Please read the following for some suggestions as you prepare for your non-immigrant student visa interview.
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1. Ties to your home country
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 of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country.
The visa interview will generally be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. Do not prepare a speech.
Expect to have an interactive conversation with the consular officer about your plans for studying in the United States and beyond, your goals, and your ties to your home country. If you are coming to the United States to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.
3. Speak for yourself
Do not bring family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created that 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 of questions like funding, they should wait in the waiting room.
4. Know your program of study and how it fits your career plans
If you cannot explain the reasons you will study in a particular program in the US, you may not convince the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to work or stay in the United States. You should also be able to explain how studying in the US relates to your future professional career when your return home.
If you will be a graduate student in the United States and have a research focus, be prepared to talk about your research plans. Consular officials may want a letter from your supervising professor or faculty member that explains your intended research goals.
5. Be brief and maintain a positive attitude
Due to high volume of applications, all consular officers are under time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, mostly based on the impressions they form at the beginning of the interview. Keep your answers short and to the point.
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 writing.
For more information about responding to a visa denial, visit the U.S. Department of State’s web page explaining visa denials.
6. Supplemental documentation (know your specific situation or history)
It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they mean. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you are lucky. Supporting documentation will depend on your particular situation, so it is best to review the consulate’s website. However, there are a few supporting documents which are common among all students such as financial documentation, admission letter(s), and scholarship letters. Students should be prepared to take all documentation proving their financial ability to stay in the United States such as scholarships, assistantships or other letters issued by the school, sponsor or other organization. If you will be a graduate student in the United States, consular officials may want a letter from your supervising professor or faculty member that explains your intended research goals. The financial information indicated on your Form I-20 or DS-2019 should match the evidence provided to the consular officer.
7. Different requirements for different countries
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States long-term often have more difficulty getting visas. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States. You should review your country’s specific requirements on the U.S. consulate’s website.
Several U.S. consulates around the globe have created YouTube videos which explain the visa process at their specific posts. Always check your specific U.S. embassy or consulate to see if a new YouTube video is available. A select list of consular YouTube videos is located at the end of this resource.
Also be sure to check the U.S. State Department’s Visa Appointment and Processing Wait Times web page, to find average visa appointment and processing wait times at the consulate where you will be applying for your visa.
Your main purpose should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While some many do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental (secondary/optional). You must be able to clearly explain your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot be employed in the US under any circumstances. Be prepared to address what your spouse would do with their time in the US. Volunteer work and taking recreational classes are permitted activities for F-2 dependent.
9. If your dependents remain 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 especially tricky if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gets the impression that your family members will rely on you financially while you are in the US, your 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.
10. Other special considerations
Some students may experience delays in obtaining a visa because of “administrative processing.” This commonly occurs if your name is similar to another individual and the consulate needs to check with other government agencies about your status or background. It may also happen when your area of study is thought to be in a field of sensitive or critical technology, or your faculty adviser is working with sensitive research materials. Some consular officers may even require additional letters from program directors or academic advisers explaining the specific type of research the student will be involved in and what kind of access to sensitive technology the student will have. If you are unsure whether this applies to your situation, check with your specific U.S. embassy or consulate. For more information about administrative processing, you can:
- View this short video presentation provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) International Scholars Office
- Visit the U.S. State Departments Administrative Processing Information web page
You may be asked to explain past visits and stays in the United States and/or any prior visa statuses held by you or your family members. Also, students who formerly held work visas or STEM/OPT statuses might also need to explain the reasons for additional study in the United States instead of working at home.
If you stayed beyond your authorized stay in the United States in the past, be prepared to explain what happened and if available, provide supporting documentation regarding the circumstances.
If you have close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, it may be harder for you to demonstrate that you are not an intending immigrant. See point number 1 regarding Ties to Your Home Country and Residence Abroad.
If you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the country in which you currently live or the country where you plan to apply for a visa, you may also wish to explain your intent to return to that country upon completion of your studies in the U.S.
Documentation should accompany any arrests or convictions within the U.S. or abroad, including any arrests or convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Always check with an experienced immigration attorney if you have any current or past legal issues.
A select list of videos available through U.S. Embassy websites
Alphabetical by City
Amman, Jordan (3:52)
A step-by-step tutorial on how to navigate the online system for applying for a U.S. visa in Jordan.
Ankara, Turkey (2:35)
Attending an Immigrant Visa interview at the U.S. Embassy? This video highlights the steps and procedure.
Dubai, UAE (4:04)
This video explains what you should anticipate on the day of your interview for a Non-Immigrant Visa Interview at the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai, U.A.E.
Frankfurt, Germany (6:27)
How to apply for a United States student visa in Germany.
Hyderabad, India (5:06)
Prepare for your student visa interview. Our officers are here to answer some of your most asked questions about the F-1 Visa.
Kabul, Afghanistan (4:56)
Want to know what it is like to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul? Check out this video to find out more!
Kobe, Japan (3:16)
This video will guide you through the interview procedures at the U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, Japan, from your arrival at the Consulate to your interview.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (7:01)
A step-by-step video guide on how to apply for a nonimmigrant visa (business, travel, study, etc.) online and the interview process at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
New Delhi, India (4:29)
Learn about the U.S. Embassy’s Student Visit Day and the visa interview process in India in this video.
London, U.K. (3:09)
What to expect when you attend the Embassy for a non-immigrant visa interview.
Seoul, South Korea (2:09)
Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Skill – this video gives an example of how to give more in-depth interview answers.
Adapted from NAFSA: Association of International Educators
Updated September 2016 by members of the NAFSA International Student and Scholar Regulatory Practice (ISS RP) Travel Subcommittee: Elizabeth Leibach, Ilana Smith, Leanne Couch, and Semhar Okbazion with special thanks to NAFSA KC ISSS members and Dan H. Berger, Esq.
Disclaimer: In all cases, an applicant for a US non-immigrant visa is responsible for proving their eligibility to obtain the visa for which they apply. The information above is designed to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information contained in this resource comes from reliable sources, we disclaim any and all liability resulting from reliance upon this information, or from any errors contained herein. This publication does not substitute for the direct reading of applicable laws and government guidance. Only a licensed attorney can provide you legal advice. Lastly, laws and regulations are interpreted by the government agencies that administer them; therefore, it is impossible to provide detailed, specific information and guidelines to meet every contingency.