The F-1 visa interview is the last haul in the long process of your journey to US and perhaps the trickiest since it’s too short to recover from a wrong answer. However, it can turn out to be a cakewalk if you are well prepared and handle everything that’s in your control. Here are some of the tips to help you prepare for this most dreaded interview.
- Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
- Get all your documents in place – Half of your work is done when you have all your documents ready. Arrange them properly in folder, preferably a harmonium folder. Label the compartments. You don’t want to be fumbling in front of VO(Visa Officer) rummaging through stacks of paper.
- Q & A – Go through all possible Visa interview questions and come up with your answers. You should be ready to improvise your answer if the question asked is bit twisted from your expectation.
- Practice – Practice in front of the mirror. Not everyone is good at communication. If you are one of them, you can improve by practicing. Ask some of your friends or peers to mock test you.
- Dress well – Dress in formal / semi-formal attire that you’ll feel comfortable in. Take in account the weather at the location of your interview and be prepared accordingly. The VO can see only the upper part of the body so, at least wear a good shirt! ;) Be well groomed. You will not only feel confident but also be able to make a good impression on VO.
- Smile and greet – Act as if you are confident even if you don’t feel so. Greet your VO with a smile. (“Hello! Good morning. How are you doing today?”) Don’t keep smiling stupidly during the interview, smile won’t answer your questions.
Listen to the question carefully. Due to the nervousness or the noise around or whatever reason, it may happen that you don’t understand the question being asked. Politely ask the VO to repeat the question. (Thank him for that.) Pay attention the next time and don’t make the VO repeat each and every question. You can confirm by repeating it back but, not every time. It may annoy the VO.
While it’s true that ‘honesty is the best policy’ and not lying will help you in your interview, some answers can be dicey. If asked ‘Do you have any relatives in the US?’ and if you do have some long distance relatives (not immediate family member) and they have nothing to do with sponsoring your education in the US, it is safer to answer no than to give way to raise new series of questions. Another such difficult question is, ‘What are your plans after completing education in US?’ You don’t want to appear like a potential immigrant by saying you would continue working in the US. It’s better to answer in a way to imply your eagerness to return to your home country. Things like ‘I want to use my knowledge gained in US in my country’ may sound idealistic but, it indicates that you want to return. One more question in this category is regarding number of universities you applied to and number admits / rejects. If you applied to tens of universities, which isn't a good idea in the first place, admitting it to VO exposes your desperation. If you applied to two different streams of programs say MS and MIS, and you are applying Visa for the MS course, mention the numbers related to MS only. Don’t sound like an unfocused student who doesn't know what he wants. If your number of rejects are too high, don’t reveal all of them in the interview, you can say that the results are awaited.
A) The factual questions:
- What is your test score? (GRE / GMAT/ SAT /TOEFL / IELTS)
- How many universities did you apply to?
- Which school did you graduate from?
- What did you do after undergraduate education?
- What was your GPA?
- How did you come to know about this university?
Keep your answers terse. You don’t want to annoy the VO with unnecessarily long answers. You can explain wherever required (like GPA converted to 4 point scale) or when asked.
B) The ‘Why’ type questions:
- Why US?
- Why this major?
- Why this university?
- Why not India?
Here you are expected to explain. But, still answer to the point.
C) The financial questions:
- Who’s sponsoring you?
- How much is the annual income of your sponsor?
- Proofs of the funds
These questions can be problematic for many good students. So, all the financial documentation is critical.