Securing the F1 VISA
A comprehensive overview of Do’s and Don’ts to secure the F1 Student Visa and get the final approval to study in your dream American university.
Remember the famous ‘Sattar Minute’ speech by Shah Rukh Khan in Chak De India? Well, when it comes to the US Visa Interview, forget 70 minutes, you would be lucky to get 70 seconds. In fact, some Visa interviews actually last for half of that duration!
Those 30-70 seconds are, to a large extent, the Make or Break time for your career plans.
You may have secured an admit to your dream University, done all the necessary shopping and packed your bags, and met your near and dear ones as you prepare to fly to the States. But if you fail to crack the US Visa Interview, all of that preparation amounts to NOTHING.
Remember, Visa rejection can ONLY happen at the last stage of the process i.e., the Visa Interview. And therefore, when we discuss possible causes for Visa rejection, our primary focus would be to provide tips on how to ace the Visa Interview. In this article, we will also touch upon some interesting case studies of our students (without revealing their identities, of course).
However, it is important to note that the interviewer may deny you the Visa for several reasons, some of which may be due to mistakes you made during the Visa application. Which is why, it is essential to ensure that you complete the Visa application process as flawlessly as possible. This link here will help you in your US F1 Visa application.
And now, finally, let’s get to discussing the core topic. First, let’s look at why a student’s Visa application could get rejected during the interview stage?
Major Reasons for Rejection of the F1 Visa
There are several reasons why your F1 Visa can be rejected, and we discuss them one by one as follows:
1. Suspicion of Applicant being a Potential Immigrant
Remember, you are applying for a STUDENT Visa. Which means, you are interested in STUDYING in the USA.
If your answers during the Visa interview cause the Visa officer to suspect that you have some other motives (such as applying for the study program with the end goal of taking up employment in the US or settling there), then you can earn a 214B rejection. In fact, this is one of the most prominent reasons why a student’s F1 Visa can be rejected.
Now, what can lead the Visa Officer to suspect that you may be a potential immigrant? Let’s look at them one by one.
– Goals post Program Completion Not Clear
One of the commonly asked questions during the Visa interview is ‘What do you plan to do after your degree?’ Now, if you tell the Visa officer that you plan to work in the US, you will get instantly rejected. But what will the Visa officer think if you tell him or her that you plan to return back? They’ll immediately sense what you’re trying to do, that is, desperately convince them that you are not going to settle in the US. Which means, you somehow just want to have the Visa. And that is enough to earn you a reject.
How to convey your post-program completion goals is something that you need to think through before you go for the interview. There is no one right answer for everyone – it depends on your past background and what program you are applying for.
– Inability to Demonstrate Sound Family Financial Strength
Who would want to immigrate? Someone whose family’s financial health isn’t optimal, right? Now what happens if you showcase a weak picture to the Visa Officer regarding your family finances? The Visa Officer will determine that there is a high chance that you are applying to an educational program with a view to immigrate. Which as we know by now, is a red flag.
Now, you don’t have to belong to a super-privileged family (financially speaking) to secure the F1 Visa. But you should be able to –
a) Show the right financial details (which includes family income and liquid assets)
b) Be able to answer the questions about family finances in the right way
If you get both (a) and (b) right, there’s a very less chance that your Visa would be denied. And this is a claim that we make from our experience.
One rather extreme case in this regard was that of a student whose parents were street hawkers (but ones who made great sacrifices to afford her quality education). Through the right financial planning and training on how to answer questions related to financial health, we were able to help her secure her Visa. Today, she has already graduated from her Master’s program and as on date, is on her OPT.
Planning your finances for the Visa interview (and to fund your education in a foreign university) is a slightly tricky affair, and it is important that you plan them out with a professional financial advisor.
– If you already have a family member/relative residing in the USA
Now remember, just because you have a family member or relative residing in the USA does not mean that you will necessarily be denied a F1 Visa. Having said that, it does make your Visa interview slightly trickier. How difficult it can possibly get will depend on:
a) How close the relative/family member is to you
b) How long they have been staying in the US
c) What they have been doing in the US
d) Which Visa they are currently on
e) How close is the University to their location in the US
How you respond to questions around this will depend on the above five factors.
Now that we have seen what are the possible cases where a F1 Visa applicant could be suspected to be a potential immigrant, we now look at some other reasons why the Visa can be rejected.
2. Lack of Sufficient Knowledge regarding the University and Program
If you had applied to a certain university, you need to be able to convey to the Visa Officer that it was the decision to apply was an informed one. Which means, you should be able to explain to the interviewer in reasonable clarity what made you apply to the program. If you fail to do so, the Visa Officer may not be convinced that you have made the right decision to apply to a certain program, and hence, may deny you an admit.
3. Poor past track-record
Not all students perform well during their school or Bachelor’s degree. Students who enrol into their undergrad are in their late teens, and many of them require the necessary sincerity to excel academically at that age. While American universities do have certain standards for academic performance, they will not hold your past against you. In fact, in a lot of cases, we have helped students who had multiple backlogs and took 1-2 extra years to complete their undergraduate degrees to secure admits into reasonably good American universities.
Even the Visa Officer will not penalize you for a bad academic past. BUT, you must be able to demonstrate to the Visa Officer (should he or she raise a question) that you have had a change of attitude, and that, you are far more serious about your academics than how you had been in your younger years.
4. Misrepresentation of your details
This could be a result of:
a) Making mistakes in filling out the DS-160 (which is the online non-immigrant visa form)
b) Carrying the wrong documents
c) Lying during the Visa interview and getting caught
Remember, this is something that can either temporarily ruin your chances of getting into your dream university or permanently kill them.
Now that we have seen what reasons can lead to rejection of your F1 Visa, now let us look at the type of questions that are typically asked in a Visa Interview.
Questions to Prepare for the F1 Visa Interview
When we train our students for the Visa interview, we look at six broad categories of visa questions which are as follows:
Potential Immigrant Questions
– What are you planning to do after your degree?
– What scope does your field have in India?
– How much do you expect to get paid after your degree?
– Which city would you want to work in after your degree?
– What are your target employers after your degree?
– Would you want to work in the US during the OPT?
– What is your program duration?
– How many credits do you need to graduate?
– What courses will you be studying in your first semester?
– Why did you decide to apply for this program?
– Where is the University located?
– How is the climate like where the University is located?
– Why did you choose X University over Y University when you had admits from both?
– Do you wish to attend any particular events at the University?
– What activities would you want to be involved in at the University?
Past Background Related Questions
– What is your CGPA/GRE Score/ TOEFL Score/ IELTS Score?
– Why are your scores low?
– What relevant courses have you studied?
– Is your current job relevant to the degree you have applied to?
– What responsibilities/projects have you handled in your job?
– Why do you wish to study now given that you already have a job?
Family Financial Health Related Questions
– Who is sponsoring your education?
– What is your sponsor’s annual income?
– How much of liquid assets do they have to fund your education?
– Are you taking a loan?
– What are the terms of your loan?
– What is your father’s/mother’s occupation?
– How do you plan to pay your first-year fees?
– Why should I approve your Visa?
– Have you already booked your tickets?
– What will you do if I reject your Visa?
– Why did you choose to study in the US and not India?
But then, remember that this is not a question-bank that we have provided from which the interviewer will ask questions. He or she is free to ask any random question. Also, he may raise further questions on the answers you give to the above visa questions.
For instance, one of our students was asked about his father’s income and liquid assets. To which he had replied that the income was Rs. 7 lakhs per annum and the liquid assets were worth Rs. 82 lakhs. To test the student further, the Visa Officer asked how come his father possessed such a high value of liquid assets with that income figure? Now the student managed to save the day with his presence of mind and successfully secure the Visa.
But what we intend to convey here is that during the Visa interview, whatever answers you give could be held against you.
Also, remember what we had said at the onset – the Visa interview would last for barely a minute. And the Visa Officer would not ask for than 5-6 questions on an average. But which would be those questions is difficult to determine, which is why, you must prepare your answers to the above-mentioned indicative list of F1 visa interview questions that you can expect to be asked during the interview.
Tips related to Body Language and Conduct
Now let us look at certain additional aspects to bear in mind while preparing for the Visa interview.
Begin the interview with a polite greeting
It is recommended to greet the visa officer with a warm smile and a polite greeting at the beginning of the interview. This sets a positive tone for the interaction and creates a friendly atmosphere.
Use appropriate body language
During the interview, it is important to maintain a confident and friendly posture. Avoid crossing your arms, as it can give the impression of being defensive. Instead, keep your arms at your side and try to appear calm and composed.
Maintain eye contact
Making eye contact with the visa officer demonstrates honesty and respect. However, staring at the officer can be perceived as rude, so it is best to maintain a balance by occasionally shifting your gaze to their forehead.
Control your facial expressions
Be mindful of your facial expressions during the interview. Avoid twitching or meandering your lips, as it can give the impression of deception or dissatisfaction.
Stay calm and collected
It is important to remain calm and collected during the interview, even if you are nervous. Avoid fidgeting or making hasty movements, as it can distract the interviewer and give the impression of impatience.
Maintain good posture
Your posture can convey confidence and trustworthiness. It is recommended to stand straight, lean slightly forward, and keep one hand out in the open.
Stay alert and engaged
Be attentive during the interview and actively engage in conversation. Use appropriate verbal cues to show that you are listening and responsive. Try to answer interveiw questions quickly and avoid leaving dead air between questions.
Present yourself professionally
It is important to present yourself professionally during the interview. Dress appropriately, groom your hair neatly, and avoid using excessive perfumes or colognes. A well-groomed appearance can boost your confidence and positively impact your body language.
What to Expect during the F1 Visa Interview
After your interview is over, the following are the outcomes you can expect:
Visa Officer keeps your Passport with himself/herself
‘Congratulations, your Visa is approved’ is what you would expect the Visa Officer to say while doing this. This is the outcome that you would be praying for. You will be told to collect your Passport (which will be stamped with the Visa) from the US Consulate within a week. Once the Passport is available for collection, you would be notified of the same by an SMS.
Visa Officer Returns your Passport
If this happens, your Visa is, sadly, rejected. For the time being. You can have another attempt at the Visa interview by booking another F1 visa appointment (we recommend booking the next date around 2 weeks from the date on which you had your Visa rejected.) This will require you to pay the Visa fee once again (not the SEVIS fee, which is a one-time fee).
Visa Officer gives you a 221G slip
If your background/program that you have applied to comes under the Technology Alert List, there is a chance that you will be given the blue 221G slip (which is the most common colour of 221G slips that is issued). If this happens, all you would need to do is submit some additional documentation, post which, you will be granted the Visa.
The Luck Factor
While we at Collegepond boast of a 97% Visa acceptance rate (as against the industry standard of 80-85% depending on the year), sometimes luck can really revolt against a student, as we found out.
One such case which left us at Collegepond stupefied was that of a couple of students from the chemical engineering background (same class, both with a 9+ CGPA) with a couple of years of industry experience in a prominent multinational company. Both of them had secured admits to UC-Berkeley (one for Process Engineering, the other for Engineering Management). Both had stable financial background as well. And yet, while one of them got her Visa in her first shot, the other could not secure the Visa even in two attempts, and eventually ended up pursuing his MBA in India. This was perhaps the only instance where one of our students with an admit from a premier University had to suffer Visa rejection.
Another notable instance that we had was that of a student whose Visa was rejected, with the reason offered being that she had travelled to 33 countries. Eventually, she had to apply to Australia in the following year. The only reason we have mentioned these instances is not to dishearten you, but to give you a realistic picture.
HOWEVER, if you read the examples, what you can realize is that you can trust us to maximize your chances of securing admits to the best possible universities for you. Here’s why you have every reason to apply for studying in USA.
If have plans for studying in a top-notch American University and are yet to begin with your application process, please fill out this form to book a Free Counselling Session with our Experts.
We have included a detailed list of all the documents you need to carry for the Visa interview in a categorized manner. Please check the link for the same.
If you don't have enough knowledge about the university or program you have applied to, it's important to start by doing research to gather more information. You can start by exploring the university's website, looking at the program requirements, reading about the faculty members and their research interests, and checking out any available online resources, such as videos, webinars, or virtual campus tours.
You can also reach out to the admissions office or department to ask any questions you may have. They can provide you with more information about the program, the application process, and the university as a whole. You can also consider reaching out to current students or alumni to learn more about their experiences at the university and in the program.
Ultimately, it's important to have a good understanding of the university and program you have applied to, because the Visa officer may reject your Visa if he or she concludes that you have not made an informed decision regarding your university application.
To prepare for the F1 Visa interview, here are some tips:
1. Know your purpose: Be clear about your purpose for studying in the United States, what you intend to study, and how it will benefit you and your future goals.
2. Be knowledgeable about your program: Research your program, the university, and the faculty members involved in your field of study. Familiarize yourself with the curriculum and requirements of the program.
3. Be organized: Bring all required documents with you, including your passport, visa application, financial statements, and acceptance letter from the university. Make sure that all documents are up-to-date, accurate, and complete.
4. Practice answering potential questions: Prepare for potential interview questions by practicing with a friend or family member. Common questions include your reasons for studying in the US, your academic background, and your financial resources.
5. Be confident and honest: Be confident and honest in your answers. Don't provide false information or try to mislead the interviewer. It's important to be truthful and straightforward.
6. Dress appropriately: Dress appropriately for the interview. Dress in business formal attire to convey a professional image.
7. Show ties to your home country: Show that you have strong ties to your home country, such as family, property, or job opportunities, and that you plan to return after completing your studies.