1. 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. If you are a prospective
undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions
or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational
objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home
country. Each person's situation is
different of course and there is no magic explanation or single document,
certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied
for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to
immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it
was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed
your authorized stay in the United States previously, be prepared to explain
what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation, if available.
2. 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! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive
English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home
3. 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. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on
your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need
your parents there in case there are questions, for example about funding, they
should wait in the waiting room.
4. 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 United States relates to your future
professional career when you return home.
5. 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. Consequently,
what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your
success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.
6. 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 are lucky.
7. Not all countries are equal. Applicants from countries suffering
economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the
United States 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 United States.
8. 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.
9. 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. This can be an
especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family.
If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to
remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa
application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join
you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where
you applied for your visa.
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