US Visa Interview Guide
Persons 80 years of age or older are not required to be present for a US visa interview.
Children under the age of 14 are required to appear in person at the embassy/consulate for the interview along with both parents. In case one parent is unable to attend the visa interview, the absent parent should provide a letter to the other parent (who is going to attend the interview) that states that they have no objection to the child’s application for a US visa.
Arrive no earlier than 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. Those arriving more than 30 minutes late may be turned away without an interview. Applicants should keep the appointments they make to ensure that the system works as smoothly as possible. No bags or briefcases are allowed inside the consulate. Just take a big plastic carry bag to put everything into. The Consular Section is closed on American and local holidays.
The consulate does not permit interested parties, such as friends, relatives, or business contacts, to intervene on behalf of a nonimmigrant visa applicant during an interview. If any such party wishes to present facts to the embassy concerning a particular visa case, they are encouraged to supply this information directly to the applicant for them to bring in person.
US Visa Interview Preparation Tips
Once you reach the consulate, clear the security check, and deposit your passport and other relevant documents at the window. You will be given a token number. After receiving the token, please be seated, and wait to be called to an interview booth by the announcement of name and token number. Whether you need to pay any visa issuance fee depends upon your visa category and country of citizenship.
General US Visa Interview Tips:
- The person should make the consular officer sure that they are qualified for whatever visa category they are applying for. If you are going for tourism, you should know all of the places you are going to tour. If you are going on a business visa, you should have been working for that company for at least one year and have experience. Otherwise, it would be questionable why would they spend so much money and resources. Students should know proper English and have enough financial resources (and also legal money on which their parents have paid proper income tax). Applicants must understand the complete procedure and what each document is for.
- Have all mandatory documents in your hand when you approach the counter windows outside the Consular Section.
- Don’t push folders or sealed envelopes through any of the counter windows outside or inside the Consular Section.
- Your passport(s) and visa application(s) must be in your hand when you approach the counter windows inside the Consular Section.
- If you are returning to the Consular Section because of a 221(g) visa denial, join the queue to enter the building and ask at the counter windows outside the Consular Section how to proceed.
- You must present only valid and legitimate documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent ineligibility for a US visa.
- Issuance of a visa is not guaranteed just because you bring supporting documents.
- The consular officer often relies primarily on the verbal visa interview to determine eligibility for a visa.
- Supporting documents must only be shown when asked for by a consular officer.
- It is not necessary to bring duplicates of supporting documents unless it is requested.
- You should be very careful about how you behave and what you say at the time of interview. No matter how angry or frustrated you are, no matter how wrong or rude the consular officer is, you must keep calm. You must not get angry and start yelling. You should not demean the consular officer. You must respect the consular officer. Even if your visa is rejected, do not make any bad comments. Even if you think that you are right, and it was an injustice to you, smile and thank the consular officer. If you display any inappropriate behavior, the consular officer may make remarks in your file, and that will be visible to the next consular officer if and when you apply in the future, which will negatively impact you at that time.
- If you have ever been arrested and/or convicted of a crime in the US, it may adversely affect your eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa. You should bring police records and/or court documents related to your arrest.
- If your US visa has ever been cancelled, you should bring Form I-275 (Withdrawal of Application/Consular Notification) or any other documentation, provided to you at the time your visa was cancelled.
- If your US visa was lost or stolen, you should bring a police report detailing the loss or theft.
USA Tourist Visa Interview
The visa interview has personal and consequently unpredictable factors involved in whether your visa application gets accepted or rejected.
Consular officers would really like to see applicants who are honest, stay for the authorized duration, and come back promptly after that. They would not want anyone to stay illegally in the US. Even though the US is a country of immigrants, it does not mean that anyone can enter the country with whatever reason.
Many people do not know the basic rules. Many people are not aware of the penalties for breaking the rules. If you get a business visa, it does not mean you can go to the USA and start your business over there. If you get a 10-year multiple entry visa, it does not mean that you can stay in the USA for 10 years. A 10-year multiple entry visa means you can go to the US anytime within the next 10 years. For each visit, your actual stay will be determined by the date stamped in your passport at the port of entry. It is usually for 6 months. You can extend your stay up to another 6 months.
US Tourist Visa Interview Tips
- Wear formal clothes as if for a formal business meeting. The interviewing officer will always be an American (the interpreter, if required, may be local). If possible, a man should wear a tie. Americans always appreciate formal attire, so they will not find you overdressed if you wear a tie.
- Arrive early. You don’t want to miss your interview just because you got stuck in traffic.
- Do not get nervous. Be confident. You will be more confident if you have prepared thoroughly. Smile when you meet the visa officer for the first time. Do not show signs of nervousness, such as flickering eyes or trembling fingers, as that could go against you. Look into the eyes of the officer while speaking.
- Each candidate should greet the officer with a smile and a “good morning” as soon as you enter the interview booth.
- Each candidate should have a confident posture and look at the interviewing officer straight in the eyes throughout the interview.
- Be confident in your answers, whatever you say. Make short, clear, and to-the-point replies, in a loud and clear voice. Do not tell anything that is irrelevant or not asked for. By mistake, you could give some unnecessary information that may lead to your rejection.
- Be polite, do not argue, and do not ask unnecessary or unrelated questions. Do not unnecessarily elaborate your responses as this may not work in your favor.
- Demonstrate respect in your language even if you do not feel this is being reciprocated.
- Often times you might not understand what the interviewing officer is saying because of his/her American accent and/or the microphone system. If you do not understand one of their sentences do not feel afraid to say, “Beg your pardon; I did not understand you.” If he/she repeats the question, and you still do not understand, that is not a problem; do not panic. Calmly and confidently say, “Sorry, sir/madam. I still did not understand you. Could you kindly repeat what you said?”
- If you speak English, it is preferable to have the interview in English so that you and the consular officer can understand each other. Interpreters mess up sometimes.
- Consular officers are very smart in their profession. They can figure out the true intentions of applicants most of the time because of their training and experience. Some of them may even know regional languages.
- Consular officers are fond of asking “What if…” type questions
Some examples are:
What would you do if you won the jackpot in a Las Vegas casino?
What if someone offers you a job in the US at a very high salary?
What if someone offers you a partnership in their business?
What if some beautiful woman proposes to you?
Consular officers may ask such questions to scrutinize the applicants. Do not give an answer immediately without thinking through it. If the officer suspects that your intention may be to stay in the US and/or work there, your visa may be rejected.
If you give answers, such as I will buy a house in the US and stay there after winning the jackpot, I will accept the job offer or partnership and start working, or get married to the beautiful US citizen girl and settle there, your visa will be rejected. When you are applying for a tourist visa, you are just supposed to tour the country and not just stay in the US forever because of one or another reason.
- Be honest during the interview and while preparing the documents. The consular officer is not your enemy and is just doing his/her duty.
- For every question asked, when you are saying your answer, you should be prepared to simultaneously put forth a document supporting your answer and refer to the document in your answer.
E.g. If the interviewer asks you what are your ties in your home country (for which you would return to your home country after your visit) and if one of the components for your answer is that your only grandchild is in the home country, then you should simultaneously present photographs of your grandchild and your family to the interviewer to strengthen your answer.
- The purpose of the tour should be for vacationing, visiting friends/family, or any other allowed activities.
- Always reply with correct answers. All data while applying for the visa and details of the answers given in your interview are computerized and maintained. If your visa is rejected once, you cannot be changing your details the next time you go for an interview.
- Your appearance should convey who you are. If you are a student, you should look like a student. If you are an executive, you should look like an executive. Your body language should convey friendliness, but that you are also serious about your goal.
- Mind your manners and refrain from unnecessary body movement.
Consular Officer Didn’t Look at the Documents
Many people complain that the visa officer neither asked any questions nor looked at any documents and rejected their application, which is not fair at all. It is not like that in reality. Visa officers are experts in their profession, and they are appointed in consulates in foreign countries after extensive training. Due to their vast experience, visa officers, many times, can figure out the true intentions of applicants just by looking at them. They can even figure out whether the information provided in the application and/or documents may be real or falsified. They do not need to talk to applicants in many cases. You may be surprised to know what things they may know, such as the value of property in a given area, income/income tax ratios, and many other things.
In rare cases, the interviewing officer might say that, “I can grant a visa to only one of you two.” Be prepared for this situation. Ideally, both of you would like to travel to the US together, or both of you would like to stay back in your home country together. While one of you would not want to travel alone to the US, you might as well take the visa for one person. It is better than having both of your visas rejected. This way at least it will be easier for one of you two to get a visa if/when you apply next time. Before going to the consulate, decide which one of you should get the visa if this situation occurs, and when the officer asks this question, confidently say, “In that case, you can give the visa to her,” or, “You can give a visa to me.” Be prepared to give a good reason for the choice made between you two if the officer asks about it.
If You Get the Visa:
Immediately go through all the information on the visa stamp very carefully. Make sure there are no typographical errors in your name, passport, number, date of birth, etc. written on the visa stamp. If there are any such errors, contact the visa application center to get it corrected. Even a small error is not tolerable as it can cause trouble later on and should be corrected as soon as possible.
If You Don’t Get the Visa:
- That’s not the end of the world! It doesn’t change anything in life. Things will continue to be as excellent as they were before.
- You did your best. The rejection was solely due to the decision of the interviewing officer.
- You can always apply a second time. That’s something to think about.
USA Tourist Visa – Visitor Documents
The following documents are needed for a tourist visa for the USA.
There is no guarantee that the tourist visa will be issued even if you bring all the documents and evidence. Present only valid documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in a permanent ineligibility for a US visa.
You will need the following documents to obtain a USA tourist visa:
Mandatory US Tourist Visa Documents
- Current passport as well as old passports
- One photograph
- Confirmation page of online submitted Form DS-160 with CEAC barcode.
- Visa Fee Receipt
Fees to be paid in advance before taking an appointment.
- Original interview appointment letter.
Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the Act is that every applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:
- the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for business or pleasure or medical treatment;
- they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
- they have a residence outside of the United States and they intend to return abroad at the conclusion of the visit.
The prime criterion of the issuance of a visitor visa is if the applicant is able to convince the consular officer that the applicant truly intends to return to his/her home country after a temporary stay in the United States. It is impossible to specify the exact form of such documentation as each applicant’s circumstances vary greatly. Each applicant must keep in mind that the interview will focus on his or her credibility and not only the documents presented.
It is generally difficult for young people to present strong ties. In such cases, the consular office may consider the applicant’s education status/grades, long-range plans, parents’ status, prospects in the home country, previous travel to other countries, etc.
Supporting US tourist visa documents
Most of your documents are for showing that you will return to the home country after your temporary stay in the United States. e.g., proof of work, proof of property, bank deposits, family ties, etc.
Please note that it is not mandatory that you gather each and every document listed here. There is no specific list prescribed by the government. However, the more documents you take, the better it is for you.
- Photocopies of the first page, last page and remarks pages of your current passport.
- Sponsorship Documents
- Applicants who do not have sufficient funds of their own to support themselves during their proposed stay in the United States must present credible evidence to show that they will be supported thereby some interested person; such evidence should reflect the ties between applicant and sponsor which form the basis for the latter’s assurances of extending support. You should present all original documents sent to you by your sponsor in the USA.
If someone is sponsoring you, you don’t have to show enough financial means by yourself to take care of your expenses for your trip to the US However, you should still take the property, employment/profession, and financial documents, as described below, to help you prove the strong ties to the home country.
As much as possible, avoid getting the affidavit of support from people who own small businesses such as gas stations, grocery stores or motels. Consular officers believe that these people employ people illegally and may employ you also. You are supposed to be going as a tourist, and not for work.
If you have photographs with you and the sponsor is in them, please carry them.
- Self-Sponsored Applicants
Self-sponsored applicants may show evidence of financial resources through property, employment/profession, and financial documents, as described below.
For parents visiting a child resident in the US, you need to provide the documents listed in the ‘Identification, Relationship and Legal Status Documents’ section in sponsor documents.
- Property Documents
- You have a residence outside of the US that you do not intend on abandoning. This can be shown via deeds to real estate. These help to persuade the consular officer that you have strong ties to your home country and are likely to return there.
- Proof of property such as a house, shop, godown (warehouse), etc. Take the original ownership papers.
If you have a loan on any of these properties, the original papers may not be with you. In that case, take whatever documents you have.
Also take the property estimate given by the Chartered Accountant that may include items such as land, flat, jewelry, etc. in addition to the real estate property.
- Photographs of your house, office, factory, shop or other properties.
- Personal affidavit(s) regarding the property. Business owners should show how much they earned last year. Indicate ties such as having elderly parents you need to take care of or a child whom you need to help after your return with wedding arrangements. Also, describing the nature of the trip and details of the itinerary is helpful.
It is better to make a separate affidavit for each person, rather than a combined one for both of them.
These affidavits cannot be on stamp paper, but instead on the CA’s letterhead.
- Employment/Professional Documents
- If you are employed, get a letter from an employer that shows the details of your position, salary, length of employment, the period of authorized vacation; and the purpose of your US trip. Also, carry pay slips from the three most recent months.
- If you are retired and get a pension, your pension book.
- If you own a business, bring the company registration certificate and its income details.
- If you are running a business in partnership, bring your partnership agreement.
- If you are employed or have a business, bring your visiting card (business card).
- If you hold any social or professional designations in the home country, bring proof related to that.
- A No Objection Certificate (NOC) letter and Leave Sanction letter if the applicant is in Government service or with any of the Armed Forces.
If you are employed in a private place, your leave sanction letter.
If you hold any post or designation in professional, religious, or fraternal organizations, proof of the same. e.g., lions club president or secretary, trustee of the temple etc.
- Financial Documents
- Latest income tax returns for last 3 years (i.e., Form 16 or Form 2D). You should take the originals.
Some people pay income tax only in the year in which they are applying for the visitor visa, even if they never paid income tax in their entire life. They think that if they show that they are paying income tax, they will get the visa. It is not that simple.
- Some bank balance for at least a few months before going for a visa. Please note that simple bank letters showing simply the bank balance is not acceptable. You have to also take the past few months (say 6 months) of statements with you, or the pass book.
- Other financial papers e.g., bank fixed deposits, shares (demat account statements), life insurance policies, bonds, etc.
- Family Documents
- Family photographs of close family.
- Documents about the family (e.g., marriage certificate, birth certificates of any children, etc.)
- Your family tree chart that shows your close relatives’ names, ages, professions and the addresses.
- If you are applying alone and if your spouse has been to the US before, bring the original passport of your spouse, but only if your spouse is currently not visiting the US
- If you have traveled outside of the home country in the past, your photographs taken during your visit(s) are recommended.
- Prior US Visit Documents
- If you have traveled to the US earlier on any visa and came back to your home country on time, show the proof as per stamps in your passport or copies of plane tickets or boarding passes.
- If you have been to the US earlier and applied for an extension of stay, you must present a Form I-797 Extension of Status Approval Notice during your subsequent visa interview.
- If any of your close relatives have been to the US and have returned on time, proof of the same.
- Cover letter highlighting the nature of the visit, reason for travel, an outline of your plans in the US and explaining why you will return to the home country (family ties, employment, or similar binding obligations). Preferably, it should be written in bullet points and be less than 1 page.
- Optionally, include letters of invitation from relatives or friends in the United States whom the applicant plans to visit, a confirmation of participation in group tours, an invitation to an event such as a printed wedding invitation, or an invitation to attend a graduation, etc.
- For children below 14 years of age, the original birth certificate, and, if applicable, parents’ valid visas.
Birth certificates or marriage certificates of adult applicants are not required.
- Travel Documents
- List of names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the persons whom you are going to visit or stay with.
- Air Tickets
If they ask for a return air ticket, tell them it will be purchased after the visa is issued. Don’t show a one-way air ticket in any case.
- Visitor Medical Insurance
If they ask for visitor’s medical insurance. It is not mandatory to get visitors insurance before getting the visitor’s visa.
- Dependents joining their spouse abroad need to carry their original marriage certificate and entire wedding photo album along with the spouse’s visa copy.
- Criminal/court records pertaining to any arrest or conviction anywhere, even if you completed your sentence or were later pardoned.
- Purpose Specific Documents
Gather these additional documents, if applicable, for the specific purpose of your visit.
- Additional documents for young persons
- If there are variations in the names in different documents, prepare a One and the Same Person affidavit.
Sample one and the same person affidavit
- It is not possible to list all documents that anyone may need in any situation. Therefore, even if some document is not listed here, and you think that it would be helpful to show your genuine purpose to visit the US or it can show your close ties to the home country that will force you to return, please carry those documents.
USA Tourist Visa – Sponsor Documents
The following documents need to be sent from the person who is sponsoring his/her relatives (or anyone else such as friends) to visit the United States. Please send these documents to the person whom you are sponsoring. Do not send it to the US Embassy or Consulate. Please send completed and legible documents. Wherever possible, send computer printed or typed documents to avoid any confusion. Also, please try to send the most current documents. Any documents like an employment letter, pay stubs, bank letter, etc. must be less than 6 months old.
If you are sponsoring multiple people at the same time (such as both of your parents), you should send separate I-134 forms for each person. However, you can just send one set of supporting documents for both of them.
- Form I-134, Affidavit of Support Form
You will need to show that you can financially support your relatives while they are in the US You need to fill a form called “Affidavit of Support form (I-134)” for that purpose. One form should be filled for each applicant. So, even though your parents are applying together, you need to send two forms. Some consulates say that if you are applying for a family (such as parents, in-laws, etc.), you have to submit only one I-134 and not for each person. However, there is no harm in providing one for everyone, instead of taking chances.
Notary: You do not need to get your Form I-134 notarized.
- Employment Letter
Statement from your employer (1 original for each applicant) on business stationery, showing:
- Date and nature of employment
- Salary paid
- Whether a position is temporary or permanent
- Pay Stubs
Recent pay stubs. 3 or 4 should be enough.
- Bank Letter
Letter from your Bank (1 original for each applicant) on their business stationery, giving the following details:
- Date account opened
- Total amount deposited for the past year
- Present balance
- Average balance last year
It’s OK for the letter to be addressed to “To Whom It May Concern”.
Some banks may take a long time to provide such a letter. Therefore, it is advisable to prepare well in advance.
- Bank Statements
Send the bank statements for the last 6 months. It should have a good balance at least for the last 6 months. Do not deposit money into your bank account the day before to show a big balance, only to withdraw it the next day. You really should have money to show your financial strength to be able to support the people you are sponsoring. While there is no specific guideline to how much money you should have in the bank, it should be enough to take care of all their expenses. Something like $5,000/person should be good enough.
- Letter to the Consulate
Letter from yourself stating that you will take care of their expenses in the USA. This letter should be addressed to the US consulate your relatives will be visiting.
- Invitation Letter
A personal letter of invitation (free format, but formal; explain here how you will be able to accommodate them in your house and take them around for tourist purposes).
One letter should be enough for both of your parents. If your relatives don’t understand English, it may be helpful to send the translation of the letter in your native language because the consular officer may question that your parents might have never read the letter.
- Income Tax Documents
Copy of the last 3 years of income tax returns and W2s. If you don’t have them, you can request the transcripts from the IRS. Don’t include state income tax returns. If you have not been in the US for the last 3 years, send the tax returns for the years that you do have.
If you did not file a tax return, a written explanation describing why you had no legal duty to file the return is needed. If you filed a late or amended tax return, you should submit evidence of this.
If you are self-employed, include self-employment schedules filed with income tax returns or financial records such as a bank statement for the business accounts.
- Identification, Relationship and Legal Status Documents
- If you are a non-US citizen:
- Your original birth certificate. If you are sponsoring your in-laws, your spouse’s original birth certificate is required instead.
- Photocopy of all pages (including blank pages) of your passport. If the US visa is in your old passport, then a photocopy of all pages of the old and new passport is required.
- Also, proof of legal status:
- If you are on an H1 or L1, a copy of the latest H1/L1 visa approval notice (I-797 Notice of Action).
If you are at an adjustment of status (I-485 stage), send copies of the I-485 receipt, EAD card and Advance Parole. These may not be required, but it does not hurt to send them.
- If your US visa has expired, but has a renewed petition, photocopy of the renewed petition. If your US visa status (such as H, L) has expired, and your employer has filed for an extension, send the I-797 receipt notice.
- If you are a legal permanent resident in the USA, provide proof of green card (front and back).
- If you are a US citizen, provide proof of US citizenship.
- Legal Status of Siblings
If the parents have more than one child in the US, send the proof of legal status of all the children, in addition to all of the documents described above from the sponsored child.
Please look at the list just above to determine what kind of document to provide for a given legal status.
- Spouse Documents
If you are sponsoring your spouse’s relatives (such as in-laws), photocopies of all pages (including blank pages) of your spouse’s passport and your marriage certificate.
USA Visa Refusal and Re-Application Tips
There are many different types of ineligibilities for US visas under the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Below are three of the most commonly seen grounds of US visa ineligibilities. There are others as well that are not mentioned here.
If you are refused a visa at one consulate, do not try your luck at another consulate. E.g., if you are rejected in Chennai, do not go to Mumbai or Delhi. You will be asked to go back to Chennai for reapplication. All of the applications, your answers, etc., are computerized and maintained centrally. Also, the same rules apply at all the consulates, and all officers are trained the same way with the same rules. Just because you get another officer at reapplication does not mean you will get a visa. They have access to your old records, will think about it the same way, and will give the same consideration as the previous officer. Of course, “luck” may play some role. If your application is rejected, the last page in your passport will be stamped “Application Received” with the date and location of the rejecting consulate. A consular officer will recognize this notation as meaning that some type of prior visa application has failed, and they will look closely into your application. If you think you are smart and try to overcome the problem by a getting new, unmarked passport, that would not work either because they have centrally computerized records.
As per “The Homeland Security Act – 2002”, it is compulsory to computerize all nonimmigrant visa applications. It is compulsory to enter all the details of rejection reasons in the applicant’s records. When the applicant applies again in the future, the consulate officer must review the prior notes for rejection reasons. If the officer decides to grant the visa this time, they need to justify the reasons for overruling the previous decision and note the same in the system.