Sunday, February 08, 2009

A short visit to US

This travel was very much unexpected and was with a short notice. This time, it is for an internal project discussion and I will be visiting IdentityMine offices in Los Angeles and Seattle. And I have got just one week here.

During my last visit to US, I was in Dallas, Texas and was never been to LA or Seattle. So of course, as a travel freak, I was excited with this trip and was also a little worried about the issues in my passport. I had a B1 visa from my previous employer which was valid for another 7 years. I knew that's not an issue as B1 visas are not tied to the employer unlike H1 or L1 visas. But the passport with that visa had expired and now I am having a new passport. My previous passport and hence the visa had my name written in wrong order of first name and last name. The Indian passport has fields like 'Sur Name' and 'Given Name' and in my passport the name was written continuously without caring this order. But in the new passport, I had it corrected so my first name 'Sameer' is at the 'Given Name' field and my middle name and last name 'Cholayil Thiruthikad' is at the Sur name field. The 'h' in my middle name was missing in my old passport and I got it corrected in my new one. All this was enough reasons for a confusion at the immigration counter.

The flight was 'Emirates' from Kochi and took off on 2009 Feb 8, Sunday early morning. After few hours it landed in Dubai and there was a change in aircraft. There was only enough time to change the gates to catch the onward flight to Los Angeles from Dubai. It was a new Boeing 777-200 LR with good facilities. I liked their updated innovative in-flight entertainment system named as ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) that had lots of movies and TV shows that we could watch as we like it. But still the long 16 plus hours flight was so boring. To beat the jet lag later on, I tried sleeping in my day time and being awake all my night time.

I landed at Los Angeles on Sunday after noon. The officer at the immigration counter was just checking the validity of my visa in the old passport and not the passport expiry date or confusions in my name. The only question he asked was about how long I would be staying here. After that, it was business as usual. Scanning the whole left arm, then left index finger, then the  same for right, and then taking a photo. That's it, and I got the I-94 form piece stapled on my passport allowing me to stay here for 3 months.

It was very cold outside and I caught the shuttle bus to the 'Budget' car rental center. There are many good things you can enjoy on a visit to US after having been here on an H1 visa before. I had my US identity card and driving license still valid and that made it easy to rent a car. It was a compact Volkswagen car. I was bit nervous on driving here after more than an year but everything went fine. I had the printouts of maps and directions from airport to the hotel where I had a reservation. Without making any mistakes, I got onto the freeway and took the correct exit and reached the hotel Holiday Inn after half an hour drive. It was a nice room and I was very tired and went onto sleeping the whole remaining day and night comfortably.

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