US Immigration - Stars & Stripes Lounges to Ease the Pain

January 16, 2008

If you have been on a visit to the US Consulate for a Visa appointment, or if you are planning one, you have no doubt heard about - or seen first hand - the long wait it entails in the hot sun. It also means you cannot carry most things you want to - a shoulder bag containing all your documents and other stuff neatly, a cell phone etc.,

Now, it seems that the US Government (or VFS Global rather, which provides services to many diplomatic missions) has finally woken up to this hardship and is doing something to address it. Well, at least in the cities of Mumbai and Chennai - among the hotter and busiest consulates in India.

They're calling it - surprise, surprise - the Stars and Stripes Lounge. The lounges are located fairly close to the Consulates and VFS provides free return shuttle services to the Consulate and back.

Among the interesting options is that one can purchase coupons to the lounge at the VFS offices in other cities as well - Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Pune - although it would probably be more convenient to do so at the VFS lounge itself.

The Stars and Stripes Lounges offer the following amenities:

* A comfortable air-conditioned waiting room protected from the weather.
* A Café Coffee Day counter which offers you a cup of tea or coffee and a sandwich at no extra charge.
* Free storage area for your baggage and items that cannot be taken inside the Consulate.
* Free use of changing rooms.
* Free use of clean restroom facilities.
* Free return coach transfers between the Lounge and the U.S. Consulate. Coaches leave the lounge every 30 minutes.
* Privacy and safety: The Lounge is protected by security staff, with access restricted only to visa applicants and accompanying persons
* Snack Bar for refreshments priced most reasonably

So if you want to talk to your sweetie, or loved ones for some last minute reassurances, you can do that and leave your cellphone in the storage area.

The eEntry charge is Rs. 200 per person, including food and drink coupons, plus the added convenience of air-conditioning in our hot weather.

Considering that I once had to shell out the same just to the darned security person to give me back my cellphone, I think its worth it! You can even plan for the interview with a change of clothes - change at the Lounge, attend the interview, and get back to your home city.

This is a very good business proposition, and definitely a case of win-win for VFS and the Visa applicant!

BG blogs off and on, on politics, current affairs and anything else that catches his fancy. He used to take his politics rather seriously - but doesn't anymore!
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