Every applicant seeking a visa to enter the United States needs to attend an in-person interview. This interview is typically performed at your local embassy. During the interview, a consular officer will ask you a few questions about your visit. Your fingerprints will be collected and other biometric data may be taken.
In order to schedule your visa interview, you’ll need to pay the non-refundable visa application fee. After you’ve paid the fee, you can schedule your interview with a nearby US embassy.
Depending on your answers during the US visa interview, your visa may be approved or denied. We always recommend applicants answer truthfully to all interview questions. Consular officers are trained to spot lies. Fortunately, by preparing for your interview in advance, you can come prepared to answer your interview questions honestly.
After you pay your visa application fee and schedule your interview, you’ll need to begin preparing for your interview. We recommend gathering the required documents and completing a medical examination.
If you come prepared for your visa interview, then your application will have a higher chance of being approved. If you fail to bring adequate paperwork, then your visa application may be rejected.
Completing a Medical Examination
It’s recommended that visa applicants complete a medical examination prior to their visa application appointment. The United States recommends visa applicants complete a medical examination with an authorized physician in your home country (or in whichever country the interview is taking place).
Some US embassies have a specific list of doctors that you can use. These are embassy-approved doctors that routinely perform examinations on applicants seeking to enter the United States. The embassy requires you to use specific medical doctors because the country has specific requirements for the medical examination. The clinic is also required to place the results of the test in a sealed envelope.
Your medical examination will include:
- A review of the applicant’s medical history
- A physical examination that includes the eyes, ears, nose, throat, extremities, heart, lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes, skin, and external genitalia
- Chest X-ray
- Blood tests
Contact one of the embassy-approved doctors and schedule your appointment. You are required to bring certain documents to your medical examination, including all of the following:
- Visa interview letter
- Valid passport
- Passport-sized color photographs (2 to 4 photographs depending on your country)
- A copy of your immunization records
Once your medical appointment is complete, the clinic will hand you a sealed envelope. Do not open this envelope. It contains the results of your medical examination. You give this envelope to the US embassy or consular officer on the day of your interview.
Some clinics will email or mail the results of your medical examination directly to the US embassy. In this case, you might not receive a sealed envelope.
Pre-Register for a Courier Service
Some embassies in some countries require you to pre-register for a courier service. This courier service will send your documents to your address hand-delivered instead of by mail. This is for security purposes. You should receive your passport, visa, and other documents by courier within 3 to 5 weeks of your embassy interview.
Gather Required Documents Before your Interview
So you’ve scheduled your interview and you’re preparing. You’re required to bring certain documents to your interview. The specific documents vary according to your visa and your embassy. Generally, you’ll need to bring the following documents to your interview:
- Interview appointment letter from the National Visa Center (NVC)
- A valid passport with an expiry date six months beyond your intended date of departure from the US
- Two physical passport photographs that match the required photo standards
- The results of your medical examination in a sealed envelope
- Translations of documents that are not in English
Make sure you prepare all of the above documents before your interview. Additionally, check your visa requirements to determine if you need additional documents. If your visa is being sponsored by an employer, for example, then you may need additional information from your US employer.
The Day of Your Interview
The day of your interview can be stressful. Fortunately, if you come prepared with the required documents and arrive on-time, then you have nothing to worry about. Prepare in advance. Give yourself plenty of time. Relax. This is an ordinary part of visiting the United States. Every day, thousands of applicants go through the exact same process at American embassies worldwide.
There are two main parts of your embassy interview:
- Fingerprint scanning
- In-person interview with a consular officer
In terms of clothing, there are no major requirements for how you dress for your interview. Generally, it’s recommended that you wear comfortable, slightly professional-looking clothing.
Arriving at the Consulate
Arrive at your consulate early, if possible. Sometimes, there’s a line to get into the embassy. In other cases, there are certain rules you must abide by – some embassies don’t allow you to bring any possessions inside, for example.
If you are late for your interview, then the consular officer might dismiss your case – even if you’re just two minutes late. This means you have to repeat the entire visa application process again or re-schedule your interview.
Generally, no US Embassy allows you to bring food, backpacks, laptops, or large bags into the building. You will be required to leave these items at home or find a nearby storage locker.
Upon arrival at the US embassy, you’ll go through a security checkpoint, including a metal detector or full body scan. Once you’ve passed through the security checkpoint, you’ll be taken to have your fingerprints scanned.
Your fingerprints will be taken by a member of the US embassy staff. The officer will take your fingerprints using an electronic fingerprint scanning machine.
Once your fingerprints have been taken, you’ll be asked to wait for your scheduled embassy interview. Typically, you’ll wait in a lounge area. Have your documents and paperwork in your hands ready for your interview. When your name or number is called, approach the consular officer’s window and begin your interview.
US Visa Interview Questions
Your interview will begin. Some US consular officers are friendly and will ask you only a few cordial questions about your trip. Other consular officers are more serious. Generally, if there are no issues with your application (like a criminal record) and you answer honestly, your interview will proceed smoothly. However, if you fail to answer honestly or have omitted crucial information, then you might run into trouble.
Some interviews involve just one or two questions. Many visa applicants are surprised to walk up to the consular officer’s desk with dozens of papers in their hands, only to be asked a single question before getting a stamp of approval. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
Here are some of the questions you may be asked during your visa application interview:
Why Are You Traveling to the United States?
The consular officer wants to determine the reason for your travel to the United States. This reason must match your visa. If you’re traveling for work, for example, then you might have a B-1 visa. If you’re traveling for pleasure or holiday, then you might have a B-2 visa.
Explain the reason you’re traveling to the United States. Don’t speak too much: answer concisely. Tell the officer which friends and family you’re visiting in the United States (if any). Tell them the conference you’re attending in Las Vegas. If the officer needs more information about any aspect of your trip, he or she will ask further questions.
- “I am planning to travel to Minneapolis to visit my son for two weeks.”
- “We are flying into Los Angeles before driving to Death Valley, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon and then flying home.”
Why Do You Want to Enter the United States At this time?
Why are you visiting the United States right now? Why didn’t you visit last year? Why aren’t you visiting the United States next year? Is there a specific reason for your travel to the United States today?
- “It’s my son’s 30th birthday.”
- “I have been saving up my vacation time at work and have always wanted to visit the United States.”
Are You Traveling Alone? Who is Traveling with You?
The consular officer will ask about your travel companions. Are you visiting the United States alone? Are you traveling to the country with somebody? Are you planning to visit friends and family in the United States?
- “I am traveling with my wife Sarah.”
- “I am flying alone but I plan to meet my friend Josh in Seattle.”
How Long Are You Staying in the United States?
Most ordinary tourist and business visas allow you to stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 days. The consular officer will ask this question to ensure you plan on leaving the United States before your visa expires.
Ideally, you’ll have a round trip ticket to the United States showing your intended date of departure.
- “I arrive in Los Angeles on November 2 and I have a flight going from Houston to Mumbai on November 24.”
- “I am spending three weeks in the United States before flying home on February 16.”
Who is Sponsoring Your Trip? How Are You Paying for Your Trip?
Traveling in the United States can be expensive. The consular officer will ask this question to determine if you have sufficient funds for your intended trip. If you do not have sufficient funds, then someone in the United States – like a relative – may be sponsoring your trip.
To support your answer to this question, consider providing a bank statement or income statement proving you have sufficient funds to travel to the United States. Or, provide a letter from a relative explaining that they are sponsoring your trip, covering the cost of plane tickets, or providing accommodations in the United States.
- “My son David is paying for our flight and providing us with accommodation during our stay. We are staying in his second bedroom.”
- “We have already purchased our round trip plane tickets. Here is a bank account statement showing we have sufficient funds to cover hotel bookings once we arrive.”
Do You Have Any Friends or Family in the United States?
There’s nothing wrong with having friends and family in the United States. However, the consular officer could be asking this question to determine if you plan to stay in the United States long-term. If your whole family lives in the United States but you’re living in your home country, for example, then the consular officer may become suspicious. Answer truthfully.
- “My daughter Megan lives in Boston.”
- “I have no friends or family in the United States”
Do You Intend to Remain in the United States?
Unless you’re on an immigrant visa, you should not be planning to remain in the United States. All non-immigrant visas expire, and most foreign nationals are only permitted to spend 90 days in the country.
If the consular officer has any suspicion that you intend to remain in the United States beyond your visa’s expiration, then your visa may be denied. Answer truthfully and provide documented evidence of your return travel plans, if possible.
If you do not have a return flight, or if you want to provide extra evidence of returning to your home country, then you can provide further information about your connections to your home country. Provide homeownership documents, for example, or list the family members living in your home country. Get a letter from your employer stating that you are expected to return to work after three weeks of holiday.
- “I do not intend to remain in the United States”
Who is Taking Care of Your House, Your Pets, Your Children and Other Concerns While Away?
Is someone taking care of your house and other concerns while you’re visiting the United States? The consular officer may ask this question to determine how strong your connections are to your home country.
- “My neighbor Dinesh is checking our house and feeding our cats while we’re away.”
- “I moved my possessions into my parents’ place while I travel to the United States”
Where Do You Work in your Home Country?
Having a good job in your home country shows that you intend to return to work and leave the United States in the future. If you’re unemployed or recently quit your job, then it could signal that you’re intending to work in the United States and overstay your visa. Answer employment-related questions truthfully: it’s not illegal to travel across the United States when you’re unemployed, and many people visit the United States after quitting a job in their home country. As long as you aren’t seeking employment in the United States, your visa interview should proceed smoothly.
- “I work at Company ABC and they expect me back on Monday, December 12.”
- “I recently left my job after two years of continuous employment. I plan to travel to the United States for three weeks before returning home to continue searching for a new job.”
Have You Visited the United States Before?
The consular officer will ask this question to determine whether you have legally entered the United States before. If you have previously entered the United States illegally or overstayed your visa, then this could prevent you from entering the United States in the future. However, if you have previously entered the United States legally, then it’s a positive signal for the consular officer.
Remember: The United States embassy generally has a file showing the dates you previously entered and left the United States. Answer truthfully.
- “Yes. My family visited the United States when I was 12. We went to Disneyland.”
- “No, I have never visited the United States before.”
Where Are You Staying in the United States?
Is a friend or family member providing accommodation while you visit the United States? If not, then where do you plan on staying? Have you booked any hotels? Do you plan on booking hotels? Are you camping, renting an RV, or staying in hostels?
If you are staying with acquaintances in the United States, consider bringing a letter proving that they are willing to provide accommodations.
- “We are staying with my son and his wife at their house in Los Angeles.”
- “We are renting an RV and staying in campgrounds while road tripping across the country.”
Remember: Convince the Consular Officer that You Are Not a Threat to the United States and Plan on Leaving
The primary goal of the US embassy interview is to establish two things:
- You are not a threat to the United States
- You plan on returning to your home country after visiting the United States
Most of the questions above are designed to verify these two statements. Answer truthfully. If you have no security concerns and have legitimate ties to your home country, then your interview should proceed without issue.
What Happens If I Do Not Show for My Interview?
If you fail to show up for your interview, then you should contact the US embassy as soon as possible. Explain why you were unable to make the interview.
If you are unable to explain the reason for missing your interview, or if you fail to contact the embassy, then your visa application may be canceled. You may lose your non-refundable visa application fee.
If you simply cannot attend your US embassy interview, however, then it’s possible the interview will be rescheduled at a future date. Your application will not be canceled and you will not need to re-pay the application fee.