My experience with US B1 Visa Application Process from Third Country
I am a citizen of Kazakhstan. During that period, I was right before beginning of my last semester, pursuing Master’s Degree at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. I was lucky to be selected for oral presentation in biophotonics related scientific conference held in the beginning of this year (Photonics West 2018, January 27-February 1) in San-Francisco, United States. Around five weeks of additional processing time passed after interview date, and I FINALLY got ACCEPT for B1 Visa with up to one-year duration time. With this piece of delayed writing, I would once more refresh that past experience and cover procedure preparations in details. I want to acknowledge people whose advice helped me during preparations and also hope the same advice could be useful for people, who are looking for resources in similar situations now. Even though I will try to provide fact based experience, it is best if a reader keeps in mind that this is not a category of writing similar to official guideline for visa applications and therefore could be subjective from the writer’s perspective. Also some of rules could be outdated or other new regulations may appear after the time when I initially applied.
Choosing interview place
Some people say there are higher chances to be rejected or getting additional administrative processing phase when you apply for US Visa from outside of your home country of citizenship. This may possibly be related to various reasons, such as additional time for background check requested from your country of citizenship. However, if you are in the situation of application from third country, your reason has to be clearly understood by interviewer and related supporting documents have to be prepared confirming why you are necessary to do so, such as documents from current school or employer. In my case I applied from Seoul Embassy and prepared documents that confirm my studies at university in South Korea.
DS160 Online Application
Online application is a document, which interviewers will get themselves thoroughly introduced prior to the interview date. Therefore, here is my recommendations during filling it:
- Be truthful. Double check. Some details that you miss to mention could be a reason for interviewer to become doubtful, eg. changed family name, went to XX country before, passport changed, etc.
- Be concise and clear in statements. In the places where long answer is required, try to fit in a few words and avoid providing unrelated answer, not originally asked.
- Memorize your answers, so that you 100% know your application, and do not spend additional time on recalling that answer during actual interview. It may look suspicious.
Basically, my plastic file during the interview contained numbers of paper documents, both officially required and non-required ones. According to the words of my friends whom I surveyed, sources of Internet, and my personal opinion nowadays, is that US visa committee wants to make sure you are not staying after your trip illegally. Therefore, with this principle in mind, I collected additionally bank account information, academic transcript, reference letters from both professor and employer, criminal record, basic information about my family members which can be handy on the interview. If you are married, have property or business ownership outside of US, it could also show your intentions to return. If you pursue a PhD, or have work contract for several years, I guess these documents could also be a great help.
Even though I had package of documents with myself, I did not prepare a resume, under which I received a gray blank paper, under my application was temporarily refused based on Nationality Act 221 (g). So I was asked to additionally provide electronic versions of following documents to an email specified in that blank paper.
- Completed resume (and, if accompanying you, your spouse’s resume); include phone numbers, addresses, job description and supervisor’s name for each place of employment, and include any degrees earned, the titles of any theses and your current research field. Indicate dates of education and employment (month and year). Please include your travel history in your resume (specify the countries and the years of travel)
- Complete list of your publications (and, if accompanying you, your spouse’s list of publications)
- Detailed description of your proposed research or work in the United States (Abstract)
- Letter(s) of invitation from your U.S. sponsor
- Letter(s) of support from your financial sponsor; it should be written in English and needs the signature of the sponsor. Please include the sponsor’s contact information (name, phone number, email address. etc.)
- A detailed itinerary from a travel agency with your planned arrival/departure dates, flight information, and city/airport name you will arrive/depart.
- A front and back copy of your Certificate of Alien Registration
In this way, my visa application was put into additional administrative process, which took around five weeks of time. So, to potentially avoid this situation, it is better to have all the listed documents with yourself beforehand.
My interview was scheduled for the morning of Tuesday. Even though time slot is allocated, it is important to have some time extra before the interview, since there may be a queue near the entrance of embassy. It is important to know that there is just a window with interviewer in front of you speaking through a microphone and he/she will revise your online application simultaneously while talking to you. So, it is not one-to-one interview in a closed space, as some may expect.
Typically, questions of interview will be in the scope of information that you provided with online application. You have to explain in details aims of your visit, and your plans in the United States. For me, interviewer also wanted to know about my plans after graduation, since it was my last semester of my masters. At that time, I was convinced I would go home to my country after graduation.
Looking back, I think confidence is important. Even though you have pack of documents, interviewer is interested in you: he/she is listening to your words and watching behavior, even though he/she might look uninterested sometimes. Interviewer may sometimes ask questions fast and directly looking to your eyes, so in that case, you have to just feel yourself and do not get anxious in similar moments.
In conclusion, the visa process was not easy mentally. This is probably, because only limited number of people whom I asked got accepted. Some of them unfortunately got rejected, some of them were put on administrative processing and were waiting. And reasons for these decisions were not always clear for me.
Doubtlessly, my case cannot serve as an ideal example to follow, since it was put into administrative processing and got accepted only after some time (I fear it also had chances to be rejected), however I believe this post could still be valuable for some of you and may lead to a more efficient preparation or less stressful experience. If you have comments, you are welcome to ask and I will be happy to address them up to the point I remember.