With visa interviews starting soon for the Fall semester I thought it would be a good time to write a post on how to prepare for the visa interview and what to expect from the visa officer. The first thing that you have to keep in mind is that more than 80,000 students from India come to the US everywhere and there is no reason why you won't be one of them. So be confident that you are going to get the visa when you go for the interview.
I recently went to a reunion of Indian students in the Los Angeles area and we all started discussing how it felt when we went for the visa interview. The days leading to the interview are always tense and a lot of preparation goes into it. So what all do you need to prepare for so that you can be anothe Indian student who is studying abroad.
1) You have to make sure that you have all the required paperwork with you and the paperwork is properly labeled in different files. You on an average get 2-3 minutes with a visa officer and none of us wants to waste that time trying to search for our documents.
2) Your passport and I-20 should be ready in your hand.
3) Once the visa officer takes your passport and I-20 he will start asking you questions. Confidently and with a smile on your face answer the questions. It is always better to have a general idea of what you are going to say but there is no need to try and remember the answers by heart. If you try and say it too fast without conviction the visa officer could think you have been tutored which means they will start asking you questions which are not routine and those can be much harder to answer. Let us start with the questions:
4) Why this university? (The university you presented the I-20 for)
There is no one right answer and 100 people could answer it in 100 different ways. One of the answers could be - I did my research and liked the professors in the stream I am specializing in. I talked to a couple of professors and it seems what they cover in the curriculum is very useful in the real world. (If you have a scholarship). Moreover the university is offering me a scholarship and that sealed my decision. I also interacted with a couple of alumni from the university and they highly recommended it.
5) What are the name of the Professors you talked to?
Always know the names of the professors and the email IDs as well if you can remember.
6) How many and which universities did you apply for?
Tell them exactly how many universities you applied to, which all you got accepted to and why you chose not to accept admission to any of those. Again it could be because the university you chose is really good in the your specialization or the other universities were not offering scholarships etc.
7) Why not do your MBA in India, why go to the U.S. for your MBA /MS?
You could answer with something like - with more and more multi-nationals coming into India I would like to get a global perspective of how things are conducted internationally and what better place to do it than in the US which is the engine of the world economy. By combining my local knowledge with U.S. education I would get myself an edge over the competition.
8) What will you do after you complete your studies?
You will of course say that you intend to come back to India and work e.g. I did some research and these companies hire a lot of people with this experience and education and these are the companies I plan to target when I come back. With so much growth in India I think I will be able to progress a lot faster after completing my education in the US.
9) Do you have any relatives in the U.S.?
Always answer this question truthfully. In my particular cases I had a member of the immediate family already in the US. I still told the visa officer the whole detail. You should never try and lie about such things.
10) So XYZ from your family is already there and you will also stay there after you graduate?
Of course not. At this point you need to convince the visa officer you have good reason to come back e.g. your parents who do not want to immigrate etc. Visa officers know that many of us stay back in the US to work etc. - all they are looking for is a smart, well thought answer. Remember a visa officer is looking for an excuse not to give you the visa, if you do not give them that excuse they will not stop you.
11) How do you intend to pay for your education?
Start answering the question confidently e.g. my father is sponsoring my education or I have a approved loan. Would you like to take a look at the documents? If the visa officer say yes hand them over but do not keep pushing your files through the window unnecessarily. Here it again becomes important that everything is properly labeled and in small files. The area to pass documents is not to big so do not try to push through a 6 inch thick file :)
12) What will you do if your visa is rejected?
You can say something like this - "I will of course be disappointed. I have worked hard to get a good score, invested a lot of time and money applying and getting accepted to the universities. I see this as an opportunity for furthering my career. However it is not the end of the world. I know I am a deserving candidate but an adverse decision will definitely disappoint me".
13) What is your family composition i.e. how many brothers and sister do you have?
Tell them about your family and what they do.
14) What are your sources of income?
If you have savings give the officer details about it or provide details of your father's income.
15) Do you know anyone in the U.S.?
Tell the officer about your contacts.
All of the above questions can be answered in 100 different ways and everyone's situation is different. My sole idea is to start you thinking about this process and be prepared for it. There are a lot more questions and I will cover them in a follow up post but the 15 above are the most common. The visa interview is the final step in all the effort you have put in for the last 8-12 months preparing for your study abroad.
Feel free to ask any questions you might have regarding how to prepare, what all to look for in a university and so on and I will be more than happy to respond with answers to the best of my knowledge.