Tips: Student Visa Applications
Consular officers are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview, since there are so many applicants to be seen. In general, they can allow for only 2 to 3 minutes per interview and must make a decision during that time. As a result, the initial impression you create is very important, so be sure to keep your answers short and specific.
Ties to Your Home Country
Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants unless they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your current place of residence (examples include: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc.). You may be asked about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate or letter that can guarantee visa issuance.
Speak in English
Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English, not in your native language. It may be helpful to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do not prepare a speech. It is also important that you speak for yourself; the officer wants to interview you, not a family member. If you are attending an English Language program at UR, be ready to explain why knowledge of English will be useful to you in your home country.
Be familiar with the academic program to which you have been admitted and how it fits into your career plans. You should be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career, focusing on how you will use such skills when you return home.
It should be clear, at a glance, to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated, especially during such a short interview. Remember to bring original versions of all supporting documents, if available, with you to the appointment.
If you are receiving funding from the University of Rochester, your home university, your employer, or from the government, be prepared to present the appropriate letters or documents which verify this funding. If your financial support is coming from personal or family funds, bank statements alone are seldom considered credible enough evidence to demonstrate sufficient finances. Only when coupled with highly credible documentation that can substantiate the source (such as job contracts, letters from an employer, tax documents, pay stubs, or deposit slips) will a bank statement be accepted. Bank statements are most credible if they are a series or reliable computer-generated ordinary monthly bank account statements.
Your main purpose for coming to the U.S. is to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students may work part-time during their studies, such employment is incidental to the main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the U.S. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S. Volunteer work and taking a class for recreational study are permitted activities. F-2 spouses are NOT allowed to begin a program of study or take classes to count towards a program of study.
Dependents remaining at home
If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the U.S. in order to support them, your student visa will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa. Please note: Indicating that your spouse will remain at home while you study in the U.S. is not likely to convince the consulate that you do not intend to immigrate. Other evidence will be needed.
Not all countries are the same
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the U.S. as immigrants often have more difficulty getting visas. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States
Maintain a positive attitude
Do not engage the consular official in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and obtain in writing an explanation of the reason you were denied.
**Special Note for Canadian Citizens**
Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a US visa to enter the United States. However, an officer of the US Immigration Service will inspect your papers either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the United States. You must have with you proof of Canadian citizenship, proof of admission to the University of Rochester, your UR Certificate of Eligibility, and proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20 or DS-2019. It is essential that you enter the United States in the appropriate status, so be sure to have complete documentation with you.
Adapted from NAFSA: Association of International Educators