Visa interview: A know how
Visa interview - After you start receiving admission letters, you cross the first hurdle to study in the United States. But admission is not the guarantee that you will be granted a visa to study. Preparing for the Visa interview will improve your confidence levels and, in turn, your chances for success.
Foreign citizens who wish to study or participate in an exchange programme in the United States need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. A non-immigrant is someone who is admitted to the US temporarily, for a specific purpose; who fully intends to return to the host country upon completion of that purpose.
The United States issues different types of visas to non-immigrants. Students heading to the United States to pursue full-time academic studies are usually admitted in the F-1 category, which includes academic students in colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, other academic institutions and in language training.
People who will be participating in an exchange visitor programme in the US need to apply for the “J” visa. Students, who want to study or train at non-academic institutions such as vocational schools, need to apply for an M-visa. This article focuses on the F-1.
The Immigration and Nationality Act defines the F-1 non-immigrant alien as one who has not abandoned his residence in a foreign country and who is a bona fide student coming temporarily and solely to the United States to pursue a course of study at a recognised institution of education.
The Visa interview process
The US immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intended immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. Hence, please note that admission to a US school does not guarantee a visa! The onus of proving that you are a bona fide student and plan to return to your country upon completion of the programme lies on you during the Visa interview. All F-1 applicants must appear for an Visa interview as they are required to submit two electronic fingerprint impressions.
Facing the Visa interview
You are not allowed to take anyone with you for the Visa interview. For many students, this is the first Visa interview and hence a daunting process. Being well-informed of the process is extremely important. The officer who Visa interview you is highly trained and has at his or her disposal only the facts that you furnish. No one can read your mind or guess your intent so it is critical that you be alert and answer questions with confidence and support your assertions with appropriate documents. However, it is not the documents alone that will get you a visa. Had that been the case, you would submit your application with supporting documents, get fingerprinted and leave!
Be prepared to demonstrate the following:
Academic preparation for the programme of your choice. This is demonstrated by the relevance of your preparation to the course you plan to pursue in the US and by taking the tests that different US academic programmes require.
Your financial capability to pay for your academic and other expenses in the US for the entire length of the proposed study period. The consular officer requires credible documentary evidence of readily available funds to defray all expenses. US education is rather expensive so you must be prepared to explain how you will pay for it.
Evidence of English Proficiency. This is mostly done by taking the TOEFL. However, of late, many institutions have started waiving off this requirement for Indian students who demonstrate this proficiency through their marks.
Your ties (professional, financial, social) to India; your long-term career goals and how the US education will help you in pursuing it, will help in establishing credentials. You will be spending a lot of money for this education, especially in comparison to pursuing the same degree in India. Please justify why this education is so critical.
Facts to keep in mind
You cannot apply for a student visa more than 120 days before the start of the academic programme.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the US.
You are not allowed to arrive in the US more than 30 days before the start of your programme.