Preparing for a Visa Interview
Many international students ask how they can successfully prepare for a visa interview. While a U.S. consular official must decide whether or not you are eligible for a visa, there are steps that you can take to prepare for the interview. For general information about qualifications necessary for a student visa, you can refer to the U.S. State Department. Here are some general tips for the visa appointment:
- Will you return to your home country? It is important to show the ties that you have to your home country and that your stay in the U.S. is temporary. Ties include a job (you are taking a temporary leave to study), family, job prospects when you return to your country. Think about what work you hope to obtain when you return.
- Can you complete the interview in English? While it may not be expected that you will have the ability of a native English speaker, it is important to practice and prepare for your responses in English so that you feel more confident. If you plan to study English before transitioning into your degree classes, be ready to answer questions about the English instruction. What is your current English level (IELTS or TOEFL scores)? How long do you expect to study English before transitioning into your degree program?
- What do you know about the university and your academic program? You should be prepared to discuss why you decided to attend Saint Louis University. Learn about Saint Louis University by reviewing the web site, talking to your admission counselor, or visiting campus (if you are able to do so). Also, consider e-mailing your academic advisor and reading the web site of the academic department or college so that you know what topics you will study when you come to the U.S. If you are a current student, you should discuss what classes you took and what classes you plan to take during the rest of your program. Also, new and continuing international students should think about future professional goals when you return to your home country.
- Remember to be concise and honest. Your appointment may only last a few minutes, so it is important that you create a good impression quickly. Keep your answers short and answer the question that they ask you. Although you should keep your answers short, you should not try to conceal information.
- Should I prepare any documents? The visa interview will be short and you may show many documents or none at all. It is important to be prepared. Does the specific U.S. Consulate that you will have your visa interview at require specific documents? Also, check out the documents that we recommend that you bring with you the day of the interview.
- Should I talk about my plan to work in the U.S.? Your main purpose is to obtain your degree and return home. You may have the opportunity to engage in practical training in the U.S., but it should not be your only purpose for coming to the U.S. If work is your main purpose, you may consider applying for a different visa than an F-1 or J-1 student visa.
- Your situation is unique. Each country is different and each applicant is different. Your friend may receive a visa within a few days while you wait for weeks. Also, some countries may be experiencing economic or political problems that may make it more difficult to obtain the visa than students in other countries.
- What will your dependents do? If you have a spouse or children that will remain in your home country, you should address how they will receive support during your absence. If the counselor feels that you will need to financially support them during your study, they may deny your application. If your family does decide to join you, make sure to show additional financial support for them. Remember that F-2 dependents cannot be employed in the U.S. and they cannot attend classes unless they are attending primary or secondary school. A J-2 spouse can work and attend classes, but should not be the primary goal of accompanying their spouse.
- A positive attitude goes a long way. Be respectful to the officer. If you are denied a visa ask for the reason in writing so that you can prepare better next time. Do not argue with the officer because an argument may prevent any future opportunities for a visa.
Information adapted from: NAFSA: Association of International Educators. (2009, June 11). 10 points to remember when applying for a nonimmigrant visa. Retrieved from http://www.nafsa.org/resourcelibrary/default.aspx?id=8643