The interview marks the final (and most important) step of your visa application process.
While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, a little preparation will go a long way to owning your interview and earning your visa. In this short blog, we’ll provide a complete pre-interview checklist so you know where to go, which documents to bring, and what kinds of questions you may be asked by the consular officer.
Checklist Item #1: Know Which Visa You’re Applying For
While there are many different kinds of visas, most of them fall under two primary categories: “Immigrant” and “Nonimmigrant.” The easiest way to distinguish the two is by remembering that nonimmigrant visas are temporary, whereas immigrant visas lead to permanent residency.
Nonimmigrant visas can be obtained by:
- Spouses and Children of a Lawful Resident (V)
- Athletes (competing for prize money) (B-1)
- Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability (O)
- Journalists (I)
- Physicians (J) (H-1B)
- Students (F, M)
- Victims of Criminal Activity or Human Trafficking (T)
Click here for the full list of nonimmigrant visa categories and their interview requirements.
Immigrant visas can be obtained by:
- The Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1, CR1)
- Fiancés of U.S. Citizens (intending to live in the U.S.) (K-1)
- Certain Family Members of U.S. Citizens (IR2, CR2, IR5, F1, F3, F4)
- Parents of Orphan Children (IR3, IH3, IR4, IH4)
- Employee-Sponsored Immigrants (E1, E2)
Click here for a complete list of immigrant visa categories and their interview requirements.
Whichever visa you apply for, seek the counsel of immigration attorneys to help you manage and expedite the process. Thanks to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), some non-profit legal providers will offer free advice and guidance for your individual situation.
If you live in the U.S., click here to find a non-profit legal service provider in your area.
Checklist Item #2: Complete Your Medical Exam
You must complete your medical exam prior to the visa interview. All immigrants are held to this requirement, regardless of age or physical condition. The medical examination will include a medical history review, a physical examination, a chest X-ray, along with blood, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea tests.
Your medical exam must also be conducted by a physician approved by the U.S. Embassy, rather than a doctor of your choosing.
If you did not receive physician information along with your interview notice, you can find out more online. Click here to view the U.S. State Department list of embassies and consulates. After selecting the city closest to you, you will find the names, addresses, and contact information for your embassy-approved physicians.
While each embassy has different requirements, bring multiple identification documents to your medical exam including your visa interview letter, passport, immunization records, and two passport-sized color photographs.
Following the exam, your physician will either forward your results to the U.S. embassy or provide you with a hard copy of the results in a sealed envelope. Don’t open the envelope, and remember to bring it to your visa interview.
Checklist Item #3: Know Where to Go
If you live in or near the capital of your country, you will likely have an American embassy close by.
If you don’t live near the embassy, set aside plenty of time to make the trip. On the day of your interview, be sure to arrive early. Embassies typically have long security lines, and you won’t need any extra stress before your interview.
While embassies are generally safe, be extra aware of your surroundings, as pickpockets, criminals, and scammers tend to gravitate towards such highly-populated areas.
Checklist Item #4: Know Which Documents You Need to Bring
As a general rule, all documents you bring to your interview must either be written in English or be accompanied by an English translation.
Most embassies will require the following list of documents:
- A copy of your NVC (National Visa Center) interview letter
- Your unexpired passport (valid for six months beyond your intended date of entry to the United States)
- A photocopy of your passport biographic page (where your name and photo are located)
- Two color photographs (5 cm x 5 cm, or 2 inch by 2 inch) of each person applying for a visa. For more information, click here for photo requirement specifics.
- Confirmation page from the Form DS-260 “Application for an Immigrant Visa” you completed and submitted online at www.ceac.state.gov/iv.
- Your original birth certificate
- A photocopy of your original birth certificate
- Medical examination results in a sealed envelope (if the physician gives you these results)
- Court and criminal records (and a sworn English translation)
- A photocopy of your criminal records (and an English translation)
- Original or certified birth certificates for all children of the principal applicant (even if he or she is not accompanying)
Additional documents will also be required under the following circumstances:
- If you are married, bring your original marriage certificate and a photocopy
- If you were previously married, bring your original divorce or spouse’s death certificate and an English translation (if the original document is in a local language)
- If you have an employment-based visa application, bring a letter from your U.S. employer dated within the last 30 days
- If you have been convicted of a crime, bring your court and criminal records and a photocopy (with English translations)
- If you have served in any country’s military, bring your military records and a photocopy (with English translations)
- If you are adopted, bring your adoption papers or custody documents and a photocopy (with English translations)
While these are the general documentation requirements for visa interviews, click here to check the specific demands of your local embassy.
Keep in mind that if you forget even one of these documents, the consular officer will deny your visa and require you to make an entirely new interview appointment. This can delay your immigration process by weeks and even months.
Checklist Item #5: Know What Interview Questions To Expect
When you arrive at the embassy, a clerk will review all of your forms and documentation. After confirming everything is in order, you will then meet with your consular officer.
This agent has the ability to grant or deny your visa. From the moment you meet the officer, be professional, polite, and precise with everything you say.
Be prepared for the interview to be conducted in English, rather than in your native language. This is deliberate, as the consular officer will be assessing your ability to confidently adapt to life in the United States.
At the start of your interview, the officer will place you under oath, where you will affirm that all your documentation and statements given in the interview are true. You will also be asked to sign a document confirming your oath.
Following this step, the officer will then begin to review your documents and ask questions.
While specific questions will depend on the type of visa you are applying for, here are some general interview questions to expect:
- “Why do you want to go to the United States?”
- “Why have you chosen to go there now, as opposed to another time?”
- “Where will you be staying in the United States?”
- “What do you do for a living?”
- “What is your annual income?”
The questions can also get more specific. For example, if you are applying for a nonimmigrant visa, the officer may ask questions centered on your intent to return home afterwards, such as:
- “Do you have a job (in your home country) that you will return to?”
- “Do you own a home? If so, where is it?”
- “Where do your closest family members live?”
Or, if you are applying for a student visa, the officer may ask, “What do you plan to do after graduation?” This question is designed to see if you intend to remain in the United States or return home after you finish your education and your visa expires.
If you are applying for a fiancé or marriage-based visa, questions will likely revolve around the nature of your relationship. In other words, the officer will focus on determining the legitimacy of your relationship and/or marriage. Questions may include:
- “Where (or how) did you and your U.S. citizen fiancé or spouse meet?
- “What are your fiancé’s hobbies?”
- “When did you decide to get married?”
Or, if you have already been legally married, the officer may even ask questions like, “How many guests attended the wedding?”
Remember that you have already sworn to tell the truth throughout your interview. Even if the questions become more personal, continue to state the truth in the simplest and most direct manner possible.
Ultimately, a good interview can take as little as ten minutes. After approving your visa, the consular officer will provide two options to obtain it: to return to the embassy the following day, or to simply wait to receive your visa in the mail.
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