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How to Prepare for Your F-1 Student Visa Interview

visa interview

So, you’ve finished the entire student visa application process, including the affidavit of support and gotten your I-20 form from the school.  The next steps towards studying in the United States as an international student is the F1 student visa interview. 

While it is highly unlikely that a genuine student with financial means to study in the United States would fail the F1 visa interview, it is still important that you prepare for it.  Here is what you need to know to make sure your interview goes off without a hitch and you get your student visa.

 

What to Bring to Your F1 Student Visa Interview

There are certain documents you absolutely must bring with you to your student visa interview.  If you don’t bring these, you will  fail your interview!

Required documents for your student visa interview include:

  • A valid passport; must be valid for at least 6 months after you plan to enter the USA
  • Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 (you can print the confirmation page online)
  • Receipt of your application payment
  • Receipt of your I-901 SEVIS fee payment
  • Two passport photos (see photo requirements)
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, Form 1-20 (issued by the school where you will enroll

The visa interviewer may also ask to see other documents.  While they aren’t required, make sure you are prepared by bringing:

  • Letter of acceptance from the college
  • Academic transcripts
  • Any degrees or certificates you have
  • Standardized test scores
  • TOEFL scores (if English is not your native language)
  • Documents which prove your income or ability to pay for college. Examples of these documents include: Your scholarship offer (if you received a scholarship), letters from your parents’ employers explaining what they do, bank statements, letters from the bank saying how long the account has been open.

 

Reasons You Might Fail Your Student Visa Interview

If you aren’t prepared for your student visa interview, you could fail!  You can always request another interview.  However, it is best to avoid this and pass the interview the first time around.    There are three main reasons why you might fail your visa interview.

 

Reason 1.  You Seem Like an Immigrant, Not a Student

The number one reason that people fail their F1 visa interview is because the interviewer doesn’t believe they intend on returning to their home country after completing their studies.  That would make you an immigrant, not a student.

The visa interviewer will ask you specific questions about what you plan on doing after you finish the school program in the USA.  Be clear that you intend on returning to your home country!  Talk about specific plans you have for your future career – making sure to mention the town/city where you want to enact those plans

For example, if you dream about opening a physical therapy facility after finishing school, be sure to mention that you dream of opening it in XYZ city in your home country!

But what if you aren’t sure of what you want to do after college?

Remember that having a degree from a USA college can greatly improve your chances of getting a good job offer in your home country.  Mention that employers in your home country look for people with experience living abroad, especially from reputable colleges, and that having a degree from a USA college will greatly improve your employability at home.

 

Reason 2: They Don’t Believe that You Can Afford to Live and Study in the USA

You must be able to prove that you or a sponsor has enough money to cover the costs of living in the USA as well as the costs of the school program.

In many cases, your studies will be sponsored by your parents.  If your studies are being sponsored by someone who is not a parent or guardian, then be prepared to show why that person would sponsor you.   For example, in this case here, an Ethiopian man was denied his student visa because his sponsor was a “brother of my aunt’s husband.”  It seemed suspicious that such a distant relative would agree to be a sponsor.

Be prepared by doing ample research on how much studying in the USA will cost (including costs of housing, food, transportation, travel, and healthcare).  Compile all of these costs in a spreadsheet (as well as information about how you calculated the costs, such as links to real estate websites or cost-of-living websites).   By showing this spreadsheet to the visa interviewer, you will show that you have carefully considered all of the costs of living and studying in the USA.

The visa interviewer will want to see proof that you can cover those costs.  Contrary to common believe, having a huge lump sum in the bank is NOT always sufficient proof of financial support.    The visa interviewer is more interested in whether you have a STABLE source of funds.

In addition to bank statements, consider bringing to the interview:

  • A letter from the bank stating how long the bank account has been open and what the average account balance has been.
  • A letter from your sponsors’ employers stating how long they have been employed there and what their position is.

 

Reason 3: You Don’t Seem Like a Genuine Student

One of the questions which you will likely be asked at the visa interview is “How many colleges did you apply to?”  You will also be asked many detailed questions about why you applied to those colleges, the courses, and even the names of the professors at the college.

If you only applied to one college, you won’t seem like a serious student.   However, if you really only did apply to one college, have a good explanation why.  Do not lie and say you applied to other colleges if you actually did not!

Additionally, you must be able to prove that you are a serious student who will likely succeed at the school in the USA.  Be prepared to prove this by showing your academic transcripts, any degrees or certificates you have, test scores, and TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers).

 

Example F1 Visa Interview Questions

The visa interviewer will ask you a variety of questions related to your study plans, your ability to support yourself financially, your family and relatives, work, and future plans.

Remember to answer each question as specifically as possible.  However, keep your answers clear and concise.  The interviewer doesn’t need your entire life story!

Here are some great webpages with sample interview questions.  Read through them, prepare your answers, and REHEARSE! 

 

Final Tips for a Successful Student Visa Interview

Finally, remember that first impressions matter!  Dress appropriately for the interview by wearing dressier clothes, be prepared by having all of your documents clearly organized, and rehearse your answers so no question takes you by surprise.  If you take all of the steps to prepare for your interview, you’ll have no reason to be nervous and it should go off without a hitch.

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