U.S. Consulates around the world are beginning to reopen and start scheduling visa appointments and it is critical for applicants to be well prepared for their interviews. Recently, the Department of State revised its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), to include a new, heightened adjudication standard for H-1B applications. The update, titled “Confirming Petition Validity” instructs consular officers that “while the majority of petitions are bona fide, you should confirm during the visa interview that the facts as stated in the petition are true, and that nothing has changed that would affect the validity of the petition.” The update instructs consular officers that the visa interview is “the first point during the petition-based visa process where a United States Government representative has the opportunity to interact with the beneficiary of the petition.”
That interaction has reached new levels, especially at certain U.S. Consulates with a high volume of H-1B applications, such as India. In many cases, officers are essentially re-adjudicating the H-1B petition. Visa applicants should be prepared to confidently, concisely and directly provide the relevant information in responding at the interview. We strongly recommend that employees, who would be applying for H-1B visas at U.S. Consulates abroad, work closely with their immigration counsel and prepare for their visa interviews. Consular Officers have only a few minutes to review the documents and question the applicant. Therefore, the applicant’s preparation for the interview is critical for a successful visa adjudication. Here are some tips for applicants preparing for their H-1B visa interview:
- Make sure to read carefully and thoroughly the H-1B visa application package, especially the company support letter explaining the job offered, and how the applicant qualifies based on her/his specific degree and experience.
- Be sure to review the Labor Condition Application which details the job, salary and location of employment.
- If you are working at a third-party site, be sure to review the statement of work and end-client letters. These may need to be updated before your interview.
- If this is an H-1B extension, be prepared to produce recent paystubs showing current employment;
- Applicants should be familiar with the content of the application packet but should not try to memorize it or use fancy complex legal verbiage.
- Applicants should be prepared to explain, in their own words, the complex nature of the position and how they are qualified through their academic degree.
- Applicants should be able to give direct, on point and truthful answers to the following common H-1B visa interview questions:
What is the purpose of your trip to the United States?
Do you have any family in the United States?
Why are you changing your job?
Why do you want to work in the US?
Have you applied for visa for any other country?
Do you know what the cost of living is in the U.S. location you will be working?
When are you planning to travel?
How will you pay your expenses for the first month?
Have you been to any other country before?
If yes, how long was your stay there?
Will you come back to your home country?
When will you return to your home country?
Why would you want to return to your home country?
Is this your first H1B?
If this is your second visa (extension), may I see copies of your recent paystubs?
What do you plan to do after the conclusion of your H-1B stay?
Specific Question Related to the U.S. Position
What is your offered job title?
What are the job duties of the offered position?
What are the job requirements?
Will you have anyone reporting to you?
What are their names and titles?
What tools/proficiencies are required for the job?
How does your academic and experience qualify you for the position?
What will your salary be?
Will you receive other financial benefits?
Who will pay for your health insurance?
Who paid for the H-1B visa petition?
What is your job location?
What address will you be working at?
What project will you be working on?
Are you working for an off-site client?
If so, what is the name of the off-site client?
Who will you report to?
What is the name and title of your manager?
Can you provide a copy of the end-client letter and itinerary?
What is the length of the project?
Where will you work when this project is completed?
How many people from the employer’s company work for this client?
Question about your U.S. Employer/Petitioner
What is the name of the company you are going to work for in US?
Why are you joining this company?
How did you learn about this company?
How do you know this is a real company?
When did you receive your offer letter?
Can you show us a copy of the offer letter?
What business is the company engaged in?
When was the US company founded?
How did you contact the U.S. Company?
Do you have photographs of the U.S. company?
How long has the company been in the current location?
How many rounds of interviews has the US company conducted?
What is the name of your interviewer?
Can you give me the dates of your interview?
Who are the clients for your U.S. company?
Who is the President/CEO of the U.S. company?
What kind of projects is the U.S. company working on?
What is the annual turnover of the company?
How many employees does the U.S. Company have?
Your Academic and Experience Qualifications
What degree do you possess?
Where and when did you earn this degree?
How many years of study was this degree?
Please provide your degree, transcript and evaluation.
What coursework did you take?
What technology are you proficient in?
You may be asked specific software questions.
Do you have certifications?
Please produce certification.
Where did you work previously?
What technologies did you work with in your prior job.
Please provide job reference letters.
Are you currently employed?
Where do you currently work?
What is your title and duties?
What is your current salary?
This list is not exhaustive and the Consular Officer’s questions will be more case specific at the interview. We strongly recommend that all employees who would be applying for H-1B visas at U.S. Consulates abroad, work closely with their immigration counsel and prepare for their visa interviews. The attorney can explain the legal framework and requirements for the highly scrutinized H-1B non-immigrant visa, which will help him/her in responding to the questions at the visa interview to ensure the successful case outcome and the visa issuance.