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  • Cortney Dowdle

Crushing the Visa Interview for F1 Students

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Happy almost Valentine’s Day!

Is this holiday celebrated around the world? I actually have no idea which countries do and don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Anyways, this is a quick article about getting through the student visa interview process. You can find some great resources online that can help with this, but sometimes it’s nice to just some input outside of the consular or embassy officials. They have very little flexibility in how they answer questions, and I’ve found through working with them that often the answer is, “we can’t speak or answer about a specific student question,” even if they know exactly how the situation would go in the interview process. So that's where I come in with all the behind the scenes details!

Read on friends...

filling out application
Learn all about applying for the F1 student visa!

I wrote a blog several months ago about the F1 student visa and some of the “rules of maintenance”. While this is great for students after they have obtained the visa, I realized I should write up something about getting students through the interview process first.

I often refer students and families to the site to learn about processes, but I am realizing more and more that sometimes the information is just complicated and hard to understand. I get it, but I feel educators, parents, and consultants need somewhere to find the information in an easy-to-understand format. I am happy to share insights into popular questions and students responses after working with hundreds of visas over the past six years.

First things first - how do you apply?

Obtain an I-20 from an SEVP approved school

*Note - exact processes can be different from embassy to embassy so check on your country’s embassy site for the F1 visa instructions

  • Complete the online DS-160 form

  • Pay the application fee (also called the I-901 fee)

  • Submit a photo with your Form DS-160

  • Schedule an in person interview

*Pro tip - check online for the visa wait times here.

Here are a few common questions to prepare for the interview:

1. Why do you want to study in the USA?

Be honest here and tell a bit of your story as to why you want to study abroad. It’s always good to mention the high quality of education in America and how you are excited for the opportunity to study there

2. What is your goal while studying abroad?

Mention that you are a degree seeking student, that you are excited to enroll at a school with a top engineering program, or that you are an athlete pursuing your favorite sport - this is your chance to highlight what is unique about studying abroad in the USA and how you plan to take advantage of it. This is also the chance to show that you’ve researched the school you plan to attend.

3. What do you intend to do after your studies are complete?

This question is important - make sure you highlight that you plan to return to your home country to work/study/live after you finish studying in the USA. Consulate officers want to see that you have a connection to your home country and plan to return after your studies. This is an important question to prepare for!

4. Do you have family in the USA?

You should be honest here, but always emphasize that your primary goal is going to the USA to study and that you don’t plan to live with or continue living with your family members after you complete your studies.

Here are a few important things to remember:

Documents to take with you:

  • Original I-20

  • Passport

  • Visa application fee receipt

  • Bank statements showing financial funding for study abroad

  • Acceptance letter

  • School transcripts and translated copies

  • Standardized test scores or English test scores

  • Materials that might be relevant to some students - if your English level is low, but you are going to study abroad to improve your English, you can submit a letter, course catalog, or proof that the school you are going to is offering ESL support

Okay, those are the most important parts of the visa interview process.

For even more detail (I know, it’s crazy to think there is even more), check out my webinar series The Ultimate International Student Guide to see the most in depth resources (from me personally) about studying in the USA for undergraduate or graduate studies!

Additional resources:

EducationUSA site


Step 4 of 5 to Study in the USA

Until next time savvy internationals!

And don't forget...

From stressed out and crazed trying to figure out processes to calm, cool, collected, and successful. That's what we're all about here at The Savvy International!

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