What to Expect at an Embassy Visa Interview
Visa applicants are advised to arrive at the embassy no more than 15 minutes before the scheduled interview; however the queue will start to form outside the embassy gates about an hour before hand. Most embassies have a kiosk at the embassy gates where you will be asked your name and appointment time. The guards have a list of those attending their interviews that day. You are not permitted to bring cell phones or bags into the embassy building and will be asked to leave these in the kiosk while you go into the actual embassy.
Once inside, you will be directed to take a seat or a number. Embassy appointment offices look similar to (run-down) banks with (unhappy) bank-tellers. There will be a number of officers working at different windows. When your number or name is called you will speak to an officer, hand in your documents and make any necessary payments. The officer will check to make sure that you have the right kind of passport photos, a copy of your approval notice, completed application forms, a mailing or courier envelope etc. A list of the items you need can be found on the US embassy website for your country. As exchange rates change daily, it’s a good idea to bring extra money into the embassy in case the fees have gone up slightly. Embassy staff do not always have change available so bring small denominations or you may end up overpaying significantly. This officer will also take your fingerprints and photograph. You should expect to spend less than 5 minutes at the first window.
Once you hand in your documents and pay, you will be told to sit and wait while your visa application and passport are reviewed. Interviews take place in public so you will be able to watch and listen to other interviews while you wait. This will either help calm your nerves or terrify you depending on your disposition and the immigration history of those being interviewed. You will eventually be called to a second window to be interviewed. Officers generally do not make eye contact, smile or make small talk. A typical visa applicant can expect to be asked about their immigration history and what they intend to do in the United States. The Officer is trying to determine whether or not you have previously breached your immigration status; whether you’re eligible for the visa that you are applying for and whether or not it is your intention to comply with the terms of that visa. This generally takes less than 5 minutes.
If the Officer makes a favorable determination, he or she will advise you that he will courier or mail your passport to you within 3 business days. Embassies no longer issue same day visas because they have to wait for your background checks to clear. In the event that your travel plans do not allow you to wait a week to have your passport returned to you at home, you can usually make arrangements with the officer to come back to the embassy to pick up your passport three business days later. If the Officer does not make a favorable determination, you should ask for a decision in writing and contact a qualified immigration attorney.