Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Visa Interview Advise - II

Note: This advise is relevant to F1 visa applicants. Please review my disclaimer on top right hand side of the page.
Contrary to popular public opinion I think
(a) There is some logic to the decision making process
(b) Asking advise on visa interviews is futile. Giving one is even more futile. At best it is a data point from which the most obvious information will be useful. The rest are specific to the case.
I will do my 0.o2$ based on (a) and (b) above.
Since I consider MS and MBA visa situations to be different (because of the money involved) I will treat the two separately.
Generic information
Filling up of DS156 forms: There is a separate section which asks "purpose of trip" Write down clearly 3-4 bullet points as to exactly what your future plans are. Anchor a stake and clearly articulate why you want to do an MS and what you plan to do after that. It should be in complete sentences and not in phrases/fragments. Dont write one word like "education" in that box and try and keep things open/vague. Commit to an answer in the DS156 (see #1 below). I felt it helped me. They specifically ask you to be as detailed as possible in the DS 156. Warning: Don't over-do it and write an essay
General Questions: Usually it is better to have answers for (a) Why USA (b) Why this school (c) Plans after degree (d) How will you repay the fees etc. These are all questions that can be thrown any time.

Manners: It is sensible not to lean on the counter, put your elbows on the counter and talk. It is basic common sense.
M.S Visa
  1. I feel the decision is made based on vital statistics on your file and is made even before the consular person begins talking to you. In case he decides to reject you, his questions are for the purpose of adding supporting data to your file - so that the next officer can get the context when you re-apply. In the event that he has decided to issue the visa he questions you in the random hope of finding something odd in ur answers to warrant a review (see #5, #6).
  2. GRE score seems to be vital in the decision making process
  3. Academic scores, arrears were also extremely vital. I listened in on atleast 50-60 interviews last year. They ranged from comical to heart breaking. Almost every MS visa applicant was asked if he had any arrears(FAIL grade in undergrad subjects). The question is merely academic because the officer has seen the transcripts before asking the question.
  4. Funding in the form of TA/RA virtually gurantees a visa. Unless you screw up on the next point.
  5. I saw a person getting dinged because he did not answer "why this college/ Why MS? " very well. I saw this question being asked to almost everybody. The answer should be fairly easy provided you spend 3-4 hours on the university's webpage and develop a story that is consistent with your background. However if you are a student like #6
  6. There was complete silence in the waiting area when one particular student was interviewed. He was from Andhra and seemed to have prepared well. A little over-prepared for his own good. When the officer started asking him questions, he stepped back a few steps and shouted the answers in military style. He was extremely loud and it looked like he was barking orders from a paper. His mugged-up answers were really funny. A giggle or two arose but it died when the consular officer said "I am sorry I cant issue you a visa sir".
  7. Finances: This is the least important part of the interview. But it does come into picture now and then. While parent's employment/salary was almost always asked, I did not see a single request for a bank statement.
  8. Having said #7, you have to do the leg work and beat your financial statements to shape. It is like "barriers to entry". You have to do it regardless of perceived importance.

MBA Visa

  1. I feel the decision is made based on vital statistics on your file and is made even before the consular person begins talking to you. In case he decides to reject you, his questions are for the purpose of adding supporting data to your file - so that the next officer can get the context when you re-apply. In the event that he has decided to issue the visa he questions you in the random hope of finding something odd in ur answers to warrant a review.
  2. Brand name of the college you go to is extremely important. From discussions with my class/batch, the consulate folks clearly knew what the top 10 colleges were. You are guranteed a visa if you go to a top 10 school. You are in fact guranteed a 'special' appointment if you are late in booking appointments. Outside the top-10 - colleges with reputed name are usually a shoo-in.
  3. GMAT scores, work experience, other US visas in your passport are helpful. Though not as deal-breaking as #2.
  4. The fee is abnormally high. There s no way a sane person will have so much in a current account. Most colleges put their guranteed loan as source of funding in the I20. Do not worry about explaining away the loan. Its is rarely asked.
  5. If you arent going to a reputed college and do not have funding then it is better to have answers for all sorts of questions. Here GMAT etc becomes important.

2 comments:

Suresh Ramani said...

No more "Counter visa" these days?? .. oh boy, I had to dig through my memory for a while to remember the term "Counter visa" ..

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Thanks for the tips, hawkeye! Mr. Military kind-a invited it, I think. But well, we never know!