Tips for a Successful U.S. Consular Interview

Adapted from Gerald A. Wunsch, and Thomas J. Koop

Many applicants for student visas are defeated for reasons which can be avoided if a little advance knowledge and common sense are applied. Here are some tips prospective students should consider when preparing for an interview with a U.S. consular officer:

  • Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language, unless you are applying to study ESL. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. Keep in mind that 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 or two 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. Be honest! Do not try to hide information from the officer.
  • Know why you chose the educational institution from which you have the I-20 or DS-2019. Know about that institution, where it is located, and how long it has been in the world of education.
  • Perhaps most important is to have a long-range education plan which takes you back to your own country after completing your education in the U.S. You need to convince the visa officer that you have a plan which makes sense and is logical.
  • Be sure that you have the liquid financial support you need to cover the first years educational expenses as well as a guarantee of funds to complete your program in the U.S.
  • Do not bring family members with you to the interview. The officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
  • 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/she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal and try to get in writing the reason you were denied.
  • Do not concede, under any circumstance, that you intend to work in the U.S. after completing your studies. While many students do work off campus during their studies, this work is incidental to their main purpose of completing their education. You will have the opportunity to apply for 12 months of Optional Practical Training work after you complete your degree.
  • If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot under any circumstances be employed in the U.S. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his/her time while in the U.S. Volunteer work and attending school part-time, if not leading to a degree, are permitted activities.
  • 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 U.S. in order to support itself, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied.
  • Ashland University does not require the GMAT or GRE tests for international students who wish to enter their master degree program. Be sure you have a letter from Ashland University explaining this for the visa officer.

We would like to credit Gerald A. Wunsch, Esq., 1997, then a member of the Consular Issues Working Group, and a former U.S. Consular Officer in Mexico, Suriname, and the Netherlands, and Martha Wailes of Indiana University for their contributions to the above information. For the complete text of this document, please visit the NAFSA website.

ALSO: Make sure all the information on your I-20 is correct. Make sure that you know all that you can about Ashland University. Bring adequate financial support information.

USEFUL LINKS:

Visa Wait times: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html

U.S. Embassies and Consulates Worldwide: http://travel.state.gov/

If you are denied a visa, please refer to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators website to find out more about the fair treatment of visa applicants.