A key step in getting a U.S. visa or green card if you are living in a foreign country is going to an interview at a U.S. consulate in your home country. You will receive a notice with the time and location of your interview. It may be located in a different city from where you live, in which case you should probably travel there in advance. If you are applying for an immigrant visa, you will need to undergo a medical exam at a clinic chosen by the U.S. consulate and provide the test results at your interview. This means that you should plan further ahead than if you are seeking a non-immigrant visa.
You should bring your spouse to the interview if they will be coming to the U.S. with you, as well as any children who are 14 or older if they will be coming. If you are bringing a child under 14 to the U.S., you often can just bring their passport and application documents. Different consulates use different rules, though, and you will want to check the rules of your consulate to find out whether a child of any age must come to the interview.
Before the Interview
You should be aware of scams and other crimes in the physical vicinity of a U.S. consulate. Criminals often try to exploit people who are seeking a visa because they know that they will be bringing substantial amounts of money with them. You should not trust someone who claims that you cannot enter the consulate without paying a fee. This is a scam. Instead, you should simply enter the consulate and present your forms and documents to the clerk. They will verify that you have brought all of the necessary materials. After this step, the consular officer will conduct the interview. You should not be disconcerted if you talk with the officer through bulletproof glass, which has become a common safety precaution.
Delays and lines are unfortunately widespread during this process. Your interview may not occur until well after your scheduled appointment time. Applicants for visas often are scheduled in groups, which means that everyone in the group arrives at the same time but is processed individually.
During the Interview
Often, the consular officer will ask questions to a foreign national that essentially duplicate the questions on their forms. You should make sure to review your forms and documents before the interview so that you can provide thorough answers. If you are not sure about an answer, you should just say so rather than guessing.
The general purpose of the interview is to make sure that you are telling the truth on your application and that you are actually eligible for the visa. If you are applying for a non-immigrant visa, the officer will try to verify that you will return to your home country rather than remaining in the U.S. They may ask whether you have a job or a home in your home country, and they may want to know where your family members live. Meanwhile, if you are getting a visa based on an engagement or marriage to a U.S. citizen, the officer will ask questions about the nature of your relationship to your fiancé. They may want to know how you met, how often you meet or correspond, and when you got engaged or married. If you have children with your fiancé or spouse, the officer probably will not ask many questions.
Sometimes an interview lasts for only a few questions if the officer sees no reason for suspicion. It often will end in less than half an hour.
After the Interview
If your visa is approved, you may need to return to the U.S. consulate to collect it, or the consulate may send it to you by courier. The physical form of the visa consists of a stamp in your passport, showing that you are a temporary visa holder, a permanent resident, or a conditional resident. An immigrant visa will come with an envelope containing documents. You should not open the envelope under any circumstances. The Customs and Border Protection officer who meets you when you enter the U.S. will open the envelope, which must remain sealed until then.
A consular officer usually does not deny a visa application at a consular interview when they find a problem. Instead, they may request additional materials if this will solve the problem. Or they may let you know that you are inadmissible but may be able to get a waiver of inadmissibility. You should ask the officer to make any follow-up requests in writing, including the basis for the request and a list of any documents that are needed.
Your visa probably will last for six months, which means that you need to go to the U.S. within that period. If you find that the date on your passport stamp allows less than six months, you may be able to get an extension of time. You should also make sure that your passport still will be valid when you travel to the U.S.