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Amongst the many questions on TSE about US visa refusals, there are several where the interview (as described by the applicant) appears so cursory that it seems possible that the refusal decision had already been made and the interview was just going through the motions. For example, this recent question B2 US Visa rejected

The online application guidance says relatively little about what to expect at the interview https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visitor.html Does the interview actually make any difference to the outcome of an application? And if it does, how best to prepare?

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    Anecdotally it seems that in a lot of cases, this is indeed true, that the visa decision has pretty much already been made. I can't prove it though, obviously. US law requires all visa applicants to be interviewed, so even if it doesn't make sense to do so, the interview still has to take place. – Michael Hampton Mar 8 at 16:42
  • I'm pretty sure the interviewers would say that all interviews can result in both a rejection or issuance of a visa, only the chances of getting a visa after the interview ranges from 0.000001% to 99.99%. From outside the system chances at either end of that range looks like decisions made in advance. – Henrik - stop hurting Monica Mar 8 at 18:21
  • @Michael Hampton that does not explain why some applicants are successful after a second interview with the same ds160 only after a few days. – greatone Mar 9 at 14:21
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In my opinion after comparing my own experience and those of friends and family including the over 14 people who were issued visas to visit me, only a small percentage of decisions are affected by the interview.

Twenty or so years ago when application forms were on paper and only submitted at the interview, I believe all the decisions were made at the interview.

Today they get information on the applicant from the electronic DS160 forms submitted online before the interview.

Additionally there are some applicants who shouldn’t be admitted by law and hence the consular officer has no discretion to grant the visa e.g. known terrorists, convicted murderers, those previously refused for fraud/misrepresentation, those who have previously made a false claim to US Citizenship etc. Some applicants are permanently inadmissible while some can apply for a waiver. For those with such permanent inadmissibility the interview won’t affect the decision.

Reference

From UK Border Force episodes on YouTube, we all know (before UK stopped in person interviews) initial assessments were made by backroom staff prior to the interview. It would be quite ridiculous and naive to think the USA doesn’t do similar. It’s a commonsense inference.

According to Kathryn Berck, a retired former consular officer, everything is decided at the interview. I remain unconvinced.

I am fascinated to learn that some people believe that there is a team/committee of 15 individuals who assess every visa application before the interview. With 10,381,491 non-immigrant visas issued and 3,711,553 refused in 2016, I wonder how many working hours that adds up to for those 15 people? I sure hope they were paid overtime!

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    Um, I've watched UK Border Force, and one of the episodes specifically states that only a small percentage of UK visa applicants are called in for an interview. – gparyani Mar 8 at 20:48
  • Well in my country Ghana before in person interviews were stopped some years ago, every UK Visitor visa required interviews. Now there are no more interviews. Maybe you are referring to developed countries. – user 56513 Mar 8 at 20:52
  • True, but the consulate still has the right to call in people for interviews if needed. Also, the episode I was referring to was referring to India. – gparyani Mar 8 at 20:53
  • Just a pedantic correction. – gparyani Mar 8 at 20:54
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    So it’s your word against the words of (many) former consular officers? The quality of answers on this site have gone down from misleading to downright dangerous. – greatone Mar 9 at 14:13
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Does the interview actually make any difference to the outcome of an application?

From my experience, the main purpose of an interview is to fill the missing gaps left in your online application and double-check it. As such, it is unlikely you will increase your chances by being nice and charming with the interviewer, but you may fail it if you can't defend what you wrote on your DS-160, as well as the legitimacy of your previous stays.

Common questions asked on an interview should include such things as where you are going, for how long, for what purpose, and you will be expected to answer them.

I noticed that many interviewers have a bad command of the country's local language, though they'll sure as hell not tell you that. If you notice the interviewer has trouble understanding what you're saying, be ready to speak in simple sentences or switch to English entirely, ideally without making them feel like an idiot.

Trivial questions aside, it seems a common tactic among interviewers to challenge one of your statements, throwing the presumption of innocence out of the window and trying to accuse you of lying. They may question your claimed purpose of visit, or conveniently fail to find your last H1B extension authorization, accusing you of severely overstaying your last visit. If that happens, stay calm and patiently defend your point, ideally backing it up with the documents that you brought with you.

how best to prepare?

Bring as much paperwork as you can. Ignore the USCIS guideline that says to bring the bare minimum. If you visited the country in the past, bring all the documents proving your stay was legal. If you were invited to a conference or a job interview, print the entire e-mail exchange or get an invitation letter. Bring your bank statements.

Once you've prepared the paperwork, make sure you can coherently talk about your visit and answer basic questions.

Once everything is done, all you can do is relax, practice mindful breathing, and focus on the enjoyable part of it. Getting a US visa is a demeaning process filled with prejudice, extensive profiling and paranoia, unless you come from a visa waiver country. However, if you've already made the decision to visit the US, you might as well enjoy the ride, no matter how rocky it is, and treat the visa acquisition process as a learning experience, regardless of how well it goes.

  • let me tell you something fella ... the agent doesnt give a shit about your papers sometimes and depends on his mood he will proceed on accepting your request or refusing it : I'm talking about my experience i had all the paperwork of the world ... the agent didnt even bother to look at my papers. Pretty sure I was have higher salary than his ! he said .. nope I said thank you sir have a great day. – M. Gara Mar 19 at 16:03

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