10 Secrets To a Successful US Student Visa Interview

Visa interview

You’ve done everything right: you’ve gotten an acceptance letter from a U.S. school, you’ve been working and saving for your trip, and your conversational English is fantastic. But then everything can change based on the results of this one interview, an interview that may take less than 10 minutes. Your student visa interview can be a stressful experience. However, according to U.S. immigration attorney, Donald Smith, 9 out of 10 students have nothing to worry about. “Generally if the student has a plan to return to their home country, their form I-20, and no record of criminal activity, the government approves about 90% of those applications.”

To help ensure your chances of success, we’ve collected the 10 most important things for your F-1 visa interview according to Mr. Smith:

1. Post-Graduate Plan

“Have it clear in your head that you will be returning to your home country, either for a career or to support family.” Having an intention to return is important, no matter what eventually happens to you once you’re in the U.S. Studying a course that will allow you to be more competitive in your home job market or introduce innovative technology that can benefit your home country are both strong post-graduate intentions.

2. School

This one is easy: know the name of your school and its city. The interviewer may also choose to ask which schools you applied to besides the one you’ll be attending — make sure you know these off-hand. 

3. Course of Study

“Say you’re studying computer science: what emphasis are you studying? What are your plans for a career with that major?” This goes back to item #1: be prepared to talk about your intentions in detail if your interviewer asks. Be ready to explain how this specific course of study will impact your career plans.

4. Read Your Interviewer

Does your interviewer seem in a hurry? Keep your responses short — they could have a huge backlog of interviews. If they’re genuinely engaged with what you’re saying, keep the conversation going. It probably means things are going to turn out well for you! As always, be ready to get specific if need be.

5. Method of Payment

Know exactly who will pay for your study in the U.S. — it may be family or personal savings or a combination of the two. You may be independently wealthy. If you have loans or other forms of borrowing like a credit card, you can mention that will be used for your daily expenses but your interviewer’s primary concern is how you will pay for your tuition.

6. Prior Visits

If you’ve ever been to the U.S., make sure the interviewer knows when you visited, how long you stayed, and precisely where you stayed. Look up any flight or travel records to make sure.

7. Stay Positive

Your interview can be a stressful situation, even if it’s going well. It’s possible that you will be surprised by a question that you don’t answer the way you intended. It’s also possible that you may not like a question or take offense somehow during your interview. Whatever you do, stay positive. Keep something in mind that makes you smile if things go poorly.

8. Paperwork

Check and double-check that you have brought the following with you to your interview:

  • Current passport

  • Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application)

  • Application fee payment receipt

  • Passport photo

  • Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status)

If you don’t have all these forms on hand, you may have to reschedule your interview, further delaying your visa status.

9. Family in the U.S.

“If you have a parent or an uncle in the U.S. — they’re going to ask about that.” There is no wrong answer here, so just be honest. Make sure you know at least the city where your relative lives, preferably their exact address. Tell the interviewer if you plan to connect with this relative in the U.S. Explain if this relative will be supporting you in some way, either financially or by providing housing.

10. Show Up Early

Arrive as early as possible. Give yourself time to find the correct room, to groom or comb your hair, and to appear unrushed and ready to speak about your life plans. Good luck on this very important day!