Studying in the USA is an excellent opportunity to interact with other foreign students, broaden your horizons, meet many other cultures, learn the language, and be independent. All while getting a diploma that will stand out in your resume for the rest of your life.
The United States is a preferred destination for students who want to experience what it’s like to study in another country. According to a 2014 ranking by Times Higher Education magazine, a British publication that tracks the higher education market, 8 out of the top 10, and the top 3 most reputable universities in the world are located in the U.S. That explains why so many people aspire to get a U.S. student visa every year.
If you’re one of them, you might be wondering about the student visa process and interview. You may also have lots of questions. After all, your interview is a big part of the visa petition process, and will ultimately determine whether or not you’ll be granted a visa to study in the United States.
To ease your mind, here are 11 of the most frequent misconceptions about the U.S. student visa interview, and the facts behind them.
It’s hard to get a student visa because the U.S. doesn’t want people to study there
While lots of schools in the U.S. welcome foreign students with delight, it is the consular officer’s job to prove that you are a bona fide student and that you’re not actually lying about your desire to study or your intention to come back to your country after getting your diploma. Instead of feeling discouraged by this information, use it to your advantage. By knowing this, it’ll be easier for you to decide what paperwork to include in your visa petition, to clearly prove your intentions of becoming a student in the U.S.
It’s enough if I just bring an acceptance letter from my university/college/school to the interview
Your acceptance letter is only one of the requisites to apply for a student visa. What you really need in order to apply for your student visa is an I-20 form, which is issued by your school of choice, once you have been accepted. Besides the I-20 and your letter of acceptance, you need to bring other documents to your visa interview that are necessary for the consular officer to analyze your particular case.
I will ask for a visa, and then decide where I’m going to live or how to pay for my studies
You need to have all this sorted out before attending to your student visa interview. That doesn’t mean you have to rent a place before getting your visa, but the interviewer will most likely ask about these topics, and you’ll be expected to have the answers to those questions. Actually, you must prove that you have the means to pay for your studies and living expenses. Whether your tuition would be covered by your current employer or your parents, if you’d use personal savings or lent money, if you were granted a scholarship, if you have a sponsor, or any other possibility, you must provide documentation that supports your case. Regarding living expenses, you should have done your research about housing options and the costs involved.
The interviewer doesn’t actually need to know anything specific about my studies
On the contrary; the consular officer will probably have all sorts of questions related to your education. He or she may ask questions such as how many schools you applied to, how many accepted you, how many rejected you, if you know the name of the professors at your university, what are your test scores, and what you want to major in. Another important question they may ask is why you consider it’s better for you to continue your education in the U.S., rather than studying in your home country. Think about those questions and any others in advance, so you know how to respond.
My appearance won’t matter
Your visa application may certainly not be denied based on your looks. However, having a good personal appearance, shows a high level of professionalism, and how serious you are about getting a degree in the United States. Wear business attire, get your nails and hair groomed. Bring your documents well organized, and be on time for your appointment.
I will have a long conversation with the consulate officer
Your interview will most likely be brief and straight to the point. Consulate officers have to review lots of visa petitions in a day; therefore they can’t spend too much time on every single person. Be prepared to give concise but complete answers about anything related to your visa application, and the paperwork you included in it.
It’s much better if I memorize my answers
Consulate officers are able to tell when a person is just reciting a memorized speech. After all, this is what they do for a living. Although your answers should be concise and direct, it’s much better if you don’t actually memorize them, but just know the correct information and what to answer. This would be easy for you, because you would have reviewed the forms and paperwork very carefully by the time of your interview.
My visa will be denied if I don’t remember the answer to a question
That’s not the case. The embassy personnel are trained to know when someone is being honest. They know people get anxious or nervous in a situation like this, but that doesn’t mean applicants are lying. If you don’t remember something, just say so. Not remembering is ok, lying isn’t.
My visa will be denied if I don’t speak perfect English
While your interview will be held in English, and you’re expected to know the language to some extent, it’s not required that you speak like a native person. The consular officer may want to see the score of your TOEFL or similar English test, and may also ask you to read a small text aloud, to find out if your knowledge of the language is enough to succeed in your studies. However, keep in mind that the interviewer knows you’re not a native speaker, and that he or she does not expect your English to be perfect.
I should not disclose that I have relatives living in the U.S.
Having relatives that are U.S. citizens or permanent residents is not enough reason to deny your student visa. You should not lie about this either. But you have to be very convincing about your intention to come back to your country. It’s critical that you present documentation that proves the ties you have with your country, and your intention to return after getting your degree.
There’s nothing I can do if my student visa is denied
If your U.S. student visa petition is denied, you may appeal the decision. Ask the officer what additional documentation you could provide to have your petition reconsidered. You may also reapply, given that you will provide better proof next time.
What do you think about our list?
Were these the questions you had? If you have a question that’s not on this list, let us know, and we’ll address it in a future article.
Make sure to provide certified professional translations of all your documents that are not in English, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, bank statements, diplomas, school grades reports, and any others. Preparing your documents appropriately will give you one less thing to worry about when preparing for your student visa interview.
One last thing: do not trust anyone who tells you that they could “help you” or “coach you” to obtain your U.S. student visa. The consulate officer is the person who has the final decision, after objectively analyzing your petition, so beware of such promises.
Study your forms, put on your best suit, be calm, polite and assertive, and you’ll be on your way to study in the U.S. in no time!