1. Connections at Your Home Country and Residence Abroad
Under U.S. law, individuals who apply for nonimmigrant visas, such as F-1 or J-1 student visas, are viewed as “intending immigrants” (who want to live permanently in the U.S.) until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. One must, therefore, be able to show that he have reasons for returning to his “residence abroad” that are stronger than reasons for remaining in the United States and that he intends to depart the United States at the conclusion of his studies. It is advisable to consult an immigration lawyer for better understanding of the visa process and legalities.
“Connections” to the home country are the things that connect you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, owning a house or apartment, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you have close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, it may be harder for you to convince that you are not an intending immigrant.
2. Be Brief and with a Positive Attitude
All consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick interview, because of the large number of applications they receive. They must make a decision on the impressions they form during the initial minutes of the interview. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point, responding precisely to the consular officer’s questions and statements. Do not have an argument with the officer. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring to overcome the denial and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
Primary purpose in coming to the United States should be to study and not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students work on- or off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental (secondary/optional) to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly explain your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse or children are also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be ready to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteering in the community and attending school part-time are permitted activities for F-2 dependents.
4. Knowledge of the Program and Career Plans
If one are not able to explain the reasons why one will study in a particular program in the United States, one may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that one is indeed planning to study, rather than to work or stay in the United States. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your career goals and employment prospects when you return home. If you will be a graduate student in the United States and have a research focus, be prepared to talk about your research plans. Consular officials may want a letter from your supervising professor or faculty member that explains your intended research goals.
5. Family at Home Country
If the spouse and parents/children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to convince how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be especially difficult to explain if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that you intend to support your family with money you may earn during your studies in the United States, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family decides to join you at a later time, it may be helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
The interview is generally conducted in English and not in your native language. Better to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. Rather have an interactive conversation with the consular officer about your plans for studying in the United States and beyond, your goals, and your ties to your home country. If you are coming to the United States to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.