Sunday, May 30, 2010

Study in the USA, Step 5 (Visa interview)

So, I guess it's safe to assume that you've done Steps 1-4. Here's a recap:
Step 1 (Finding, choosing and applying to schools)
Step 2 (Registering for the TOEFL)
Step 3 (Registering for the SATs)
Step 4 (Financial Planning)

So, you've applied, sent in your scores, sent in your financial documents. You've been accepted, congrats!!

Next big step, the visa interview!! This is a very important step for obvious reasons.

In Step 5, I will discuss the visa interview.

Step 5: How to ace your visa interview

A. Have all your required documents ready and go with them to the interview 
It's better to go with too many documents, than too few. Check the U.S. embassy site in your country and find out what documents they'll want to bring along. 
Some obvious ones are:

  • Your valid passport (valid for at least 6 months from the date of interview)
  • Form I-20
  • SEVIS fee paid receipt
  • Visa application fee receipt
  • Interview appointment letter
  • Financial supporting documents
  • Qualifications - Degree/Diploma certificates
  • Transcripts
  • Proof of English proficiency if applicable(TOEFL)
  • Standardized test scores if applicable (SAT, ATC, GRE, GMAT).
  • Photograph (with specifications as requested by the embassy)
  • Proof of accommodation (apartment lease letter, dorm room contract letter)
These are obviously not all the documents you'll need for your visa interview. Check the U.S. embassy website in your country and get a complete list, with detailed specifications.

B. Be confident
Don't be overconfident though. It's ok to feel somewhat nervous...this is huge!! But, don't feel and look so nervous - it could come across like you're lying or hiding something. To feel more at ease, you could try having a practice  interview with a family member. Go through possible questions and your answers - this helped me & my bro. Also, look the Consular Officer in the eye - Americans are big on eye contact. You could seriously look like your lying or hiding something if your eyes keep looking at the wall, or roof, or table, etc. hahaha.

C. Be Honest
Don't dilute the truth, don't stretch it. 

Possible questions
Here, I'm reviewing questions that you may need to think about for a bit before answering. The embassy official will ask you many random questions, hopefully many of them would be in conversation form, like "what does your mum/dad do?", "how many siblings do you have?", "what level of education have you completed?' etc. You could answer those in a heartbeat. 

1. Why did you choose this school and how did you find out about it?

2. Why did you choose this major?

3. Tell me about the location of this school

4. Do you intend to work in the U.S. after your studies? (You should never say yes. See helpful tip no. 2)

5. What are your future plans? (Talk about your home country a lot. Like starting a business there, etc).

6. What benefit will this course bring to you? (Say stuff like "leading player in the your home industry with a very valuable, prestigious degree gotten in the U.S.)

7. Who is your sponsor and what proof do you have that they can support your studies? (Even if you got money from various sources, only say one sponsor. This sponsor is the person whose bank statements you will show the embassy official).

Helpful tips:

1. If you're from a family that isn't exactly wealthy, I'm assuming you didn't choose a school that is crazy expensive. During the interview, you should stress the fact that this school is cheap. In other words, you will be able to pay for your studies.

2. I know some countries are really strict in giving students f-1 visas. Please emphasize that you will be returning to your home country. Before your test date, think of reasons to convince the embassy official that you will be returning to your home country. 
That shouldn't be too hard, no matter how awful your country might be, I'm sure you can think of reasons why you should return.

By the way, reasons like "I love it here, it's really beautiful", "it's my country. Why wouldn't I want to return?" aren't really valid. 

I'd go with reasons like "a family business you have to come back home to help out with", "my field of study is a fast growing industry in my home country. I have to come back and contribute to available knowledge." or family property, and investments. Those sound really reasonable, don't they? 

If a question the embassy official asks catches you unaware, always remember to THINK BEFORE YOU TALK!! Best wishes.

Hugs & Kisses

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