By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Having led many people through this process of interviewing for a U.S. visa, I’ve noticed there are common mistakes people make over and over again. Here are eight practical tips that I’ve noticed are helpful in getting the desired outcome - a U.S. visa approval.
Some tips on this list may seem a bit obvious. But are you actually employing all of these tips diligently?
Keep reading and find out. You may be surprised.
Tip #1 Dress Nicely
Many people assume their visa application gets adjudicated solely based on what’s written in the papers - the forms, vital documents and supporting documents.
U.S. consular officers also look at you personally to adjudicate your visa applications.
These adjudicators, who sometimes have to decide dozens of visa applications per day, look well beyond what’s written in your visa application package. They are human beings with all of the same conscious and unconscious biases as anyone else, which means they look at your physical appearance and clothing.
You only get one chance to make a first impression so dress for success at your U.S. visa interview.
Tip #2 Hand Your Documents One by One
When you attend your visa, have all of your supporting documents (along with copies) neatly organized in a binder or folder. When it comes time for you to be interviewed, do not hand the entire package of documents to the adjudicating officer at once, unless you are asked to do so.
I’ve personally heard from several adjudicators who get annoyed by this. You don’t want the person adjudicating your U.S. visa application to be annoyed.
Know where each of your documents are, and hand them one by one to the adjudicator when you are asked for them.
Tip #3 Know Your Case
You must know and be prepared to answer questions about the basics of your visa application.
At a bare minimum, this includes:
All of the biographical information you gave in your application(s);
The type of visa application you have applied for and what criteria it is based on;
Any weak or sensitive areas of your visa application that may exist and need to be addressed.
Your visa application may have been prepared by a lawyer, close family member or a friend. That’s fine, but this is no excuse to not know what is in your visa application.
Note: If you’re applying for a visa other than a tourist or F-1 student visa, you may want to seriously consider hiring an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer.
You will likely be asked questions by the adjudicator and if you cannot answer those simple questions effectively, your chances of getting approved will drop. .
Tip #4 Check Your Embassy’s Rules About Interpreters
If you or a loved one who is attending a visa interview will need an interpreter, do not assume that one will be provided for you at the embassy. You may have to bring your own.
U.S. embassies are like tiny fiefdoms that have their own little protocols with regards to things like this.
Check the website of the embassy you are interviewing at, well in advance of the interview. Some embassies will provide an interpreter, however some will require that you bring your own interpreter. There may even be a requirement that you have to send the name, and contact information of the interpreter well in advance of the interview date.
If you cannot find information about protocol for needing an interpreter, email the embassy ASAP to ask for instructions.
Tip #5 Answer Truthfully
Honesty is the best policy.
If you have an aspect of your immigration case that may appear to weaken your chances of being approved, the answer is to consult with an experienced immigraiton lawyer on how to best address the issue.
Lying about the issue is not the answer.
Being accused of making a “material misrepresentation” (i.e. lying) can be devastating not only to your current visa application, but to any future attempts to enter the United States. Sometimes a lie can be uncovered even years later, and ruin the chances of an applicant to get a green card or to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.
Tip #6 Understand the Questions & Ask For Clarification (if necessary)
When you are asked a question, you must make sure you understand the question before answering.
Sounds obvious, right?
Not so much. In my years as an immigration lawyer, I’ve observed a very high percentage of people in green card interviews guess the answers to questions they either didn’t understand or didn’t properly hear.
Why did they do this? They’re nervous and their minds are running too fast. The problem is that answering questions you don’t understand can lead to big problems.
Make sure you understand the question. If you do not understand, ask the adjudicator for clarification or to repeat the question. Then answer the question carefully when you are sure of what you’re being asked.
Tip #7 Bring At Least One Copy of All Original Documents
When attending a visa interview, most U.S. embassies will tell you to bring original documents (such as certified birth certificate, background check, your passport, etc.) as well as a copy of all those original documents.
Even if you think you haven’t been asked to bring a copy, best practice is to come with copies of your original documents along with the originals.
Tip #8 Understand You Are Being Evaluated!
As mentioned in tip #1, the person who decides whether your visa will be granted is not just looking at your papers. They can look at your manner of dress, how you carry yourself, your body language, your tone, whether you look honest or dishonest, if you are sweating, or any other aspect of your appearance.
Therefore, conduct yourself as if you are being evaluated from the moment you enter the embassy for your interview. You may even be observed while you are waiting. Put yourself in your best position to be cool, calm and collected.
Practice giving answers about your case ahead of time so that you don’t draw a blank or freeze up in the moment.
Book a Consultation with Malakouti Law
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, so if you want to plan out the next immigration and citizenship steps for yourself and your family, you don’t have to guess.
Book a consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer who can answer your questions, including those you don’t even know you have.
The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.