How to Apply for a Visa
When you receive an I-20 for an F-1 student visa or a DS-2019 for a J-1 exchange visa, you must take these forms to a U.S. Consulate to obtain the actual visa. Whether or not you receive the visa depends on a number of factors, including your financial resources, academic record, and the purpose of your program. In many cases however the most important factor is the consular official's determination of your likelihood to return to your home country after you complete your academic program in the United States.
It is very important for you to understand this issue in order not to harm your chances of obtaining a visa. Based on information received from various consular officers, CSU San Marcos offers the following recommendations for you to keep in mind when you are preparing for your visa interview.
- Answer every question truthfully, even if you think an honest answer may jeopardize your chances of obtaining a visa. Any indication that you are not being truthful will result in a visa denial.
- Listen carefully to what the consular officer asks you and then answer the question directly. Do not respond with a prepared speech. If you do not understand the question, ask the consular officer to repeat or explain it.
- Remember that F and J visas are nonimmigrant visas. However, United States law assumes that anyone who enters the U.S. on one of these visas intends to emigrate to the United States permanently. The law requires you, the applicant, to provide evidence that you plan to return home after you complete your academic program. There is no way to conclusively prove that you will return, but the consular officer is looking for indications that you are likely to return. Although they know that many people on F and J visas eventually do emigrate to the United States, they are looking for your "current intent" and not what might happen in the distant future.
- The best evidence of intent to return is demonstrating strong ties to your country. This could include family you leave behind, a job that you plan to return to after completing your academic program, a business of your own, or property or other assets at home. If you had a brother or sister who came before you as a student and returned to your home country, this can be used as evidence of your likelihood to return.
- Factors that might work against you in the mind of the consular officer include an offer from someone in the U.S. to financially support you, poor English language ability or a poor academic record (which can suggest that you are not a serious student), lack of family ties in your home country, and poor job prospects in your home country you’re your return.
- Two factors that are not in your direct control are the level of economic development of your home country and your personal economic status. Although it may seem like discrimination against poorer people, the reality is that people from less developed countries and/or with poorer economic prospects are more likely to want to stay in the United States. This can make it more difficult for someone in poor economic circumstances to obtain an F or J visa. All you can do is present the strongest case possible, emphasizing those factors that will convince the consular officer of your intent to return back home after you have completed your studies.
- Remember, you will only have 1-2 minutes to convince the consular official that you deserve to receive your visa. While you should not have a prepared speech, you should anticipate the questions that are likely to be asked and know what you plan to say in response to those questions.
If you are denied a visa, you will be informed of the reason for the denial and be given the opportunity to try again if you can provide additional evidence to support your case. Before you reapply, be sure you understand the grounds for your denial so that you can make your appeal as effective as possible. Please inform the Office of Global Education at firstname.lastname@example.org if your visa application is denied.