US-Visa Interview Experience

I’m an incoming graduate student joining MS in Computer Science in Spring’21 in the United States. This article details my visa experience and my preparations. If you are an aspiring student and curious to know how other visa interviews took place, go ahead and read this article, this can be helpful to you. Others, if you are here, just out of interest, read forward — this is my visa interview experience!

Background: I’m joining my master's program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I deferred my admit from Fall’20 to Spring’21 due to the pandemic.

US Visa interview process takes place for two days,
- Day 1 (OFC Appointment): We submit our fingerprints and they take a photo. Verify our DS160 and Passport.
- Day 2 (Consular Appointment): Face to Face Interview with the Visa Officer at the consulate.

2020 is one heck of a year, and it messed up this visa process too. US Visa consulates were running with limited people only due to the pandemic, so the visa appointments were really hard to get. There are so many people still waiting to get an appointment by the time I’m writing this article.

Fortunately, after weeks of constantly trying to book an appointment, I finally got it. I got my OFC appointment in Chennai and Consular Appointment in Delhi. (Note: This is an unusual scenario, I’ve heard from others that both OFC and consular appointments are available at the same location.)

Day 1 — OFC Appointment: November 13, 2020 - Friday, Chennai

I’m from Coimbatore, so I traveled over 500kms to Chennai to attend my OFC appointment. My slot was 8:00 AM, I reached the venue at 7:30 AM. One by one more people started showing up, and the security asked us to form a line outside the premises and wait. By around 7:45 AM, the guards called out candidates assigned to the 8 AM slot, they checked our appointments and let us in. Inside, we had to take the two flights of stairs to reach the scanning center. As I was the first person that day, I just went past all stages quickly. Guards scanned us for metal items, also check our temperatures, and asked us to proceed further.

First I went to a reception counter where an Indian officer was seated behind the glass window. He took a look at my passport, DS160, and fee receipt. He made tick marks, as he verified the data on the documents. Then he asked me to proceed further towards the subsequent counters.

The next counter I was asked to go, also had a glass window, and an Indian lady was seated on the other side of the window. She asked for the same documents. She gave instructions to scan my fingerprints on the fingerprint scanner. She asked me a few questions from my passport to verify it was actually me. Then I was asked to take a couple of steps back, and the mounted camera took a picture of me.

All these processes took place very rapidly, and by 7:55 everything was done and I exited the premise.

I came back to Coimbatore to spend Diwali at home. My travel to Delhi was scheduled for November 15, 2020, the day after Diwali.

Day 2 — Consular Appointment: November 16, 2020 — Monday, New Delhi

My appointment was at 10:15 AM at the New Delhi US Embassy. I arrived near the embassy by around 9:30 AM. I was expecting a lot of people there, as this week the US Embassy announced due to popular demand they will allocate this week extensively to process F1 visas for incoming students. I was surprised to see only less than a handful of people standing outside the embassy entrance. I was really happy that I need not have to wait longer in the queue like in movies. I had my mobile with me, but I had to give away my mobile to my family friend who came to drop me at the venue, as no electronics are permitted inside the venue. Then as I moved towards the queue, I was obstructed by a security guard and asked about the timings of my appointment, he then asked me to go and wait at the other side of the road. To my shocking, there were around 75 people standing on the other side of the road, most of them with files and documents in their hands. I laughed at myself for coming to a conclusion very quickly.

The queue on the other side of the roads works like this: A guard comes towards the crowd and announces few time slots. All the candidates, who have appointments scheduled at that particular timeslot should approach the guard, and form a line next to him. Call for 10:15 AM appointments came at 9:45 AM, so I went and occupied my spot on the line. Guard included people from other slots as well, after the line was filled with a reasonable number of people, we were taken to a queue leading to the entrance of the embassy. Yellow circles are painted on the ground, marking the locations where each candidate has to stand.

After about 5–7 minutes, I entered the embassy, and I was scanned for electronic or metal items. I was then asked to put my forehead on a thermal scanner, and my document file was scanned. After this, I was asked to wait in the waiting area, candidates were asked to sit two seats apart from each other to maintain social distancing.

After a few minutes of waiting in this lounge, my row was asked to go towards the interview counters. New Delhi embassy had around 30 counters I guess, I do not remember correctly. But due to safety purposes, only 4 counters were active. These counters were similar to the one at the Chennai OFC center.

Inside this interview zone, we were asked to wait again. There were seats there as well. As the counters become available, the next candidate from the seated queue is asked to proceed for their interview. My turn came roughly in about 5–10 minutes. The Visa officer was a woman in her late twenties or early thirties I presume.

Following were the questions the VO asked me in the interview.

VO: Can you hand over your passport, I20, and SEVIS, please.
VO: Why US?
VO: When did you graduate and what did you study?
VO: What were doing since your graduation?
VO: Who is funding your education?
VO: What do your mother and father do?
VO: Do you have any relatives or friends in the US?
VO: What does your cousin do in the US?
VO: Are you prepared for the cold weather in Chicago?
VO: What are your preparations for the winter?
VO: Do you know about the quarantine procedure?

These were all straight forward questions. I was expecting more questions, but at that point the VO said, she is approving my visa, and asked me to carry the I20 form when I’m traveling to the US. She collected my passport and returned the other documents.

I didn't have a watch or a mobile to look at the time I came out, but I guess it would be around 10:05–10:15 AM. Going early to a Visa appointment really works, it can definitely make things better.

In short, I traveled over 5,500 km over a span of over 4 days to get attend my visa interview and it was a very interesting journey. If you have any doubts regarding the visa process or if you think I can help you in some way, reach out to me through the following link.

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