Visa Interview Tips

To schedule your visa interview, you must complete the DS-160 form. Review website of the particular U.S. Embassy/Consulate where you will apply for a nonimmigrant visa.  Each Embassy/Consulate determines what documents are required at the interview, and has its own application submission method. Prepare the documentation that you must show when applying for a nonimmigrant visa, such as:

  • Passport valid for at least six months after your proposed start date in the U.S.
  • One photograph of 2×2” (50 mm square) taken within the last six months, showing full face, without head covering or eyeglasses, against a light background
  • Receipt for visa processing fee (these visa fees are paid by the employee/scholar, not the UW; for more information about what visa fees to expect, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website regarding Fees for Visa Services.)
  • One of the following (depending on your status)
    • J-1: Both pages of the DS-2019 Form signed by you and a UW-Madison official in the appropriate places
    • H-1B: your I-797A or B (this serves as evidence of your approved I-129)
  • For J-1s ONLY
    • Receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee
    • Proof of your binding ties to a residence in your home country which you have no intention of abandoning
  • For all other statues (E-3, TN, O-1) please email with any questions you may have

Depending on your field of study and/or your country of origin, you may be subject to a background check. A background check may result in a delay in obtaining your visa. If you are delayed beyond the start date of your employment and still intend to work for the UW, please email your hiring unit and IFSS.


Overview of Nonimmigrant Visa Processing

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.


  • You will be required to provide proof of your relationship to your spouse and/or children (for example, marriage certificates for the spouse and birth certificates for children)
    • English translations are required if those documents are not in English
  • It is preferred that families apply for the visas at the same time. If the spouse and children must apply separately later, they should bring a copy of the primary visa holder’s passport and visa stamp, along with all other required documents.


These are some of the most common questions consular officers ask:

  1. Why do you want to go to the US?
  2. What are your qualifications?
  3. What are you currently doing?
  4. At which university are you enrolled (or, have you graduated from?)?
  5. To which program are you applying?
  6. When did you apply for your program?
  7. How much was your placement fee?
  8. Who is going to pay for your expenses? How much do you/they make?
  9. Tell me about your housing.
  10. What will you be doing in the US?


  • Ties to your home country:
    • Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as potential immigrants until they can prove otherwise. This means that you must be able to show strong home country ties if you are a J-1, E-3, TN, or O-1 (H-1B status allows for dual intent, which means you don’t have to prove ties to your home country). “Ties” to your home country are things that connect you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence. Each person’s situation is unique, and there is no standard explanation, document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee a visa stamp. If you overstayed any authorized stay in the U.S. previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation if available.
  • English:
    • Remember that the interview will be done in English. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do not prepare speeches!
  • Speak for yourself:
    • Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. If you are not prepared to speak for yourself, this leaves a negative impression.
  • Be brief:
    • All consular officers are under time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must decide on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. This means that what you say first and the initial impression you create are important to your success. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point. You only have 2-3 minutes of interview time.
  • Additional documentation:
    • It should be immediately clear to the consular officer which documents you are presenting and what they mean. Long written explanations cannot be read or evaluated quickly.
  • Dependents remaining at home:
    • If your spouse and children are staying in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves when you are away. This can be tricky if you are the main financial support for your family. If your family chooses to join you in the U.S. later, it could be helpful to have them apply at the same consulate where you applied for your visa.
  • Stay positive:
    • Do not argue with the consular officer. If you are denied a U.S. visa, ask the officer for a list of documents they would suggest you bring to overcome the refusal. Also try to get the reason you were denied your visa stamp in writing.
  • If you are coming as a J-1 exchange visitor:
    • Employment:
      • The J-1 Program allows you to use different financial sources, including a salary from your J-1 Sponsor. However, your main purpose to come to the United States should be to participate in your J-1 Exchange Program.
    • Know the program and how it fits your career plans:
      • If you cannot explain why you will participate in a particular program in the U.S., you may not convince the consular officer that you are planning to return to your home country once you complete your program. You should be able to explain how this program relates to your future when you return home.