The Internet contains a wealth of advice on how to increase your chances of getting a B1/B2 visitor visa to the United States, but the single most important factor is whether or not the consular officer is convinced that you will use the visitor visa for its intended purpose. This means you'll need to convince the officer that you will return to your home country after your proposed trip, that you will not work in the U.S., and that you are actually going to do what you say you will be doing.
This article will discuss how consular officers make these decisions and how to best present yourself to maximize your chances of visa approval.
Unless you have an urgent reason for travel to the U.S., you should wait to apply for a tourist visa until a time when your life circumstances are stable.
If, for example, you recently lost your job, this might not be the best time to apply for a U.S. visitor visa (unless you have enough savings to support yourself for a long time!).
You should also be able to show that you can afford your trip to the U.S. and that you can afford the time off from work. If your U.S. visa application was recently refused, or you recently had an issue with U.S. immigration or the police (either in the U.S. or abroad), you might consider letting some time pass before applying again.
Almost every visa applicant is going to be asked about the details of the planned trip, such as:
You might also be asked about past travel to the U.S. (with or without a visa), your family members and where they live, your education, and your job.
Know that consular officers have access to lots of information and some countries share vast amounts of data with the U.S. government, so it is always best to be honest in your interview, as this will give you the best chance for approval.
For example, if you had a problem with U.S. immigration authorities 12 years ago, it would probably not have too much effect on the outcome of your visa, if your current situation is otherwise strong. However, if you deny ever having been in the U.S., your visa will almost certainly be denied, as the officer will not trust you to be honest in other parts of the interview.
The perfect first-time U.S. visa applicant would have lots of prior tourist travel to other countries, many years in the same high-paying job, be able to demonstrate ownership of property, have substantial savings, and present no red flags or reasons that he or she might want to leave it all behind.
In reality, this person rarely presents at the visa window. So, don’t panic if this is not you! Still, you should think about what aspects of your situation might require further explanation.
For example, if you just started a new job and are applying for a visa to go on vacation, the officer might ask why you are planning a trip when you just started a new job. Most people don’t have vacation time when they're new on a job. If the consular officer hears honest answers to these types of non-standard questions, this will improve your credibility and your chances of receiving the visitor visa.
The average visitor visa interview is only about three minutes long. This means the officer does not have much time to look through documents, so will rely heavily on the interview to determine the applicant’s credibility and qualifications.
Let's imagine your company is sending you on a training course in the U.S., for example. The officer will want to see a letter from your employer that supports your trip plan, but primarily will want to hear from you about the details of your trip. You should be ready with as many of the details as possible, rather than relying on the officer to read about them in a letter.
Also, the consulate has dedicated fraud prevention staff to verify supporting documents. At some consulates, a 100% audit might be performed of certain categories of documents, such as bank documents, employment letters, or business invitation letters. If you submit altered or fake supporting documents, it could result in a permanent visa ineligibility. Therefore, if you don’t have a particular document, it is better to submit nothing and just explain in the interview why you don’t have it.
It’s natural to be nervous during a visa interview, and consular officers know this. Still, it is easier to be calm and collected when you are being honest and are prepared to answer the officer’s questions with succinct, yet thoughtful answers. You definitely don’t want your answers to sound memorized or rehearsed; just give some thought to the questions that are likely to be asked about your particular circumstances.
Regardless of your situation, establishing and maintaining credibility during the interview will give you the best chance of your visa being approved.