Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.
Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.

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How to Prepare for Your F-1 Student Visa Interview

You’ve been accepted to an American college or university. Congratulations! Now it is time to prepare for your student visa interview so you can study in the USA.

A smiling male international student in a red plaid shirt sits across from a female interviewer during a student visa interview.

Despite what you may have heard, there is no shortcut to passing your US visa interview as an international student applying for an F-1 student visa. A successful US visa interview requires preparation, just like with your US university application and the other parts of the visa application process. 

If studying in the United States is your goal, then preparing with these student visa interview tips will give you the best chances of securing your spot at your college or university in the USA. 

Remember, you’ve made it this far. Now, here’s what you need to know about the interview for your US F-1 visa. 

1. How do I schedule my student visa interview appointment?

By now, you have been accepted to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved US college or university, paid the necessary fees, and just need to complete the interview portion of your visa application. So, if you haven’t already, it is time to schedule your visa interview appointment. 

If you are a first-time visa applicant between the ages of 14 and 79, you must have your US visa interview in person. You can schedule your interview at the nearest US embassy or consulate. The US Department of State website has a tool with the visa interview schedule for each location to help you estimate how long it will take to get an appointment. Visa interview wait times will be different at each consulate or embassy, so be sure to schedule your interview as early as possible. 

2. What do I need to bring to my F-1 visa interview? 

The first step to passing your F-1 visa interview is to bring all the required material. Here is a list of the documents for US student visa interviews the Department of State says you will need:  

  • Your passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in the United States 

  • Your DS-160 confirmation page 

  • Your F-1 visa application payment receipt (Remember, you must pay before your interview and be able to show payment confirmation.) 

  • One copy of your visa photo (Make sure your visa photo meets the requirements.) 

  • Your I-20 from the college or university where you will be studying 

The following materials may also be required, so bring them just in case: 

  • Bank statements to prove how you will pay for your educational, living, and travel costs

  • Official school transcripts

  • Copies of any diplomas and degrees you have received

  • Test scores from your university application

3. How should I prepare for my student visa interview? 

Once you have scheduled your interview and have all your student visa requirements in order, it is time to start preparing. Your Shorelight enrollment counselor can help.

As with any interview, an important preparation step is to know is the types of questions you may get. In this case, which questions will your visa officer ask you, and why are they asking them? 

F-1 student visa interview questions fall into the following categories: 

  1. Your study plans in the United States

  2. Why you chose the university you plan to attend

  3. Your academic history and record of achievements 

  4. Your finances 

  5. Your post-graduation plans 

Your interviewer wants to know that you are:

Reach out to your Shorelight enrollment advisor when you have booked your visa interview date. We provide a free visa preparation session with a mock interview, so we can practice your answers together and make them clear and concise.” - Emily Bourke, enrollment services manager

On the day of your visa interview, be sure to look presentable. Wearing professional clothes and having a tidy appearance demonstrates respect for your interviewer and the interview process. 

4. What are the questions asked in an F-1 visa interview?

Here is a list of possible F-1 visa interview questions you could be asked: 

Your study plans in the United States

  • Why do you want to study in the US?

  • Why can’t you continue your education in your home country? 

  • What are you planning to study?

  • What type of degree do you want?

Why you chose the university you are planning to attend

  • Where is your school located? 

  • Why did you pick this school? 

  • How many different universities did you apply to?

Your academic history and record of achievements 

  • What are your test scores? 

  • How well can you speak English? 

  • Can you share your high school transcripts?

Your finances 

  • How are you planning to finance your education? 

  • Can you share the bank statements you used to complete your DS-160?

  • Do you plan on working while you are studying in the US?

Your post-graduation plans 

  • Do you plan to return to your home country after the completion of your studies?

  • Do you have family in the US? 

  • Do you have a job or career in mind post-graduation? 

Practice answering the possible interview questions honestly and, if possible, with a native English speaker. Remember, you can do this during your mock interview with your Shorelight enrollment services advisor.

Be ready to tell the visa officer why speaking English will be beneficial to you in your home country after you graduate. Make sure you know about the college or university and the program you are planning to attend: where the school is, why you are interested in it, and how it fits into your future career plans.  

When you show up for your visa interview, remember that you will be one of many students going through the same process. Your visa officer has a large number of applicants to interview each day, so be concise in your answers. Make sure you know about the program you are planning to attend, and keep in mind that you are applying to study in the US, not work. Any jobs or internships held before, during, or after you graduate are considered secondary to the pursuit of your education. 

5. How long does it take to get my visa after the interview?

Typically, your visa is ready to pick up 3-5 days after approval. Keep in mind that some visas require additional processing, which could take as long as two months. 

There are more than 1 million international students studying in the US, and most had to go through a visa interview, just like you. Stay calm, practice answering the questions in your own words, and make sure you have all the necessary materials in order and with you on your interview day.

Good luck!

Learn more about Shorelight’s international student services and how we can help you with the F-1 visa process >