Preparing for Your Student Visa Interview

What to do IF... You're Uncertain About Getting a Student Visa

You've been accepted at the college of your choice. You're thinking about the courses you'll take, the people you'll meet, and the exciting things you'll do... and then your heart sinks when you hear your friends describe the complexities of getting a student visa. Suddenly, you're afraid: what if, after filling out forms and dreaming about your future, you can't get a visa? Well relax; you can get a visa. But there are two things you should do to increase your chances of a favorable decision: first, have all the required documentation; second, be prepared.

The visa process step by step:

Step One: You must have a valid I-20, which your college will send you after you have been admitted and after you have certified your available finances. When it arrives, check the following:

  • Is your name spelled correctly and in the same form as it appears in your passport?
  • Is the other information correct - date and country of birth, degree program, reporting date, completion date, financial information?
  • Is it signed by a college official?
  • Has the reporting date ("student must report no later than") passed? (the I-20 expires and cannot be used after the reporting date).

Step Two: If your I-20 is valid, you're ready to apply for the visa. In order to issue your visa, the Consular Officer must be satisfied on three counts:

  • First, are you a bona fide student?

The officer will ask about your educational background and plans in order assess how likely you are to enroll and remain in college until graduation. Be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose a particular college, your anticipated major, and your career plans. Bring school transcripts, national examination results, and SAT or TOEFL scores (if these tests were required by your college) and anything else that demonstrates your academic commitment.

  • Second, is your sponsor financially capable?

Visa requirements differ from country to country, but generally host governments want assurances that you won't drop out of school or take a job illegally. How can you show that your sponsor is able to finance your education?

Your chances are improved if your parents are sponsoring your education. If anyone other than your parents is sponsoring you, you should explain your special relationship with this person, who may be committing tens of thousands of dollars to your education.

Provide solid evidence of your sponsor's finances. This assures the Consular Officer that adequate funds will be available throughout your four-year college program. If your sponsor's income is from several different sources (such as salary, contracts or consulting fees, a farm, rental property, investments), have the sponsor write a letter listing and documenting each source of income.

Third, are your ties to home so strong that you will not want to remain permanently in the host country?

Laws generally state that you must demonstrate sufficient economic, family, and social ties to your place of residence to ensure that your stay in the Americas will be temporary.

  • Economic ties: These include your family's economic position, property you may own or stand to inherit, and your own economic potential when you come home with a U.S. education. The Consular Officer will be impressed to see evidence of your career planning and your knowledge of the local employment scene.

Family and social ties: How many close family members live in your home country, compared to those living in the States? What community or school activities have you participated in that demonstrate a sincere connection to your town or country? What leadership, sports, and other roles have distinguished you as a person who wants to come home and contribute your part?

And if you're refused a visa?

If your application is refused, the Consular Officer is required to give you an explanation in writing. You do have the right to apply a second time, but if you reapply, make sure to prepare much more carefully. The Consular Officer will want to see fresh evidence sufficient to overcome the reasons for the first denial.

If you have given careful thought to your educational goals and if you have reasonable career plans, you'll find the visa interview an opportunity to prove you're ready to take the next big step in your education and in your life: college in the Americas.