choose for earlier slot and make sure to arrive there 20 minutes earlier!

Here's the map to the US Embassy in case you needed one :)

Taken from Google Images.

I met Wan Ling, Syn Yee, Nirmessh at the embassy.
And met Amirah at KL Sentral. And saw Ryan at KTM Subang Jaya. Haha, what a day!
***************************************************************

P/s: I realize that I often write a long, dull blog post. Don't blame me, my writing is bad, I know. 
Actually, I often describe things in details because I like to observe things that happen around me -- and fortunate enough, I always remember what I have seen. Another reason is to avoid you guys from asking me the same questions repeatedly. Haha :P

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask if you have any inquiries :)
In the middle of applying to US university? Click here for the complete checklist of what to do, what to bring and whatnots! :P

Regards,
MizaFirzana Basir

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Fatih Seferagic in Malaysia : Events and The Details

Assalamualaikum.

Many people search about Fatih Seferagic before. You can read my post here : Who Is Fatih Seferagic.
So I thought perhaps you guys have heard that he's coming to Malaysia.

He's heading off to Malaysia next week, insyaAllah to share his experiences and give Islamic talks. I am so upset that I can't attend any of the Islamic events because I am going for Outward Bound School (OBS) from 23-29 June, and BTN (Biro Tatanegara) from July 1st until July 5th. :/ So sad...
Ahhh, why does everything have to be in those two weeks! I can't attend Konvensyen Bidadari Sedunia, Twins of Faith and many more~~ Sobss

Anyway, let me share with you his latest events and the details. Dapat lah sikit pahala sebarkan events ilmiah :)

Fatih Seferagic in Malaysia

Because the details of the venues are not written down in the poster, here it is:

1. Aqsa Syarif, 24 June 2013: I don't know. I tried to google it, but nothing came out. 

2. Mesiniaga, 25 June 2013: Same as above.


3. Mercy mission - BEING ME, 29 June 2013: Venue


4. One Heart Solution, 29 June 2013: Auditorium Utama, UIAM, Gombak, KL

P/s: For more info, visit here: Konvensyen Aku Cinta Allah & Rasul (I Love Allah & Prophets Convention)

5. Teen Ace - Langit Ilahi, 29 June 2013: Venue


6. YMP (Young Muslim Project) Workshop, 30 June 2013: 

Venue
Dewan Syarahan,  
Masjid Saidina Abu Bakar As Siddiq Bangsar,  
Jalan Ara, Bangsar,  
59100 Kuala Lumpur

 P/s: More details can be found here: YMP Workshop. The title of the talk is 'The Hitchhikers' guide to Quran' with Bro Fatih as the speaker.

7. MPF (Muslim Professionals Forum)- Quran & Ramadhan, 4 July 2013: Sorry, I couldn't find any information of the venue.

8. MPF Ramadhan Workshop, 6 and 7 July 2013: Refer to the poster below.


I hope you guys will enjoy it :) Take as much knowledge as you can, and make sure that you try to apply it in your everyday life!

Regards,
MizaFirzana Basir

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Applying US Universities and Visa: A Checklist for ADFP/ACTP Students

Assalamualaikum and Hello everyone! :)

As I have promised, here's a post I dedicate specially to those who are applying for universities in USA. Feel free to share it with your friends.

1) First phase: Enrolling in the American Degree Programme (ADP)
 - Some of colleges offering ADP that I know -- Taylor's University Lakeside Campus, International Education College (INTEC) Shah Alam and INTI College, Nilai. (Not sure about KDU though)
- I don't think this point needs any further explanation.

2) Second phase: Getting ready for SAT Test (And SAT Subject Test)
- First question crossing your mind might be -- what the heck is this test?
Basically, SAT is an entrance exam required to enter the universities in US. To apply for a university, you will need SAT test with a certain score in all sections. Each university has its own standard scores requirements, which means the possibilities of you getting accepted into the university is higher if you score your SAT above the scores that they have asked for.
- Second -- How is the score calculated?
I am only going to explain about general SAT Test. It has 3 sections which are Reading, Mathematics and Writing. Total score would be 2400 marks with each section carries 800 marks (800 + 800 + 800= 2400). Do 800 marks equal to 800 questions? Heaven NO... Each section would have about 30 questions and the exam board has provided a certain range for each section depending on the score you receive. Further information can be obtained from this website : SAT @ College Board   
- Bare in mind that SAT Test and SAT Subject Test are two different tests with SAT being a general test involving English and Mathematics whereas SAT Subject Test is a test offered for many specific subjects (eg. Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Mandarin, Chemistry, History, American Government and such)
- SAT Test is compulsory or strongly recommended for many universities, whereas SAT Subject Tests are recommendable. Usually universities would like people to sit for Math Level 2 and Chemistry (or Physics). One mathematics subject and one science subject.
- There are a lot of bombastic words that you have never even found on newspapers and books. So you need to memorize these words and familiarize yourself on the usages of each and every words in a sentence. I tell you, the Reading section can be pretty difficult and very tricky -- and the each passage are two to three pages long.
- You can send your SAT score to FOUR universities for FREE. Unlike TOEFL, SAT allows you to change/add your university choices until 7 days after the test. But if you miss it, you need to pay up to a few bucks per university requested. Thus to play safe, please make sure you have selected at least four universities latest by the day before your exam.
- Start early, you need at least two months to get prepared.
- Your score is valid for two years.

3) Third phase: Getting ready for English test : TOEFL (equivalent to IELTS test)
- Internet-based are recommended over paper-based.
- Unlike IELTS, TOEFL test apparently doesn't like you to communicate with people. Hahaha. You will deal with computer for four hours -- you read passages and answer questions based on them on the computer, you listen to conversations on computer, you record yourself speaking in English on computer, and finally, you write English essays also on computer. It's a four-hour stress.
- Full mark is 120, with each section contributes 30 marks. There are four section which are Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.
- You can send your TOEFL score to FOUR universities for FREE. Please make sure you select at least four universities before 10 am of the day before your exam. If you miss it, you need to pay up to $18.00 per university requested which is a waste of money. Consider the exchange of currency and no. of universities you apply to, let say, 4 univs. 4 X RM 3.1x $18 = RM 223.2. You have just wasted 200 bucks for something that is supposed to be free of charge! Membazir itu saudara syaitan.
- Your score is valid for two years.
- I wrote my experience attending TOEFL test here : My TOEFL Test Experience

4) Fourth phase: Applying universities
- This is the most annoying phase, I tell you.
- Check out the websites of universities you are interested in. Go to "Undergraduate Admission" and make a note of everything that they require from you ie high school transcripts, financial statement etc
- Don't forget to check for the application deadline!
- Make sure whether the universities require you to apply using Common Application (commonapps) or simply apply on their website.
Commonapps is a website that provide online admission application for undergraduate programs to many universities in US. It actually helps making application easier because instead of you applying to each separate university, you can actually use the very same application for all universities you want to apply to. Thus, you don't have to fill in your personal information and education background over again. I think all ivy leagues use Commonapps.
- High school transcripts - read what the school wants. Sometimes they want your transcripts for five consecutive years, so you need transcripts from Form 1 to Form 5! Transcripts must be in English. If your high school produced bilingual transcripts (English + Malay, English + Tamil or English + Chinese), then there's nothing to be concerned about. Just use those transcripts. Please request the transcripts from your school at least ONE MONTH earlier prior to sending your applications. You don't want to make your teacher get pissed off, right? Each university requires original transcripts, which means NO PHOTOCOPY. Please ask your teacher to print out at least, I don't know, four to five copies of each exam transcript? Depending on number of universities you want to apply to.
- Financial statement, ah for this one, I recommend you to ask your University Placement Counselor. For scholars, request the Financial Statement/ Financial Affidavit from your sponsors. Make sure the financial statement includes the name of the university, your intended major and amount of money that they will sponsor you through out the years of your study (Coz different universities have different rates of tuition fees).
- Essays -- Usually, universities that use commonapps as a medium of admission application require several essays which are compulsory. Ask few people that are trustworthy to comment on your essays. START EARLY!

5) Fifth phase: Injections and health-related issues.
- In case you don't know, 'jabs' is a synonym for injections/vaccinations.
- Some universities require a heaven lot of injections, some don't. So again, please check the university's website okay? :)
- Among injections that are compulsory/strongly recommended/recommended are:
  • Full Medical Check-up (with Blood Test and X-ray)
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Screening Test
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningitis/ Meningococcal Vaccines
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) Vaccine
  • Hepatitis B (strongly recommended)*
* - Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots of injections administered over a period of approximately 4-6 months. The second shot is due 2 months after the first shot. The third shot is due 5 months after the first one (which means another 2 months after the second shot). So you need to plan early. If you are flying off to the states on August, that means you need to start doing the first shot by January or February. Take note.

6) Sixth phase: Admitted to a university.
- Congratulations for your acceptance into any university!! You nailed it! :)
- At some point, some of you might be having more than one admission offer. Think thoroughly, rest assured that you got enough time to make up your mind on which university you want to enroll yourself in. Don't forget the deadline where you need to confirm your enrollment by paying the Enrollment Deposit and Housing&Dining deposit. Usually, they make it compulsory for those who are flying off as first-year student (Freshmen) to take one of the meal plans provided by them and also, to stay in the on-campus hostel for the very first academic year. That's how they make extra money. But actually it's good to stay on-campus for the first year as you are not yet familiar with the place and stuff.
- They will communicate with you through emails and mails. Check your inbox frequently!
- You need to make your own checklist of things needed to be done. Most of the forms (and letters) have their own deadlines so it's safe to settle everything off before it's due.
- This is where applying passport (for those who do not own one yet), visa and paying SEVIS Fee comes.
- If you have any seniors there, do contact them. I'm sure there are several Facebook groups created for this purpose.
- Usually the university would want your final exam transcript (ADP final exam), so it's up to you either you want to request for official copies from the ADP office and mail to the university yourselves, or you want the university to directly send the transcripts on your behalf (which makes things much easier, isn't it?). The latter was what I did recently, but unfortunately the university I'm heading off to told me this morning that they haven't received my transcripts yet. I'm quite worried because I've requested it for nearly a month. So what happened?? Anyway, make sure to call your ADP office and ask them for the progress of sending your transcripts. Give them two weeks before you make a call, okay.
- Choosing your hostel and meal plan are something you're going to do online. You can even choose your roommate/(s). Not going to explain this further.

7) Seventh phase: Transferring Credits
- Read the overview of ADP here : American Degree Program (ADP)
- If you are applying as a transfer student, you don't have to worry about this.
- This is for freshmen. Apparently, going as a freshman means that you need to start from zero -- learn all the basic subjects again (Calculus 1, Chemistry 1, English 1 etc) like any other freshmen do. The reason why someone would apply under the category of freshman instead of as a transfer student is because he/she intends to fly off one year early (in another words, do his/her ADP for only one year). Kindly note that most of transfer students, but not all of them, do their ADP for at least two years. Why is that so? This is because all universities have set certain requirements to classify someone as a transfer student.
For example, 'a transfer student must have at least 33 credit hours'. If he is not up to the challenge of taking more than one heavy subjects every semester (coz heavy subject has higher credit hours), he might need four to five semesters to reach that 33 credit hours. Well, I'm just making this up. Refer to the website for correct numbers! But, you get the idea, don't you?
- You will be asked to mail your course descriptions for every subject you took together with your exam papers, quizzes, lab reports, assignments and exercises. This thing has its deadline. If you don't want to keep your exam papers anymore, then feel free to just mail them to your university. However, unlike some people, I prefer to keep the original exam papers with me, so I made photocopies of all my exam papers and sent them those instead. Why did I do that? Well, firstly, I admit I am a hoarder. I can't resist the temptation to keep, umm, things with me. Secondly, if I were to give the original exam papers, what is left with me? What if something happens to the document on the way it is being delivered? What if it went missing? Then, I won't have any proofs for my marks, my projects and such. I don't want to risk it. You've got to prepare for the worst, friend. But I am taking it to the States with me later, you know, in case they insist to see the original ones.

8) Eight phase: Passport - Apply/ Renew
- In case you haven't renewed your passport/ own a passport, please do so quickly. You're gonna need it to pay for Visa Application Fee and to fill in the DS160 Online Form. Your passport needs to be valid for at least until six months after you go for the States. My former passport was actually valid until early 2014, which was good enough as it exceeded six months. However, I don't want to have the trouble of renewing it later in the States, so I decided to renew my passport so that it will be valid until the month I'll be graduating. Saves me the troubles.

9) Ninth Phase: Receiving Your I-20 Form and Paying for SEVIS Fee
- You'll get your I-20 form and instruction to pay the SEVIS Fee from your university. They will mail it to you as soon as you're done with paying the enrollment deposit.
- I-20 form is required when you are going for visa interview. Keep it safely. The university won't produce it twice.
- You can pay for SEVIS Fee here.
- SEVIS Fee is compulsory to all students intending to study in USA. It's about $200.00. Additional of $35.00 if you want them to send the receipt of your payment within a week, which they called as 'expedited delivery'. It is an online payment, with the link to the website written on the instruction paper. You need to pay SEVIS Fee first before you can apply for Visa. This is because you will need the code number from SEVIS form (eg. N000xxxxxxxx) to finally submit your DS160 online form later.
- After you have submitted the online payment, you will be instructed to print out your confirmation form (contains your personal details, your code number etc).
- You need to bring BOTH SEVIS Fee confirmation form and SEVIS Fee receipt to the visa interview.

10) Tenth Phase:  Visa Application (Visa Application Fee, DS160 Online Form and Visa Interview).
- For full instructions on how to apply for US visa, click here. The steps are pretty easy to follow.

a) Visa Application Fee
- The amount varies with the rate of currency exchange. It's $160.00 which for the time being is equivalent to RM 496.00.
Payment can only be made at Standard Chartered Bank (any branch would do, just google for nearest branch).
- Don't forget to print your bank deposit slip first and carry it with you to the bank. It's like a general statement stating that you are paying for visa application with the exact amount written on it (eg RM 496). The bank deposit slip can be printed from here, choose 'Deposit Slip - $160 MRV Fee'. There's a due date for using the slip. If you failed to pay your fee by the due date, then you need to print the new bank slip, which has a different amount. Keep the receipt safely. You're going to need your receipt number to fill in DS160 online form. The number on your receipt that you need is only the "Unique ID" number. DON'T INCLUDE YOUR PASSPORT NO.

b) DS160 Online Form
- Fill in your DS160 form here. Read the instructions here.
- Background for your passport-sized photo must be of white color (It used to be blue, remember?). Visit here for the photo requirements.
- Print out the form confirmation page. You'll need it for your visa interview.
- After filling out the DS160 form, you can schedule an interview with the US embassy in Malaysia.

c) Visa Interview
- Set your appointment online here. Pick the earliest slot lah. Haha. Honestly, if the 7.40 am slot were still available, I would go for it. Unfortunately, I had to go for the second slot at 8.20 am, which is still considered early but umm, I hate waiting. And tak suka lambat- lambat. Haha. Early bird catches worms, remember? :)
- Your visa will be approved within two- three days if you passed the interview.
- If you failed, then you need to start all over again. (Pay visa fee, fill in DS160 form...)
- If you want to know about my interview experience at US Embassy, click here.

Thanks for reading. Hope it's going to benefit you guys, insyaAllah.

May Allah (God) bless.

Regards,
MizaFirzana B.