Student Visa Chats: The Visa Interview

(NOTE: This is Part 2 of 2. See Part 1 here. And contact Michele Rabin directly if you have any questions.)
The day has finally arrived. Eat a good breakfast, be on time and be prepared to wait.  And wait.  The appointment time on your confirmation is usually the time you are able to line up, not the time of your actual appointment.  Lines can be long and you are usually not permitted to bring electronic devices (no video games or texting friends!), food, coffee, or large bags into the building.   (If you bring these items with you, you will be able to check them at the door.)

To many students, the interview is the most daunting part of the process. The important thing is to be prepared. Be sure to follow all the directions posted on the Embassy or Consulate’s website, bring all of the required documentation with you and remember the three main requirements for non-immigrant visas when answering questions during the interview.  

Keep in mind that the entire interview, which is conducted in English,  will likely last only two-three minutes. You will need to be able to express,  in a concise manner, the reason you are choosing to study in the U.S., your ties to your home country (eg., a job you will be returning to, your family, a home that you own, etc.)  and your plans once you complete your academic program.  Even if you intend to take advantage of temporary employment programs while in the U.S., now is not the time to mention this.  

It’s probably needless to say this but first impressions do make a difference:  dress neatly, make eye contact with the visa officer, and be polite.   Be honest and direct and if you do not understand a question, be sure to ask for further clarification before answering.  

Be sure to bring these items with you to the interview:
•   Your official Form I-20 or DS-2019, signed by you and your school;
•   A printed copy of your online Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160;
•   A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date through the intended period of study and previous passports issued in the past ten years;
•   One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format here;
•   The fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee;
•   The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt

You may also be asked to bring a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope for the return of your passport and visa.  

NOTE:   Procedures and required documentation vary from country to country, and even post to post within the same country. Be sure to check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply for specific instructions on what to bring to your interview.

You may also be asked for additional documentation,  so be prepared to also provide:
•   The letter of acceptance from your school;
•   Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
•   Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
•   Your financial documentation (the same documentation that you submitted to request the Form I-20 or DS-2019);

If your spouse and/or children are accompanying you, you must also provide proof of your relationship to your spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.)   It is usually recommended that families apply at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder’s passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

At the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will also be taken.

At the end of the interview, you will be told whether you have been approved or denied the visa.  If you are approved, your passport with the visa printed inside will usually be delivered to you by mail in approximately one-two weeks, although in some cases it can take longer.  It’s best to wait until you receive your visa to make your travel plans.  

If you are denied the visa, you can always reapply with additional documentation and there is no limit to the number of times you can reapply.  The most common cause for a denial is because the consular officer is not sufficiently convinced of your intention to return to your country after completing your studies. That said, it’s a good idea to politely inquire about the reason for your denial and how you might better present your case when you apply again.  

** Please note that this information is subject to change and that you should always check the Embassy or Consulate website for the latest information and requirements. **

Next week:  How to "Stay in Status" while Studying in the U.S.