Getting Your U.S. Visa
Preparing for Your First Visa Interview
Please understand that most interviews will last only a few minutes. Arrive prepared to speak briefly about any of the following:
- TIES TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY. Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc.
- ENGLISH. Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches!
- SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family.
- KNOW THE PROGRAM AND HOW IT FITS YOUR CAREER PLANS. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States , you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.
- BE BRIEF. Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.
- ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION. It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you're lucky.
- NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL. Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the US as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the U.S. .
- EMPLOYMENT. Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program.
- DEPENDENTS REMAINING AT HOME. If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence.
- MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
(Credit for this information is given to Gerald A. Wunsch, Esq., and the U.S. Department of State)
Preparing for a Second Visa Interview
If your application is refused, the Consular Officer is required to give you an explanation in writing. You do have the right to apply a second time, but if you reapply, make sure to prepare much more carefully. The Consular Officer will want to see fresh evidence sufficient to overcome the reasons for the first denial.
If you have given careful thought to your educational goals and if you have reasonable career plans, you'll find the visa interview an opportunity to prove you're ready to take the next big step in your education and in your life: college in the U.S.A.
Here are some other tips:
- If a student has to go for a second interview, do not be discouraged. Many students "suffer" the same thing.
- Students should schedule another interview and go in WITH CONFIDENCE!
- They should look the visa officer in the eye, smile, and speak directly. They should practice, in English, with someone before going.