Visa Interviews & The Potential Immigrant Saga | Babalola Adewole (Master B)
It is disappointing and painful how many good and innocent young individuals or applicants miss out on their opportunities for further studies in the United States at this very crucial stage – Visa Interviews. Most of them get turned down or refused on the premise of being a ‘potential immigrant’. So many leave the Embassy with tears, bitterness, while a few ones that are so religious begin to attach their failures or refusals to certain demonic influences or powers from their villages.
Mind you, I am not an authority in this area, neither am I a U.S. Consular or know all, so to say but as a passionate lover of research, I am gifted to read just about any topic, and explain difficult concepts in simple terms. I will be sharing with you from past researches, first-hand interviews with past successful and failed applicants and, further offering a few hints to handling the potential immigrant saga and to edging your visa interview.
1. Know what you are coming into. You must be familiar with this rule. I have read it more than 25 times before my interview, an applicant once said.
‘Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), stipulates that all applicants are presumed to be intending (or potential) immigrants unless they credibly *demonstrate*, to the consular officer’s satisfaction, that their *economic*, *family*, and *social* ties outside the United States are strong enough that they will depart at the end of their authorized stay and that *their intended activities in the United States will be consistent with the visa status*.
Please read it three more times before you proceed! It will form the basis of our discourse.
Times have changed. Gone are those days when your Form I-20 and Admission letter is sufficient proof to guarantee your Visa approval. Gone are those days, when having your family abroad is sufficient proof. There are stricter measures and more definite stipulations now. Mind you, what you need to prove, demonstrate or convince the Consulate differ from one Consular to the other, but they are all based on the above-stated rule ‘214B’
2. From online studies and findings, I observe that most Consular are trained Psychologists.
So, on this note, you have to be careful and yet carefree! Serious and yet not appear nervous. You have to be focused and yet be willing to keep a smiling face. You have to be respectful and yet be unwilling to be intimidated. You have to be simple and yet professionally and corporately dressed! You have to be confident when talking and yet not hasty to dominate the conversation! Visa interviews are not as serious as most people make them look. Yes, it may look complicated? It is not! You attain balance with consistent practice!
Let’s break it down.
Economic ties/ Social ties/ Family ties, outside the United States, are all interwoven
– This is where you will find meaning and relevance to the following questions.
(i) ‘What are you doing presently?’
The focus of this question is often missed by so many applicants. Applicants tend to assume it is related to how large or how much income is coming in. No 😟! That is incorrect! The focus of that question is to determine if what you are doing presently has any benefit or influence to your host community, such that you will want to return to it, expand it or continue it after the completion of your program.
If what you are doing presently cannot be related or said to attach you to your people, your neighborhood, or your environment, then even if you are earning 1 million nairas, it is of no relevance to the question.
(ii) How will you convince me you are not a potential immigrant? or You look like a potential immigrant?
This is a quite direct question, and it is an open cheque to convince the Consular in the shortest time possible. The focus of the question is to allow visa applicants to demonstrate economic ties, family ties, or social ties. Mind you, the response that will be satisfactory to Consular A might not sound convincing enough to Consular B.
– You must be able to prove that your research goals or the purpose of your studies have little or no benefit to the United States or has more benefit to your country than the U.S. It must be proven beyond doubt, that it is for the benefit of your Nation/Community, that you are willing to sacrifice 4-6 years of life to studying and proferring solutions to a problem of national interest.
– If you are the First Son or Daughter, you can demonstrate ties to your family inheritance, talk about the responsibility of coming back to take over your Parents’ companies or estates, etc.
– Emphasize what you have done, or you are doing that is of benefit to your people and you intend to continue or expand when you come back!
Caution: Don’t speak out of desperation, and don’t fidget.
(iii) Who is going to Sponsor your education?
This is one serious question that most applicants fail. Just think about it. Do you think the Consular does not have the answer to this question? Of course, He or She does! mAll information on your I-20 has been forwarded to them! Most times, a background check has been conducted already! So to what intent is this question? It is to establish that you have family ties or social ties to this so-called ‘Sponsor’ of yours!
– Who is He/She to you? How has this sponsor affected your education or chosen course? How has this sponsor-supported your education in time past? From your answer, the Consular will be able to know if it was an impromptu Sponsor arrangement details or it was a real relationship. Also, they are keen on applicants not becoming a Public charge in the U.S, so it is imperative to know where your sponsor is working and his financial capacity, because you will be asked!
(iv) What do you intend to do with your degree?
Amazingly, so many applicants can not satisfactorily answer this question. This is simply because they do not have any plan in mind. It is another way of nailing applicants! The Consular wants to know if you have the slightest plan of benefitting your Nation with the knowledge acquired after your years of study! What is expected of everything applicant is simple. Take my degree and come back to do amazing things that will benefit my Nation. – What those ‘amazing things’ mean differ from applicant to applicant. But the ‘amazing things’ must be ‘SMAC. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Community Oriented.
(v) What do you know about the country or city you are going to?
This is another relevant question, that throws most applicants off balance. Just be sincere with yourself, would it be wrong for the Consular to desire to know if you will be active in community development? Because if you are involved or interested in community development in your home country as you have demonstrated, then it should propel you to do a few findings on where you are going.
– Who is the Governor of the City?
– How many Universities do we have there?
– Do we have any influential or Nobel Laurette who were once alumni of the school?
(vi) Why did you choose this school?
If truly you are interested in the school and your motive is genuine, you should not have any problem answering this question. Your background check in this area must be thorough.
– Occasionally, saying it was the only school that offered you full funding might fly, but at times, with a more rigid Consular, it will not. Please, know that having a funding offer does not automatically qualify you for Visa approval. It is leverage though.
– A good answer will talk about the School’s ranking…
– Love for Diversity
– Staff to student ratio
– A good blend of theory, practice, collaboration, and application in their curriculum
– The employability rate of their graduates
– Researches they have pioneered in your areas
– Edge cutting facilities and equipment for thorough researches
– Distinct and notable professors cum researchers etc.
(vii) Why is there a gap in your career?
This is very salient. You should prepare for this if you have a long career break or a long gap (in years) in between your last degree and your intended degree. You need to explain what you have been doing in between the gaps, and why you did not opt for the intended degree in your Home country. This is very important.
There are lots more to say, and so many resources out there that could be of help. Nevertheless, if you avail yourself of the information in this article, it will go a long way in helping you have a successful Visa interview.
Babalola Adewole Emmanuel is an Advocate for Technology Enhanced Active Learning and the Integration of Indigenous Languages in the Teaching and Learning of Sciences
He writes from Ede and can be reached via his official webpage.