Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How to USA Visa and My Visa Experience

I have been thinking to write about my visa experience for so long, but it just didn't happen. Well this writing is my experience and also at the same time giving suggestions on how to prepare for the USA visa interview. Good thing is there are many well-written guideline on how to prepare for the visa interview, but the bad thing is there are too many!! So, I am just writing it for my friends, who could check this as some starting guideline, but please don't think this as the only guideline!! What I am writing here is based on Seminar on Visa Interview at American Center by Visa Officer (In fact, luckily that Visa Officer took my original interview!! Lucky me :P) and from resources on the web and also based on my personal experience and understanding..

What do they look for and WHY?
Let me start by writing what a Visa Officer look for in a candidate. Only three things! i. Are you a bona-fide student; ii. Do you have enough money to support your education; and iii. What ties do you have in your home country. For any interview you should try to understand what they are looking for and why. According to US Embassy, every person trying to get a visa to USA is a intended immigrant. So you should be able to prove that you are not! How? By showing that you have strong ties here in your home country. In general, they think that you might not continue your study after going there and might go for some odd jobs or some other jobs.. So you should be able to prove that you are a bona-fide student and you are going only for study, not using this student visa as a purpose of going to US. And finally you should be able to show that you have enough money to support your education (at least 1st year). This is to prove that you don't need to think for the earning money to support your education and they also count if you have to support your family, in that case it is a question to them - how will you continue the education by supporting your family or may be supporting yourself! So, they begin to think that you might not continue your course and you might switch to doing some other work there and might stay there! So, the visa get rejected.. This is basically the rough idea of visa interview. You need to prepare your documents in such a way, so that you can prove these three points and show the Visa Officer that you are going only for study (bona-fide student) and you will not doing anything else (as you have enough money to support your education) and after the education you will come back to your country (because you have ties with your country). Now let me elaborate each points and let you know what documents you should take with you to prove these and also for a successful visa interview.

How to START?
First of all, you need to fillup the visa forms, which is available in the Simon Center and soft copy is available in the web. Search for forms in the web. I am writing this in 2007, so if you reading it after so many years, then you should double check if the forms remains same or not! I strongly recommend you to fill up the forms in computer. First form, DS 156 is fillable in the web <> and after fillup it will generate a pdf with barcode. From the web find DS 157 and DS 158 forms and another form required for Bangladesh.

In this paragraph I will write how to start preparing things. This is actually my suggested way and helped me to sort out things easily, nothing compulsory but you may try it! Two things: i. check list, ii. credentials of yourself (writing about your credentials). Checklist will help you to sort out everything and writing your credential will help you to prepare yourself for your own interview. Don't forget that it is not only about taking few documents, they will ask you some questions and it will be better for you if you can give specific answers. So in the credential, you put:
i. Credentials as a Student (to prove you are a bona-fide student): This will have all your academic records, your test scores (gre, toefl), admissions you got in different universities (better if you have multiple admissions, it will support the point that your admission was not random!), why you have selected particular university (very common question), general ranking of your university, your department ranking of that university, who are working in your research area, which groups are there, etc, etc.
ii. Financial support (to prove that you have enough support to continue your education): Show all the available supports. My PhD was full-funded, which is very usual for PhD students, so it isn't a problem for PhD students. But I also attached my parent's financial documents to show that I could get emergency supports, whenever I need it.
iii. Ties with home country:
a. Family Ties: Where do your other members of the family live. In fact you will write about it in the application form.
b. Professional Ties: Show you have professional ties in your home country. Job offer from your country really helps. In fact, if possible you must take job offer letters to your visa interview. I think my visa officer decided to give me the visa without hesitation when she saw my job offers at BRAC University. Also show how your education will help you to get a job here in home country and also how it will help people in your country. I mean, how your education will benefit your home country. I was lucky that my research lab (Center for Research on Bangla Language Processing, CRBLP, BRAC University, Bangladesh) is doing some good work on language processing and getting media attention in these days, so I also took papers and magazines that published news about us. If you have some papers and magazines that published your or your group's work, then you should bring those too. Just to support your claim that you are having a good professional career here.
c. Social Ties: If you are member of any sort of association, e.g. alumni association, or anything, you should write it down too.
d. Financial Ties: It is always better to bring your family's financial documents. You may be thinking that you got the full tuition scholarship with monthly stipend, then why should you bring those documents. Well, you could get the visa very easily with full funding and in my case, the visa officer didn't even checked my parent's financial documents, but I still suggest to bring these documents with you. Let me explain why. Two years back I wanted to go to Canada to present a paper in a conference. My trip was fully funded, my university gave my ticket and registration fees, I will stay in my relative's place, another company also gave me $500 for my other expenses. So, I thought why should I get my parent's financial documents! Well, my visa got rejected in the first time. I was quiet surprised then, but later I thought and got the reasoning behind it. Just completing my undergraduate study from BRAC University, two days before visa interview I joined a new job. My job is 2 days old, so it is natural that I don't have much professional ties, I completed my graduation - so easy to go to any place, I didn't show anything in my country to prove my ties to country, Why should they issue me the visa? It is natural for them to think that I will stay there. So the next time I showed my parent's financial documents, got a letter from university, and they issued me the visa then.. Since then I always suggest to bring these documents, no matter what and believe me, you should. And there's no harm in taking these documents, but it might help you to get the visa, so why not!
So, this is how you write your own credential for visa interview. Point is, you know everything about yourself and everything is written in a piece of paper (i mean the word document, in my case it was google doc :P). But definitely it is not compulsory, this is my suggested way of doing things..

Next comes the check list. It is better to categorize things and sort it accordingly. It will help you to find things when Visa Officer asks for anything. What I did was, I categorize into few categories and put each categories in separate files. I am pasting my check list file here, so that you can understand what I am saying. I have deleted few things that are too specific for me, but I kept all the points.

Primary documents
  • Appointment notice along with receipt of fees paid
  • I-901 form indicating SEVIS fee paid
  • Passport in original
  • I-20 SEVIS approved form
  • DS 156, DS 157 and DS 158 visa forms
  • Credentials (I also kept a printout of that credential)

Academic Documents
  • Letter of admission from University of Rochester
  • GRE and TOEFL scores
  • Undergraduate Certificate, Transcript, Gold Medal Certificate, Degree Completion with Highest CGPA Certificate, Full Scholarship Certification
  • HSC and SSC Mark Sheet and Certificates
  • Other Acceptance letters

Financial Documents
  • Affidavit of financial support, showing all the assets of my parents
  • Bank Statement of Naushad UzZaman

Professional History and Job Offer documents
  • Letter from your employer or prospective employer who want to offer you a job on your return

Other Documents
  • CV
  • SOP for University of Rochester
  • Summary of Research Projects
  • All Papers at International Conferences
  • Correspondence with University of Rochester
  • Correspondence with U of R students before applying, inquiring about the department (Subject: From a PhD Applicant)
  • Email from U or R CS for Telephone Interview (Subject: Telephone Interview)
  • U of R CS's Email Accepting my Application (Subject: URCS Application)
  • Email to U of R Accepting my Offer (Subject: Acceptance of PhD offer)
  • Housing documents from U of R
  • Documents from International Services Office (ISO) of U of R
  • All Other Certificates
  • About BRAC University
  • About University of Rochester
  • Papers and Magazines that published about my research lab and me

  • -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    So you know what to prepare and what documents to take, now comes the visa questions. I actually don't remember where I found common questions, but there are a lot in the web. So just google for "usa student visa interview" (without quote), and you will find good suggestions and sample interview questions as well. These will be very useful.
    You should at least prepare for these question:
    By preparing your credential, you will have all your answers ready at this point!

    Visa Interview
    Now the original interview. /*Last interview I remember was my interview (viva) of my Cadet College admission. I actually wore a light blue shirt in the interview then (12 years before for Cadet College interview :P) and this time without noticing I wore a light blue shirt. And when I was going to the embassy and had some random thinking, I noticed that I wore a black pant and I also did the same 12 years before :D I was smiling myself thinking about these and then recalled one funny cadet college interview incident, "oi dekh boiddutik ghonta" haha :) I was just laughing thinking about that before my visa interview :) Whatever, lets go back to the point, if you are not my college friend, you are not supposed to understand this joke.. And you don't actually need to understand it to get the visa :P*/
    To begin with, be well dressed and definitely be well prepared for an interview. What I always do just before visa interview is, talk to other people who came for visa in the embassy. It will make you more comfortable, you will be used to with the environment and your confidence will go up. One suggestion you will get to know from everywhere: SMILE. Keep smiling in your visa interview. I was actually lucky that I attended a visa seminar few days back, and the women who gave the seminar, took my interview. So, I got someone, whom I saw before. It really helped me to have a natural smile :) I was really very tension free, just seeing someone I know (I actually saw her once before, but still..)

    My visa went very smoothly, but had a little problem. At first she asked me for my original I-20, then asked for my test scores and official transcripts. After checking these, she asked what I do on Bangla Language Processing, I gave her some example of my work. Then she asked me if my job is permanent or not. I told her that it is contractual, but I have job offers. Telling that I gave her the job offer letters. She read that and then she was searching something in the computer. After that she asked me what is my date of birth. I was actually surprised to hear this question, because everywhere I used the same date of birth, which is my original one. 6 years back, our full family tried for a visiting visa at US, where my parents got the visa but we two brothers didn't. That was not the problem, problem was there was a mistake in date of birth of that passport. I changed that passport because my permanent address changed, but I mentioned about this visa refusal in my application. I was like, I really don't know why there is a mistake. Then she asked if I have the passport with me or not. I got every single documents, but I missed that old passport. Fact is, there was a correction in my old passport and it was later corrected with the original date, so if I had it with me then it wouldn't be much problem. Then asked me then why I changed the passport, I told her that my permanent address changed. Then she was asking how old are you 6 years before, I was like 18! She asked, at 18 you didn't know about your passport? Then I told her that I really didn't need to know about it, my father handled everything. We visited places with full-family and my father always took care of our passports. First time I went abroad alone was in India at 2004, after that I went to many other places alone (told her which countries). Then she asked me why I went to Canada? I was like, aah, finally some favorable question :) I then told her that I went for a conference. She then asked what type of conference and few more details about my work as well. After that she was typing and typing, I was getting nervous (for the first time in the interview), not knowing if she is giving me the visa or not! After that she told me that she is issuing me the visa and told me to pick it up after two days! My normal smile became bigger happy smile :) Then I requested for one minute to take all documents in the file, then I told her that I attended her seminar on visa interview. I was rather surprised with her reply, "Yea, I recognized you!"

    So, thats how my visa interview went and this is all I have to suggest you for a visa interview. From what I have understood that now it is no longer as tough as it was. But you should be well prepared but it is not so easy.. You have to work to get it! Best wishes to you, hopefully you will get yours too.

    Good luck!


    sajid said...

    i was googling with "bangladesh usa visa exprience" and found you :D...great to see u getting phd admission in such a great university. congratulations. best of luck.
    41st batch.

    jobs in usa said...

    thanks alot

    Naushad UzZaman said...

    Here are answer to few questions I was asked in email by Tanzir Mubassir. Answers might help others..

    -> When is the best time for submit a request for visa (interview)?

    I don't remember what I wrote. But its sooner the better. They asked you to keep 3 months in hand. So, as long as you have every documents, don't wait.

    --> You wrote “Credential” on your checklist. Bhaiya, what it is actually? As you wrote “I also kept a printout of that credential”, I’m confused. What types of info did you write on your credential? Is that a simple document having some paragraph talking about you?

    Hmm! I should have explained about this more. I don't remember where I found this word, but I used in different places, mostly when I applied for visas. Definition of credential is: "That which entitles one to confidence, credit, or authority." Example will make it clear to understand what I meant. In my Credential I had these sections, Credential as a Student (summary of my academic recod), Financial Support (university support and in case of emergency my father can help, so financial docs of my father), Family Ties (where my family members are), Professional Ties (job offer from university and what i can do with my phd in Bangladesh), Social Ties (association with different clubs and committees), Economic Ties (financial condition of my family in Bangladesh).

    --> Financial Statement: Bhaiya, my PhD offer is full funded. You mentioned that its better to provide financial statement for safety even if you have full funded offer. So, as like you, I also want to provide those documents. But Bhaiya, what are those documents?
    * Bank Statement of Mine
    * Bank Statement of my parents
    * Tax assessment of my parents
    * Business Trade License

    Bhaiya, do we have to provide the above documents in English Language? I think some of them (trade license, etc) are written in Bengali, then?

    US embassy has people who can read Bangla. They can verify your Bangla documents. Don't worry. In best case, they won't see anything. In my case, they didn't see anything.

    --> Professional History & Job Offer documents: Bhaiya, as I’m currently working, that’s why I don’t have any other offer letter right at this moment. Then, what else should I have to provide? Salary Certificate and a letter telling about my current position and employee type (full time) should be enough??

    That's fine. You can ask your employer to give a letter stating they will be happy to offer you a job when you come back, or thats not very necessary. Just extra things..

    --> Correspondence with my University: Bhaiya, some of those mails has been sent by email, that’s why I don’t have any hard copy. In that case, what should I do? Just print-out those documents and show them?

    Yea, I meant print out of the emails.

    Pradeep Singh said...

    Great Information.Learning from others experience, i think is the real learning and original and well written post like this is really awesome.
    I am applying from Nepal and lot of things have changed since you wrote this post but this information is really helpful.
    A post to go through.

    Tyna said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    sami said...

    Dear naushad,

    Your post is a very useful article, I did my masters degree in United states and was working there for couple of years. And returned back since i lost my job, Now i admitted to a university for PhD but no funding. What are the chances for me to get Visa.

    Anonymous said...


    I like this post very much. It help me to solve some my work under my director’s requirements.

    Apart from that, below article also is the same meaning

    Experience letter

    Tks again and nice keep posting

    mensajes movistar said...

    Thanks for the info.

    Naushad UzZaman said...

    Dear Sami, forgot to reply to your message. I hope you already got your visa by now. I hear about many people getting admission without funding at first and getting the visa. I don't think it would be a problem. Good luck.