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The Visa Interview – Be Prepared

Obtaining a visa is often the biggest hurdle expats have to take before moving abroad. And the visa interview can be particularly daunting. InterNations member Iryna has some great advice on how to prepare your visa application and survive your visa interview.

Appointments and Visa Fees

If you ever have to use a phone to set up a time for your visa interview, make sure that the officer on the other end of the phone puts down your name correctly, exactly as it is printed in your international passport (you may want to spell it twice for them), this will save you the nervousness of not finding your name in the list of visitors on the day of the interview.

Another detail that may cause an undesirable delay in your visa process is the payment for the visa services. Traditionally, there is a fee which an applicant has to pay for visa-related services (in some cases, due to existing international agreements between foreign offices of particular countries, this fee may be paid by your state for you, but more often you have to pay it by yourself). The embassy website will have clear instructions for applicants of your visa type as to how much you need to pay and the payment methods. Remember, some embassies do not accept cash payments at the moment of the visa interview. You may have to make the payment through a bank beforehand and bring them a payment confirmation slip. In other cases you may have to have the exact sum of money (in the country's currency) with you, on the day of the visa interview.

Complete Your Questionnaire

Fill out your questionnaire thoroughly. Every time you apply for a visa, you've got to fill out a questionnaire with your current personal information. Normally, there is nothing special to put in there – just your passport information, your contacts, a few facts about your family, and some facts from your bio. But whatever you have to put in there, the information must be truthful, precise, up to date, and complete. Make sure you have additional papers at hand to confirm every piece of information in the questionnaire. Those additional papers may not be requested by the visa officer, but having them with you on that important day will give you more confidence. So why not bring them just in case?

Here is a little self-check note: if you cannot fill out a line or answer a question in your questionnaire, it simply means that you are not ready to apply for your visa yet. Do whatever is needed to be sure you can fill every line in that form with information. Then, you will successfully go through your visa interview. Really. It is that simple.

For example, if a questionnaire asks whether you have enough funds to support yourself during your trip abroad, it means that before you check the box under the word “yes”, you have to go to your bank and ask for a paper which lists the current amount of funds in your account. Make sure that you have sufficient documents to confirm literally every entry in your questionnaire.

Keep a Checklist

Keeping a checklist is a good idea. Make sure you have prepared and put together all of your papers and that nothing is missing. By Murphy's Rule, the visa officer will certainly ask you for a document which you forgot to bring- imagine yourself standing there and facing the officer, while the paper he is asking for is quietly waiting for you at home, on the kitchen table! Many embassy websites provide checklists for applicants, by the way. Print it and keep it on the top of your visa documents folder until you have checked every item on the list.

Come prepared to succeed. The problem for many applicants lies in the fact that they come to their visa interview prepared to fail- and, as a result, they fail. Before the interview, think about (or act out) your possible answers to visa officer's questions. “How do I know what they are going to ask me there?” you may say. Well their questions will have to do with the information you put into your questionnaire and will probably be roughly grouped into three categories: questions about your personal information, questions about your family, and questions related to the reasons of your trip to their country. Be sure that everything you say finds confirmation in your application and submitted papers. All facts must comply with each other. Any discrepancy may be a red light in your interviewer's mind. This is why your truthful, precise, and competent answers are of crucial importance here.

How to Conduct Yourself during the Interview

Do not try to be creative! This is a rare situation when being creative or thinking out of the box will almost certainly play a malicious trick on you. Instead of trying to impress your visa officer with esprit and humor, simply be short and precise in your answers. Putting it simple: be business-like. This will work best for you.

Your cooperation will certainly be appreciated by the visa officer. You should understand that this person is just doing their work, he is simply following the instructions of the well-established visa interview process. They do not make any decisions and their only task is to make sure that your documents are complete, filled out properly, and that the information in it is correct and truthful.

If it helps, try to imagine that you are dealing with a machine, not a human visa officer. It is like calling a ticket service, with a voice machine leading you on to a desired service by generating a sequence of questions based on your clear, one-word answers. Do this at your interview. Speak only when you are asked to. Answer questions as precisely as you can. Be short. Face the interviewer directly (as you would face a screen of an ATM machine). Use plain, simple, official language.

What Happens Next

At the end of your interview, make sure you know what to expect next. How and when will you know about their decision about your visa? Who should you contact in case of a delay or any change in information? What is the process of getting the visa stamped into your passport? Every embassy has its own process for that. Do not forget to clear up all those issues right away. Otherwise you will create extra stress for yourself.

These are only a few ideas to help potential visa applicants approach the process but following them is already a success. The rest depends only on you! Try not to listen to other people's stories about their “nightmarish” experiences with foreign offices, they may be subjective and will only disturb you instead of offering rational advice. Just do it your way – competently, precisely, and impartially - and you will achieve your goal, no doubt.


Iryna Tymchenko is a Ph.D. in cross-cultural communication and an inspired educator living in Ukraine. She has been using her expertise in international communication, educational projects, and international business to write about cultural adaptation for relocating individuals and families.