The Day of Your Consular Interview for a U.S. Visa

Travel, security, and other issues concerning your immigrant visa interview at a U.S. consulate.

If you are applying for a U.S. visa (immigrant or nonimmigrant) or green card from overseas, you will be expected to attend an interview at a U.S. consulate. The notice will tell you where and when to go for your visa interview.

When to Travel to the U.S. Consulate

If you do not live in the same city as the U.S. embassy or consulate, you will probably want to arrive there at least day in advance--and a few days in immigrant visa (green card) cases, because you will need time to complete your medical exam (at a clinic designated by the consulate) and to get the test results back.

On the day of your interview, it is also best to arrive early, in case of a long line. Do not be surprised if you then have to wait beyond your scheduled appointment time, however. The U.S. consulates often schedule applicants in large batches, telling all the members of each group to show up at the same time.

Who Should Attend the Consular Interview

In many cases when families plan to visit or immigrate to the U.S. together, only spouses and children age 14 and older must attend the visa interview. For children under 14, you might simply need to take their passports and application materials with you when you appear for your interview.

Be sure, however, to check the application procedures at the consulate where you will apply. Some consulates do require the children to appear in person for all types of interview, regardless of age.

Plan for Your Own Safety and Protection

Be careful of the possibility of crime around U.S. embassies and consulates. Local criminals know exactly where the consulates are and they know that many people going for interviews are carrying sizable sums of money. Take whatever precautions are appropriate in your country. Watch out for con artists who hang around the consulate, trying to convince applicants that they will not get through the front door unless they hand over some money first.

Upon Entry Into Embassy or Consulate

Here is what will likely happen when you arrive at the embassy or consulate for your interview. First, a clerk will check the packet of forms and other items that you have brought along, to make everything required is there.

Next, a consular officer will meet with you, place you under oath, and review the contents of your application. Many consulates now conduct interviews through bulletproof glass windows that make you feel as if you are in a bank (or a prison).

The officer will probably start by reviewing your forms and documents. He or she may ask you questions that are identical to the ones on your forms. Since you will have reviewed these carefully, this should not be a problem. However, if you can’t remember something, it is much better to say so than to guess at the answer.

What Questions the Consular Officer Might Ask

You will have to answer questions designed to find out whether you really qualify for the visa. The questions will depend on what type of visa you are applying for. If, for example, you are applying for a student visa, the officer may ask what you plan to do upon graduation, and will want to hear an answer that involves returning to your home country, not remaining in the United States. For this as for any nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, the officer will ask questions designed to test whether you really plan to return home afterwards, such as:

  • “What do you plan to do after you have finished your stay”
  • “Do you have a job here (in your home country) that you will come back to?”
  • “Do you own a home, and where?” and
  • “Where do your closest family members (parents, spouse, and children) live?”

If you are applying for a fiancé visa (K-1) or a marriage-based visa, the officer will attempt to test whether your marriage or intended marriage is the real thing. He or she will probably start by asking general questions, such as how you and your U.S. citizen fiancé or spouse met, when you decided to get married, and other facts regarding your visits or correspondence. If the two of you have already married, the officer may ask things like how many guests attended the ceremony and how you have visited or corresponded with one another since then (if living apart).

If everything looks to be in order, the officer may ask only two or three questions—but can always ask more. If you have children in common, the officer is much less likely to question whether your marriage is bona fide. The interview itself can take as little as 20 minutes.

Visa Approval or Denial

If everything is in order, you'll either be asked to return another day to pick up the visa, or it will be sent to you via courier.

The visa will consist of a stamp in your passport and, if it's an immigrant visa, an envelope containing key documents. DO NOT OPEN THE ENVELOPE! You'll need to give it to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who greets you upon arrival in the United States. The CBP officer will examine its contents and do a last check for problems.

The stamp in your passport will indicate that you are either a temporary visa holder, a permanent resident, or a conditional resident.

Even if a problem arises in your case, officers rarely deny visa applications on the spot. If the problem can be corrected or if you are inadmissible but are eligible to apply for a waiver, they will normally ask you to provide additional materials or a waiver application. Politely ask that the officer or official to put any requests for more materials in writing, stating exactly what is needed and the reasons why. Then you might wish to consult an attorney for help.

caution CAUTION

Your visa has an expiration date. Six months is typical, so as to give people time to sell a house and get ready to move to the United States. Check the passport stamp for the date. Some consulates might give less time (in which case you could ask for an extension, up to the full six months after the issuance date). Also make sure your passport won't expire before your U.S. entry. If you have unfinished business in your home country before the expiration date of the visa, it's best to travel to the U.S. before that date and return later to wrap things up.

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