If you´re planning on traveling to the United States of America and your country isn´t part of the Visa Waiver Program, then you need a visa to get into the country. There are some steps you need to follow for applying adequately; the first step is to complete the DS-160 form, which asks for your personal data, plus other specific questions. The other important step of the process is the interview at the embassy or consulate. With this post, the goal is to provide some basic rules and to give you a better idea of what type of questions you can expect. We will also mention some things you better avoid and how to solve any inconvenient that may come up.
- Show up at the interview at the established time
With the exception of very rare cases, every person between 14 and 79 years old must personally go to the interview at the embassy or consulate, if it´s the first time the person is requesting a visa. Get there 15 to 30 minutes before the exact time.
In the case of visa renewals, it´s highly likely that the interview is unnecessary. There are some exceptions to that rule nonetheless. For example, if the person has just turned 80 years old, but has been previously arrested in the United States or deported, then that person must attend the interview. In the case of children, you need to consult with your nearest embassy or consulate that issues visas, since the norms about age can vary. In many cases, six years old are compelled to attend the interview, but that age can vary. If the child must attend the interview he must go with both his parents, unless only one of them has legal custody over the minor, in cases of widows or judicial orders. If one of the parents cannot attend the interview then he or she must give the parent that is attending a letter that states that he or she agrees that the infant obtains a visa. Reasons for one of the parents not to attend the interview could be if the person is living in another country, in jail, etc.
- Follow the rules regarding taking companions to the interview
The general rule for everyone applying for a visa to the US is they must go by themselves to the consulate or embassy. This means they cannot go with relatives, friends or lawyers. This rule has it´s exceptions, for example, children must go with both their parents or with their legal guardian. Handicapped individuals may go with an assistant, but they must notify the embassy or consulate about this beforehand.
- Be compliant with the security regulations at the embassy or consulate
You have to go through a security procedure that´s very similar to the one you go through at airports. For security reasons, every person that accesses a US diplomatic building must go through a metal detector. You cannot bring mobile phones or any other electronic devices such as tablets, digital cameras or any kind of remote control. You obviously cannot carry any sort of weapons, including sharp objects such as knives. Don´t take any bags or boxes.
- Have all the required documentation with you
You must attend the interview with a valid passport, the appointment confirmation sheet, and the visa fee receipt. In the case of children, you must verify if the birth certificate is a requirement. Regarding your passport, some embassies require that it´s valid for at least six months after the travel date, but that can vary, depending on the embassy or consulate. If you have already had a passport with a US visa, then you should take it. If that passport was lost or stolen, then you must provide the official report. In case you were arrested in the United States or deported from the United States, bring all the documentation regarding your current situation. We recommend you neatly gather all documents in a folder, never in a sealed envelope.
- Answer every question at the interview
The whole interview procedure can take up to 2 or 3 hours, but the actual interview with the consular or embassy official can take 5 minutes tops. Expect questions related to the type of visa you are requesting. If you´re requesting a tourist visa they will probably ask you which places you are traveling to, how you will be paying, if you´re visiting relatives, etc. We recommend you only provide additional documentation if the consular or embassy official asks. The official is not required to accept those additional documents and he or she will only request them unless he or she thinks it´s necessary for taking a decision.
- Don´t even think about lying
It´s important that you always answer with the truth since using fake documents or lying for obtaining a visa is considered fraud. Your visa could be instantly denied and you could be banned from entering the US for life. In some cases, legal action is taken.
- Always behave accordingly
Never yell, insult or make nasty remarks, even if you consider that the consular or embassy staff is being too strict or rude. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is that any comment or incident can be registered in the applicant's file, making it more difficult to get a visa in the future.
- Dress appropriately
Remember that first impressions do count. You don´t need to dress as if you were attending a wedding, but it´s important that your image corroborates that you have the necessary means to pay for your trip to the USA.