USA Visa

The First 10 Seconds of Your U.S. Visa Interview – Narrated by a Consular Officer

Written by Jon Matzner – Former U.S. Diplomat and Consular Officer.

During my years as a US visa and consular officer – I was asked several questions over and over:

“Why are you typing so much”?

“Wow – how was that so fast and easy”?

“Can you please please please give me a visa”?

“What are you thinking about in the first ten seconds of the interview”?

In this brief post, I’ll outline my answer to the last question – primarily – what are you thinking about a consular officer is thinking about in the first ten seconds of the interview.

First, a quick disclaimer, I can only speak to my personal experience – this might not apply to every consular officer out there.

Let me set the scene to help you understand those first ten seconds.

I arrived at the Consulate/Embassy at 7:30am. I was on vacation last week, so I have a ton of paperwork to do. I quickly grab a cup of stale coffee, walk over to an unoccupied consular window, and open up my email. Jeez – dozens of emails have piled up overnight, people back in the US must have been very busy overnight.

The waiting room is already filling up with applicants, and right on time, I hit the call button for the first applicant of the day to approach the window.

My mind is still on my vacation last week, as the first applicant slides their passport and ticket under the window. I keep processing applicants like this all morning – with no real breaks other than to quickly use the restroom.

Occasionally, and if there is some complicated question I need to seek the advice of a colleague from, I’ll leave my window and try to find the answer.

So, this sets the scene for my answer to the first ten seconds question.

Let’s pretend your appointment is at 10:30am on a Tuesday.

If this is like any other day – I might have already seen several dozen up to a hundred applicants before you. You’ve been patiently waiting in the lobby are – looking at the screens to get ready for your interview.

Some people told me that had certain windows that they wanted to go to, versus others that they didn’t want to go to at all. While this might be a fun game to alleviate your boredom – I can attest that it makes no difference whatsoever.

Ok – your number is called, and you begin walking up to the appointed window. Between applicants, I’ve reopened and quickly scanned my email to see if there is anything urgent. As you approach the window, I’m likely reading my email and haven’t looked at you yet. When you arrive at my window, I now take the first look at you (the applicant), while asking for your passport and ticket.

Many people think this is a critical point in the interview – but my experience doesn’t suggest that.

I don’t really think about what you are wearing, the way you are standing, what time your appointment was, or anything other than that.

Because I have done so many of these, before I have even scanned your application – I begin to assess who you are and why you want to go to the US.

For example, if I saw a young-looking girl approach the window, with a dark colored passport, I’d automatically know that this was likely a student application on an Indian visa.

Conversely, if an older man came to the window, using a cane, I could likely assume before even reading the application that he was going to the US for medical treatment.After scanning in your passport, I begin looking at the forms you have submitted. This isn’t some complicated process. It’s just simply checking that you completed all of the paperwork required.

That pretty much sums up the first 10 seconds of the interview. We haven’t started speaking at all other than “Good morning, passport please”.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series.

Jon Matzner is former U.S. Diplomat and Consular Officer who served in U.S. Consulate in Dubai and processed over 10,000 U.S. Visa applications. He’s currently partner at, a firm specializing in EB5 Visa applications. 

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  1. I would like to get assistance/personal coaching in preparing for F1 visa after getting rejected three times. Looking forward for your response

  2. this is how my Visa interview went

    Me: Good Morning Madam

    Vo: smiled and asked why University of Houston- Clear lake?
    Me:among the universities I got admit from, this university offers the best courses in VLSI.

    Vo: What other Universities did you apply for?

    Me:University of Houston- Clear lake

    Texas State University

    Texas A&M, Kingsville

    Southern Illinois University

    Concordia University, Chicago

    Vo: What is your Undergrad %?
    Me: 67.43% mam
    Vo: How many backlogs did u have?
    Vo:Whats your GRE?
    Me: 299 Ma’am
    Vo: how are you going to fund?

    Me:I have a loan for 32 lcs and..

    Vo:Interruptded me and asked for loan documents

    Me:gave her loan documents and tried telling about savings and PF amount

    Vo: please wait.
    cross checked something in passport and loan document, typed something and said “Sorry I can’t give you visa this time”

    What are my chances in my next attempt?

  3. Please I need your advice sir/ma.
    I have an acceptance from Interlinks language centers and a conditional admission from St. Ambrose University, U.S.A, but have been given a turn back form at the U.S. consulate in Lagos once, and my Visa has been denied twice as well, probably maybe because have not travelled before or maybe because am not married, and please, how is this supposed to be a barrier since the school has accepted me and they said am qualified to come and study in U.S.A. I have just rescheduled another interview appointment, which will mark my fourth scheduled appointment, but my third interview.

    Please am now seeking for your help or hints on having my student Visa delivered into my hands this time around.
    Thank you so much.
    Your response in bailing me out will be highly appreciated sir/ma.

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