Immigration lawyers frequently discuss the topic of the consulate interview with their clients. Most foreign nationals who want to enter the United States will be required to attend an interview at the consulate abroad. This interview can be daunting considering the fact that many people who wish to enter the United States are currently separated from family members and desperately want to reunite. Others who seek visas for business or pleasure oftentimes have spent substantial sums of money on non refundable investments, travel, planned activities and accommodations. The thought of losing a substantial amount of money or being separated from loved ones in the event of a visa denial can create anxiety and lead to sleepless nights. The visa seeker who knows what to expect during the process and is aware of the factors that the interviewer will examine will be able to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with this important meeting and put themselves in a position that increases their odds of success.
Which Visas Require a Consulate Interview?
The first question to consider when considering travelling to the United States is: “do I need a visa that requires an interview.” Unless you are a citizen of a visa waiver country, you will typically need to go through consular processing and an interview before your visa will be issued. This will be the case even if USCIS has approved your petition. For example, K-Visa applicants with an approved I-129 still have to go through the consular process as do green card applicants who are living abroad and have an approved I-130 or I-140. The consular process involves submitting forms such as the DS-160 along with supporting documentation to the National Visa Center(NVC). Once the NVC receives all of the required documents and the fees have been paid, they will schedule the all important interview.
Is the Interview with the Consular Difficult?
The consulate interview process can be relatively easy and routine for certain visas. For others, the process can be difficult as the officer will probe into certain issues with a critical eye, looking for reasons to deny the visa request. For example, K-1 Visas and Marriage Based Immigrant Visa Applications often receive heightened scrutiny in an effort to ensure that the relationships on which the visas are based are bona fide and legitimate. Some employment based visas on the other hand are granted with relative ease without much questioning.
What are Consular Officers Trying to Do During the Consulate Interview?
Immigration lawyers are fully aware of the large caseload that officers have to manage. Because of the overwhelming caseload, the officers usually have a number of interviews that they are conducting each day and generally have a very short period of time to decide the main issues. The main questions that the consular officer is trying to answer in a matter of minutes are: 1) Why is the applicant trying to enter the United States? 2) Is the Visa appropriate for the intended purpose? 3) Have the visa requirements been met? 4) Is the person inadmissible for any reason?
How do the Consular Officers Decide the Purpose of Travel?
In order to examine the purpose of travel, the officer will look at the information that was submitted on the form DS-160 that is submitted during the early stage of consular processing. They will then question the applicant regarding the travel plans and decide based on the answers and the information if the travel is permissible under the visa category for which they are applying.
How do the Consular Officers decide if the Visa Requirements have been met?
Whenever you are considering a certain visa, speaking with an immigration lawyer can be invaluable. Consulting with an immigration lawyer can lessen your anxiety if you are advised that you are eligible for a particular visa and informed as to the evidence that will be necessary to succeed. However, your immigration lawyer will not ultimately decide if the visa will be issued.
The consular officer will decide if the requirements for the visa have been met by examining the required forms and asking questions of the applicant.
In the employment based context, the officer will examine the DS 2019 for J-Visas; for H-1B Visas and L-1 Visas, they will examine the I-129 and the I-797(The I-129 is the application form for filing the H-1B and the L-1 Visa while the I-797 is the receipt notice or approval notice for a H-1B and the L-1 petition). Oftentimes the consular officer will also look to the applicant’s professional credentials in determining if the requirements for an employment based visa have been met(ie. The H-1B and L-1). For example, they will look at an L-1 Visa applicant’s background to determine if they have the requisite specialized knowledge that is required for the L-1B Visa; they will look at managerial or executive experience to determine if the L-1 Visa applicant qualifies for an L-1A Visa; and they will examine an H-1B Visa Applicant’s credentials to determine if they possess the requisite degree or equivalent work experience to qualify for an H-1B Visa.
For E-2 Visas Based on an Investment, the consular officer will ask the applicant about the business that they are operating in the United States to determine if the E-2 requirements have been met. Even though the applicant will submit documentation before the interview in an attempt to show that the required investment as been made, the information is oftentimes not reviewed until the interview which creates a terrifying, pressure packed interview at the consulate for the E-2 Visa seeker. Entrepreneurs coming to the United States on an E-2 Visa to run a business oftentimes make plans for their new life in a new country. These plans include quitting jobs, selling property and making a huge investment in the new business. With so much riding on the interview, the E-2 visa seeker should be prepared to give a summary of the business plan, the investment that has been made and be prepared to answer questions about all other aspects of the business.
For K-1 Visas and Marriage Based Immigrant Visas the interviewer will ask questions that are determine if the relationship is legitimate. The applicant will be asked about the details of how they met their partner as well as their partner’s occupation and family.
How Do Consuls Determine Admissibility?
There are a number of factors that can make a person inadmissible to the United States. During the interview process the consular officer will look into material misrepresentations, immigration violations and certain criminal convictions to determine if they make the applicant inadmissible to the United States.
How Do the Consular Officers Decide the Issue of Immigrant Intent?
In many cases the consular officer will look into the issue of immigrant intent. For many non immigrant visa seekers including those seeking the E-2 Visa, the B-1/2 Visa and the F-1 Visa, the applicant has to demonstrate that they plan on ultimately returning to their home country. In these cases failing to demonstrate non immigrant will result in a denial of the visa. To decide the issue of immigrant intent the officer will ask questions about ties to the home country such as family members and property that indicate the intention to return.
How to Prepare for the Interview?
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” That rings true in the context of a consular interview. If you are preparing for an interview with a consular officer, you should:
Anticipate the types of questions that the officer will ask
Understand what they are trying to decide
Conduct a mock interview with an immigration lawyer