A visa interview at the U.S. consulate in the intending fiance's home country is a crucial part of the visa application process. Here, we'll discuss what steps lead up to the interview, and how to prepare for interview day.
Paperwork Immediately Preceding Fiance Visa Interview
The interview will not be scheduled until the U.S. consulate has received notice from the U.S. National Visa Center (NVC) that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved the Fiancé Visa Petition (Form I-129F).
At that point, the consulate will send follow-up instructions to the overseas fiance. Under the system in place until late 2013, overseas fiances were asked to fill out State Department Forms DS-156, DS-156K, and DS-230, and either mail them back in or simply bring them all to the visa interview. As of October 2013, however, all these forms were replaced with Form DS-160, to be filled out online.
Don’t delay in following the State Department's instructions, since the approval of the Fiancé Visa Petition is good for only four months (though the consulate can give one four-month extension).
The consulate will request a security clearance from every place the visa applicant has lived since the age of 16. (It will get this information on past residences from the forms the foreign fiance submitted.) Usually, the consulate simply asks a government office to check its records to see if the person has a police record; and to send a copy of that record or a statement that no record was found. Assuming the records come back clean, the consulate will move on with processing the application. (If the fiance does have a criminal record, be sure to consult a U.S. immigration attorney -- many crimes make the immigrant inadmissible to the United States.)
Preparing for Questioning by the Consular Official
In order to prepare for the oral part of the interview, the fiance and U.S. citizen sponsor -- if he or she will be attending -- should review all the paperwork submitted so far. Look at the questions and answers on every form. Though they seem to contain only boring, dry bits of information, this information is loaded with meaning to a USCIS or consular official. The dates of visits to different places, the financial figures, and your immigration history can all add up to a revealing picture in the official’s eyes.
After reviewing the written work, spend some time with your fiancé or spouse reviewing the facts and circumstances surrounding your relationship, such as where you met, how your relationship developed, how you have corresponded or visited one another and when, and why you decided to get married. Be ready to explain your plans for your wedding and subsequent life together. The officer will ask about these details in order to test whether you are truly establishing a life together, not just committing a fraud in order to obtain a green card.
If the overseas fiance is bringing children, they will probably be asked to attend the consular interview as well (although some consulates permit younger children to stay at home). The children will receive their visas on the same day. The technical name for their visa will be K-2.
Attending the Interview
On the day of the fiance visa interview, the intending immigrant will be expected to arrive at the consulate with forms and documents in hand, according to the consulate’s instructions.
After the interview is completed and the visa has been approved, the consulate will hand the immigrant a thick, sealed envelope, stuffed full of most of the forms and documents that were submitted over the course of this process. This is, in fact, a visa to enter the United States. Do not open the envelope! The visa envelope must be presented to a U.S. border official before it is opened. If it has been opened, the immigration officials will probably assume that someone has tampered with it. At best, the border official might send the immigrant back to the consulate for another try; at worst, he or she might accuse the person of visa fraud and use summary exclusion powers to prohibit him or her from entering the United States for the next five years.
Ideally the immigrant will receive the visa within a few days of the interview, but delays for FBI and CIA security checks sometimes add weeks to the process, especially for applicants with common names.