Important Tips to Consider When Applying for a New Visa

Upon receipt of your I-20/DS-2019 pay the SEVIS at least one week prior to scheduling your visa appointment.

What is Section 214(b)? 
Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states: Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status. . .
Applicants for visas must meet the requirements of the INA. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the applicant a residence abroad that he/she has no intention of abandoning. The applicant must prove the existence of such residence and demonstrate that they have ties abroad compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant. The role of the consular officers is extremely difficult. They must decide in a short span of time if an applicant is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of the evidence presented by the applicant.

What are Ties to Home Country? 
In accordance with United States laws and practices, it is the responsibility of the consular officer to view the visa applicant as a potential immigrant and it is the responsibility of the applicant to prove that this is not the case. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have reasons to return to their home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the U.S. Home country “Ties” are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence. They include: employment, family, and finances (i.e. bank accounts, investments, property, etc.). Consular officers oftentimes will ask questions with regards to: future employment; family or other relationships; educational objectives and background; long-range goals; and career prospects in your home country. Each applicant is different. There is no ideal explanation or single document, certificate, or letter that will guarantee issuance of the visa. Important to note; the F-1 and J-1 visas are non-immigrant visas, and your ability to express your ties to your home country are of the immense importance.

What Signifies “Strong ties”? 
Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. “Ties” are the aspects of your life that define and bind you to your country of residence. They normally include family, employment, possessions, relationships and social status.

Each applicant situation is different. When reviewing applicants consular officers are aware of such diversity.  Applicants are interviewed individually with consideration of professional, social, and cultural factor. Younger applicants normally won’t process ties such as: financial and property. When this occurs consular officers may look for specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Applicants are examined individually and are afforded every consideration within the law.

The following information is based on guidance from the Association of International Educators (NAFSA). It’s intended to provide guidance in preparation for a visa interview. For additional guidance and advice, contact the International Student and Scholar Advisor at ISSS. Most visa requests are granted; nonetheless it is strongly recommended that applicants be as prepared as possible for the visa interview.

During the interview, the consulate officer is looking for evidence of your intent to enter the United States as a full time student or an exchange visitor; that you do not pose a security or safety risk to the United States; and that you intend to return to your home country once your program is complete. Be prepared to provide proof of your permanent home outside of the U.S. (to show that you are returning to your home country after your studies are completed). Be prepared to demonstrate your intent to be a serious student or J exchange visitor and that the degree or research you are seeking will benefit you when you return home.

Listen carefully and pay strict attention to the questions the consular official will ask you. If you are asked questions that you think are odd, you must answer those as well. The official is attempting to obtain information to determine your intent to remain in the U.S. after you have completed your program. If the official thinks you plan to stay in the U.S., he or she must refuse your visa request. Remember, the F and J visas are for people who intend to return to their home country. Tell the official when you are going to go home.

Be Prepared To:
  • Discuss your professional development goals and how you will use your degree/research when you return to your home country. Explain the importance of acquiring a degree and experience from a U.S university will influence your future in your home country.
  • Talk about how learning English more quickly and efficiently is helped by first-hand knowledge of the American culture and interaction with many native speakers and how these skills will impact your future career goals.
  • DO NOT say that you want to go to the U.S. just because your friends and family are there or because you like American movies or some other unimportant reason.

All Countries are Different 
Applicants from certain countries suffering from economic problems or where many individuals have remained in the U.S. after completing their program may encounter difficulties obtaining a visa. These applicants are normally asked questions with regards to employment opportunities in their home countries after completion of their study in the United States.

Interviews are conducted in English. It is strongly recommended that you practice English conversation with a native speaker prior to the interview. If you are coming to the U.S. solely to study English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

Speak for Yourself 
Be prepared to speak on your own behalf. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. Thus, you should only bring family members who are applying for dependent visas with you to the interview. If you are a minor (under 21 years) and need your parents in case there are questions, for example, about funding, they should wait in the waiting room, and be available if the consular officer wants to speak with them.

Know Your Program 
Be prepared to verbalize why you will pursue a particular program of study or research while in the U.S. Explain how you plan to use your experience in future endeavors when you return to your home country. This will help convince the consular officer of your intent to study or research, rather than to immigrate to the U.S.

Be Clear and Concise 
Do to the volume of applications consular officers are under significant pressure to conduct quick and efficient interviews. Decisions are made based upon the impressions they form during the first few minutes of the interview. Therefore, what is said first and the initial impression you make are critical to your success. Your responses should be brief and concise. Consular officials don’t have time to discuss applications and must make decisions quickly. Your being prepared will help the decision making process. 

Supplemental Documentation 
The visa interview is normally 2-3 minutes; consider this when preparing supplementary documentation. Supplementary documents should be well marked and easily identifiable. Following is a list of supplemental information received by the Consulate General of the U.S. Embassy. Not all documents apply to all applicants.

  • Invitation/Admission Letter: Letter of admission to St. Thomas University. Letter should include your supervisor or academic Advisor and details regarding any work and program of study.
  • Resume: A detailed resume/CV, including your professional and academic background, and a list of all your publications (short-term scholars only).
  • Academic Transcripts: Students only
  • Itinerary: An itinerary of all locations you will visit in the US, including contact names, organizations, addresses, and telephone numbers.
  • Equipment: A complete description of any equipment you plan to purchase or examine, including the equipment’s use and users.
  • Research: Detailed description of your current and past research, and any research you intend to conduct while in the U.S., including a description of the practical applications of your research or study.
  • Purpose: Detailed purpose statement of your visit to the U.S.
  • Funding: Name of funding source and documentation
  • Travelers: List of all travelers accompany you, including family members and colleagues
  • Position: Current job title and job description
  • Travel: Dates and locations of all international travel during past five-ten years, excluding travel to the U.S.

Individuals granted F-1 or J-1 visas are for the sole purpose of coming to the U.S. to study, teach or conduct research. Prior to the visa being granted the applicant had to have clearly and concisely articulated his or her plan to return to their home country upon completed of the program. A spouse may apply for an accompanying dependent visa (F-2) however the dependent is not eligible for employment while in the U.S. The J-2 dependent can apply for work authorization. However, they cannot apply under the auspices of financial need. Applicants with accompanying spouse must be prepared to discuss the intent of their spouse while in the U.S. Volunteering in bona fide volunteer positions are permitted.

Dependents Remaining in Home Country

If your spouse and children will remain in your home country, you may be asked to discuss how they will support themselves in your absence, particularly if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer deduces that your family will depend on you to support them monetarily while in the U.S. your visa application may be denied. If your family does decide to join you later, it is helpful to have them apply at the same consulate where you applied for your visa.

Be Positive 
Should the consular officer deny your visa request, ask for the reason in writing and ask for a list of documents he/she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal. 

Information received from, NAFSA would like to credit Gerald A. Wunsch, Esq., 1997, then a member of the Consular Issues Working Group, and a former U.S. Consular Officer in Mexico, Suriname, and the Netherlands; and Martha Wailes of Indiana University for their contributions to this document. NAFSA also appreciates the input of the U.S. Department of State.