usa visa officerFollowing F1 Visa interview in US Embassy Accra is submitted by Cynthia Dokyi.  I think this is one of the interesting and unique F1 Visa interview experiences submitted here in Happy Schools Blog.

Instead of sharing the typical questions and answers asked during the interview, Cynthia expressed her views about the interview, her thought process and assumptions made by her and about the USA visa officer.

  • TOEFL/IELTS : Neither, SAT was accepted as proof of English proficiency
  • GRE/GMAT : Applying for undergraduate, not necessary
  • List of Universities Applied: Chatham University, Duquesne University, University of Massachusetts, San Jose State
  • Got Admits= Chatham, Duquesne
  • Visa Interview Detail : Date, Time and Embassy: 11 July 2013, 7:30 AM, US Embassy Accra
  • Scholarship : Chatham: 50% merit scholarship, plus additional 10% for a female leadership interview competition

The Embassy

I arrived at the US Embassy in Accra for my appointment at around 7:00 AM, and by 7:30 we were all inside. It was unsettling to see the way they were just lining people up and rejecting them left and right.

A man was even trying to avoid a particular Consular Officer, going to the bathroom quickly when his turn came up, and then trying to change his place in line by asking the person behind him. He was denied. Almost everyone in line was denied. Eventually it was my turn.

The Interview

After asking for my SEVIS receipt and my I-20, they asked me a series of predictable questions, including a question about why I chose my University, who was going to pay for it, and so on.

The interview was casual, the Consular Officer was even nice.

I smiled, greeted, looked straight into his eyes, and spoke clearly and confidently.

Then he calmly handed me a 214(b) form and asked me to place my finger on the biometric scanner. Rejected.

I don’t want to share the details of the questions I was asked per se, because it was nothing special and many other people on this blog have already shared their interview experiences. It was helpful to read Happy Schools Blog, but the way my interview was conducted, I felt that I was ill-prepared. I want to share the reason why, because I think it will be helpful to some as a slightly different opinion on this process…

Profile and Background

First off, I attempted to get a tourist visa to the US last December and was rejected after a 30-second interview where nothing of substance was asked at all — my name, my job, my monthly salary, DONE! Rejected.

All of that information is on the DS-160 already.

I’m convinced they have quotas and simply reject people arbitrarily until the 10th, 12th, or 20th person comes along. But all that aside, I had a record of being rejected for a non-immigrant visa when I applied for my student visa.

Please, does anyone know if you are simply damned forever if you have been rejected in the past? How badly do previous rejections affect you?

Assumptions – Interview Process

Moving on, I want to point out certain suspect questions the Consular Officer asked. Very casually, he asked my age.

Following the advice I read on this blog, I simply stated my age, 31. (I should have said hey my birthday is on the I-20, do the math, funny man!)

Then he asked my family situation, specifically where my parents were. I told him directly, my mother is very old and my father is dead. I had no reason to suspect these questions of having any underhanded intention, so I was just honest.

Then when he rejected me I questioned the Consular Officer, saying I don’t understand what you are looking for? I had all of my documents!

He said I was too old to begin my first degree at 31, and said that I had no family ties keeping me in Ghana because of what I had stated about my parents. But once he hands you the 214(b) form, you’re already done for! You don’t get a chance after that.

So I had no idea that I was digging my own grave, and that is a tactic that I want to warn people about.

USA Visa Officer : Assumptions and Views

The Consular Officers sometimes conduct the interviews very casually, making you feel comfortable and free to answer questions with short, honest, concise answers.

Meanwhile they are judging you negatively and drawing conclusions, as they say, “not found in evidence.”

Since when is being too old a reason to deny a student visa? Why should my parents’ relationship to me determine my chances of getting a student visa?

I think the way to approach the F-1 student visa is to answer the questions as they are asked of you, but don’t lose any opportunity to tell your story.

Say as much as you can, as often as you can!

Spin everything positively!

Add any and all information you have prepared that will help your case! I

was not even given the chance to say what I plan to do when I return to Ghana. I was not even given the chance to say how the degree I was pursuing would help me in my future career.

People should anticipate how the Consular Officer is going to use their answers against them, and try to preemptively address those concerns.

If they cut you off, fine. Move on. But don’t let them reject you like a sitting duck, all the while you are standing there thinking it’s going well.

These people are deceptive, and they WANT to reject you. They TRY to reject you.

Always remember: 

US Immigration law ALREADY ASSUMES you are a liar when you apply!

Every non-immigrant applicant is ASSUMED to be an “intending immigrant”, i.e. your non-immigrant application is a lie! So don’t think the Consular Officer is your friend.

They are not your friend. They are not trying to help you.

Be nice and smile, but don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes.

Tell your story, early and often!

All the same, I’d like to hear others’ feedback on this… My next interview is in a week. I’m going to change all of my answers, obviously. Anyone know if people have better chances going for interviews 2 or 3 times?

Thanks in advance!

//

Here is my comments to your experience

  • Your assumptions are incorrect
  • I’m not a visa officer, but answer to your questions proves, you will fall under potential immigrant

Lets see what others have to say about your interview.

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Comments

  1. I do second you, Pratik and Deepak too. It’s very important to be firstly competent and then give no choice to the VO to reject (to the max. probability). Moreover I too prefer doing BS from home country, then at the age of 33 or 34, this person can give GRE and TOEFL, select a good university. Of course hard work is indispensable, my dear!
    As a last point to add, there are 100s of universities in the lower 48 states and NOT ALL are good. There are different ranking systems prevalent. But the most important way to understand ranking is departmental (Subject-wise) ranking. For eg., my area is Genetics & Molecular Biology, which definitely differ that with the CS. And excuse me, the above names mentioned, I’ve never heard in any intellectual scenario. So, it’s not only important to go where funding is given, but also very important to end up in worthwhile places.

  2. If someone’s close relative (sister,brother)
    is in the usa.and if that person sponsors for the F1
    visa will it be rejected or it will be better not to disclose this fact
    please advise

  3. This visa rejection has something to do with her previous tourist visa application rejection. what was the address in that DS-160 application? also in Pittsburgh? so the VO thinks that since that application was rejected, applicant is going thru student visa route as these two universities are also in Pittsburgh.
    Is there any fiancee/husband in USA and that will complicate the issues?

  4. Hello,
    Instead of going to tom, dick and harry university with aid,I would recommend to going to good ones. Well, even a person who gets into #100th ranked university, calls it a good one. However, I would say get into top #40 . Again, for MS, there are umpteen seats unavailable.

    I’ve not come across a scenario where a person going to good school is rejected. Well, there are rare cases one gets probed for good universities too, but still its worth the trouble.

    Stop cribbing about VISA officers, work on your profile.
    * VO concern’s about your ability to fund & academic rigor is legit and shouldn’t be a surprise.
    Why wouldn’t you take TOEFL or other English tests when English isn’t your native language ? If your english component score of SAT is quite good, then it isnt’ a concern.Again, you didn’t mention your SAT scores.

    All the universities are fishy ones. Get into good ones.
    Unless, you change your profile, your VISA chances are slim! ATB!

    • You are wrong man!!! These universities are not bad. It is not important that you do MS only in top 40. Rankings dont matter that much. Let me tell you Duquesne university is a top university and chatham is from where Rachel Carson studied. also understand that these universities are Private Catholic universities and they provide lot of financial aid to students from African countries. dont just say tom dick and harry. This person must be having friends in Pittsburgh thats why applied there and it makes sense to apply there because of funding.

      • Munna,
        “Duquesne is a top university.” I was rolling on the floor. I guess you have very low standards for top university.

        Check the previous posts in HSB (and also in edulix), most of the rejects are all for lower ranked schools. This speaks volumes about the perception of VO. Top schools have better screening process, so they only admit students with decent scores,profiles and work experience. So VOs don’t bother about screening one more time. But lower ranked schools ( your notion of “top university” or my notion of tom , dick and harry schools) have very poor screening. they admit everybody (almost) and even dole out aid. Endowment of such schools will be nothing to write about. Endowment is an indicator about how much corporate sector is interested to spend on this school for R&D activities. So VO’s do lot of screening for students with admits from lower ranked schools.

        I’ve read about folks getting rejected during VISA interviews for UTA / Wichita State University etc.. during first time, however, their VISA will be approved if they get into better schools. Check HSB or edulix for the same.

        Regards
        Deepak

        • Well Duquesne University is ranked 120 in USA. Their MBA program is ranked higher.by the way you are aiming for Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley or what??? I am saying that duquesne is not bad. If university ranked 120 and UT arlington dallas are tom dick and harry for you, by the way, what was your undergraduate degree college???

  5. They dont want to reject you. They want students to come in and study since foreign students bring in huge revenue for the Universities and boost the local economy. Being a foreign national you ll always be considered a potential immigrant unless you prove it otherwise. Hence, the onus lies on you and not the VO.

  6. @Cynthia Dokyi, applying for BS at the age of 31???? what did u do after ur schooling?? how did u convince university selection panel about the gap of more than 12 yrs?? please can u provide ur academic profile?? i have seen graduates applying for MS in their late 30s…but never seen anybody applying for BS degree in theit 30s…if u must go to US why dont u complete BS in ur country and then go to US for MS?? it will give you more opportunities for job search as well!!

  7. on a funnier still realistic note: Americans barely have thing called “family ties!!” indians have suffocating family ties whether there is a single person left in relationship or a dozen!!

    lets assume 100% of all the ppl applied for US visa in the month of July were 100% genuine & had ties with india & all were intending to come back to India…still they wont issue visas to all of them! they simply cant! sanctioning visa is multi-layer process, personal interview is just one part of it. yes, american officials always see citizens from other countries form an angle of suspicion its not a hidden secret!

    My uncle who has his own IT company in India, his son who has travelled more than 20 countries since childhood, did BE in IT from best college in India, was denied visa for a well known university for his MS. he recently joined Univ. in London for MS. my uncle’s son has very tight family ties, he is supposed to take over the company in future so lets not say her assumption is “incorrect” ok? there surely is a policy to maintain accept-reject ratio if its not there, America will become the most populous country on earth in no time!

    • It funny you said the story about your uncle’s son not getting visa. I have observed something similar. When parents are rich and bank balance is several crores, visa is rejected.

      • @Raghu…He got visa rejected twice, he didnt apply 3rd time and straight went to London. he might have gone US on tourist visa more than a dozen of times. his sister got visa for her BS in Biotechnology though!!

      • Thats weird. I used to think that rich people visa is not rejected. I think that those people with lot of bank loans will stay there to repay the loan and their visa will be rejected.
        So why is rich people visa rejected? They think that he/she will open business there or transfer parents money to USA to save tax or what?

  8. Like you rightly said, the assumption on the mind of the Consular officers is that you won’t come back. Knowing this well ahead of applying for studies is critical. It should therefore help if the intending student prepares his/her responses/answers to counteract this as well as acquires a background that minimizes that assumption. Like I mentioned in my own interview of last week in Abuja, Nigeria; attending international conferences outside your country can help accomplish this. Ties that can prove the student will likely return also include Marital status, Quality of present Job, Children (in or out of wedlock) etc.

    Of course, there are times when an honest answer may be interpreted by the consular officer negatively (e.g the age issue), however, being able to read the nuance in your own responses and quickly clarifying or offering additional information can help you wriggle your way out of this trap. For instance, when asked about your age, you could have answered and added that while it may sound odd to the consular officer because of his different cultural backdrop where most Americans typically enter under grad school earlier, the educational system in Ghana is rather X,Y, Z. OR you could have added a specific incident that may have contributed to your delay while at the same time citing something in your life (e.g. an achievement of which you have proof) that establishes your capability of successfully undergoing the study

    • I guess the VO will suspect such an applicant as an intending permanent immigrant, Base on my experience I would suggest you should not disclose such information,and claim ur sponsorship is coming from your parent or a very close relation living in your home country, lost importantly make available strong prove of tie that you have in your country.and my Advice to Cynthia Doyki is before you apply again please never be in a rush, they require you to re apply after six months of your denied application if not you will end up wasting your money as they assume nothing has changed yet from your previous status.