On December 14, 2013, the US Embassy in Germany introduced a new nonimmigrant visa processing system for Consular Sections in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich. This new system is meant to be easier, quicker, and cheaper (see germany.usembassy.gov/visa and ustraveldocs.com/de for more information). The change is part of an initiative by the State Department to standardize the visa application processes at US Embassies/Consulates worldwide.
Prior to the December 14 change, in Germany, applicants would have to pay multiple fees and go through multiple steps to coordinate a visa appointment: completing the online DS-160 application; paying the visa application fee to a third-party contractor, Roskos and Meyer; calling to schedule the appointment (at the cost of €15 to phone and $10 to make the appointment); finally, applicants would need to purchase and complete a self-addressed return envelope for the visa’ed passport.
Under the new process, applicants must still complete the online DS-160 application, but then they can go to ustraveldocs.com/de to pay the fee, schedule an appointment, and provide an address for return of the visa’ed passport. Alternatively, after filling out the DS-160 applicants can call 032-22109-3243 (within Germany) or 1-703-520-2560 (from the US) to schedule the appointment. Applicants only pay one fee: the standard visa application fee.
The Department of State in its announcement claims that there are a number of benefits to the new system:
- The current €15 fee to phone the call center and $10 to make an interview appointment online will be abolished. Only a single application fee will be required at the time an appointment is scheduled.
- The application fee can be paid in several ways, online using the “Sofort” system, online via EC or debit card, by electronic funds transfer or by Uberweisung. Our old fee system required a minimum four-day delay before a payment cleared;, under the new system applicants, if paying online, will be able to book an appointment immediately.
- Applicants will be able to see easily appointment schedules for Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, and choose the post with the appointment date most convenient to them.
- Applicants will no longer have to provide prepaid, self-addressed envelopes for receiving their visa’ed passports. Applicants will designate the address where they wish to receive their passports when they make their appointments. Passports will be delivered via registered mail.
- Applicants will receive e-mail and/or SMS text messages when their passports are ready for delivery, or may track the shipment online.
- Applicants requested to provide additional documentation at the time of interview may bring it to any Deutsche Post office for delivery – cost free – to the Consular Section.
- Applicants who are subject to additional administrative processing will be notified by e-mail or SMS when their visas are ready for issuance, and can bring their passports to any Deutsche Post office for delivery – cost free – to the Consular Section.
- The new application website offers several new functions, for example the ability to request emergency and group appointments online.
The use of the “ustraveldocs” contractor/system at other US Embassies/Consulates such as those in India, Australia, and China has created many improvements in efficiency and expense so we have high hopes for Germany!