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Office of International Programs

Your Visa Interview

10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa

Before attending your scheduled visa interview, here are 10 helpful points to remember!

This resource is collated by members of the NAFSA International Student and Scholar Regulatory Practice Travel Subcommittee. Full resource on NAFSA.

  • You must be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country and that you intend to depart the United States at the conclusion of your studies.
  • The interviewing officer may ask about your specific plans or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. 
  • The 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, but do not prepare speeches!
  • 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.
  • The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family, and a more positive impression is created if you are prepared to speak on your own.
  • Although generally parents or family members will not accompany an applicant into to the visa interview, if you are a minor and need your parents to be there in case there are questions (for example about funding/finances), they should check with the consulate about the consulate's waiting area and any special rules or procedures for non-applicant family members to accompany a visa applicant.
  • If you are not able to explain the reasons why you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing 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 United States relates to your career goals and employment prospects when you return home. 
  • The consular officers interview a large number of applicants every day. They must make a decision during the quick interview.
  • What you say first and the first impression you create are important to your success.
  • Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point, responding precisely to the consular officer's questions and statements.
  • Do not have an argument with the officer. 
  • Review your consulate's website on what supporting documentation to bring based on your situation.
  • Supporting documents such as admission letter, I-20, financial documentation, are common for students to bring.
  • Remember that the interview time is short. Do not bring lengthy documents. The consular officer will not read them. It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they mean.
  • 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.
  • Also be sure to check the U.S. State Department's Visa Appointment and Processing Wait Times webpage, to find average visa appointment and processing wait times at the consulate where you will be applying for your visa.
  • Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, rather than for the chance to work before or after graduation.
  • You must be able to clearly explain your plan to return home at the end of your program.
  • If your spouse or children are also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteering in the community and attending school part-time are permitted activities for F-2 dependents.
  • If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be especially difficult to explain if you are the primary source of income for your family.
  • If the consular officer gains the impression that you intend to support your family with money you may earn during your studies in the United States, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied.
  • If your family decides to join you at a later time, it may be helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa, but that is not always required if your family is living in another district.
  • 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 advisor is working with sensitive research materials.
  • Some consular officers may even require additional letters from program directors or academic advisors 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
  • 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, alphabetically listed by city, available through U.S. embassy websites.

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 US 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 (4:55)
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, Korea (2:09)
Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Skill – this video gives an example of how to give more in-depth interview answers.

Visa Denials: How does a visa applicant qualify for a visa? What does being found ineligible mean? I was found ineligible for a visa. Can I get my money back? Can I reapply for a visa? Can a friend or relative inquire about my denied visa application? And more...

Visa Appointment Wait Time

Disclaimer: The information contained in this resource is designed to provide general information on matters of interest only 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 has been obtained from reliable sources, NAFSA and the publishers 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, nor does it constitute legal advice, which can only be obtained from licensed attorneys. Laws and regulations are also interpreted by the government agencies that administer them; therefore, it is impossible to provide detailed, specific information and guidelines to meet every contingency.