Tips for a successful U. S. Consular Interview

Many applicants for student visas are denied for reasons which can be avoided. Here are some tips prospective students should consider when preparing for an interview with a United States consular officer. The American Consulate in your home country will need to renew your visa.

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 those 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 you own behalf.
  3. 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 should suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
  4. Do not concede, under any circumstances, that you intend to work in the United States after completing your studies. While many students do work on-campus during their studies, this work is incidental to their main purpose of completing their education.
  5. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstance, be employed in the United States. Be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his/her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities.
  6. 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 it, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied.

--Gerald A. Wunsch is a member of NAFSA's Consular Issues Working Group and a former U. S. Consular Officer in Mexico, Suriname, and the Netherlands. The views expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the position of NAFSA.