To learn what documentation you will need for your visa interview, visit the Department of State’s student visa page.
As soon as you receive your I-20, you should schedule your visa appointment at the consulate. Wait times vary by country and by time of year. You may find that the consulate is scheduling appointments 6-12 weeks out during busy times.
The visa interview will be conducted in English, not in your native language. It may be helpful to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do not prepare a speech. It is also important that you speak on your own behalf; the consular officer wants to interview you, not a family member. If you attend an English language program, be ready to explain why knowledge of English will be useful to you in your home country.
Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants unless they can convince the consular officer that they are not. Therefore, you must be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your current place of residence (examples include: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc.) You may be asked about your specific plans and career prospects in your home country. Each person’s situation is different, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter that can guarantee visa issuance.
Be familiar with the school you are applying to and its geographic location. You should also be comfortable discussing the academic program to which you have been admitted and how it fits into your career plans. You should be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career, focusing on how you will use those skills when you return home.
Consular offices are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview, since there are so many applicants to be seen. In general, they allow for only 2 to 3 minutes per interview and must make a decision during that time. As a result, the initial impression you create is very important, so be sure to keep your answers short and specific.
It should be clear, at a glance, to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be read and evaluated quickly, especially during a short interview. Remember to bring original versions of all supporting documents, if available, with you to the appointment. Your documents should be organized and you should be able to produce what the officer requests quickly.
Applicants from countries that are suffering economic problems, or those where many students have remained in the U.S. as immigrants, often have more difficulty getting visas. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the U.S.
Your main purpose for coming to the U.S. is to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students may work part-time during their studies, such employment is incidental to the main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program.
If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. If the consular office gets the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the U.S. in order to support them, your student visa will almost certainly be denied.
Please note: Indicating that your spouse will remain at home while you study in the U.S. is not likely to convince the consulate that you do not intend to immigrate. Other evidence will be needed.
Do not engage the consular official in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and obtain a written explanation of the reason you were denied.