How to Prepare for Your Embassy Interview


6 minute read

Going for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy can be nerve-racking for many people, but don’t be anxious! Although every experience is slightly different, knowing what to expect is incredibly helpful in managing those feelings. We spoke to several of our participants who have recently been through the process to find out about their interviews and see what advice they would offer to future applicants.

Don’t be nervous about your embassy interview!
Don’t be nervous about your embassy interview!
Photo courtesy of Pexels

Schedule Your Interview

You’ve been approved for sponsorship by InterExchange and now it’s time to schedule your interview at the embassy. Before you go to your interview, there are a few important steps you’ll have to take.

  • Fill out the DS-160 form online. You should have no trouble doing this with the information we provide in your acceptance email, your SEVIS payment receipt, and your personal information.
  • Read your local embassy’s website for their document requirements.
  • The Secretary of State has authorized consular officers through the end of 2022 to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain visa applicants. This does not include J-1 Interns and J-1 Trainees, and you are still required to interview in person. Upon completing your DS-160 and scheduling your interview, you will be asked about qualifying statements to citizens or nations of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). You must select “none of the above apply” to this question in order to schedule your visa interview.
  • An example of how to answer this question is below:

Request an Emergency Interview Appointment at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate

If U.S. Embassy/Consulate interview wait times in your home country are longer than usual or if there are no available appointments before the program start date on your DS-2019, you may have the option to request an emergency appointment. Instructions and qualifications for requesting an emergency appointment vary by embassy. Please visit the embassy’s website for specific requirements, but we’ve outlined the usual steps below.

  1. Complete the DS-160 Visa Application and pay the visa application fee.

  2. Schedule an appointment online for the earliest available date. Typically you’re required to have an appointment scheduled before you can request an expedited date.

  3. Contact the embassy to request an expedited appointment, following your embassy’s specific instructions for submitting this request. Instructions for making an expedited appointment request are typically found in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service website. If your country is not listed on the link above, instructions may be available at USTravelDocs.

NOTE: For emergency appointment qualifications, J-1 Intern/Trainee Visas typically fall under the “student or exchange visitors category.”

4.Wait for a response from the embassy.

The decision to grant or deny an emergency appointment request is at the discretion of the embassy, and often depends on the availability of embassy resources. If you are denied an emergency appointment, you are typically required to keep your initial appointment date. However, you should continue to monitor the embassy’s scheduling website to see if any earlier non-emergency appointments become available.

Before Your Interview

Gather Your Documents

Bringing all of the required documents is the most important thing you can do to ensure your interview goes smoothly. Most embassies will cancel your appointment (without refunding the $160 fee) if you have not brought all your documents with you. Below is a list of documents you must bring, but it is vital that you also read the requirements listed on the website for the U.S. Embassy in your country, as they are subject to change and may vary by location.

  • DS-2019 Form, sent to you by InterExchange. When you receive your package containing this document, please review it to make sure there are no errors and then sign it.
  • DS-7002 Form, downloaded from your InterExchange application. You will need to bring the official copy of the training plan that has been electronically signed by you, your host employer, and InterExchange.
  • Current passport, valid for at least six months after program end date.
  • DS-160 confirmation page.
  • One 5 x 5 centimeter (2 x 2 inch) color photograph taken in the past six months.
  • SEVIS payment receipt.

You may also be asked for the following:

  • Proof of funds for the duration of your stay in the U.S.
  • Proof of home ties. As the J-1 is a nonimmigrant visa, some consular officials often ask you to discuss or show proof of your intention to return home.
    • Current students can often show that you need to return to continue taking courses and finish your degree.
    • If you are out of school, a job offer for when you return, property ownership or the intention to go back to school for another degree may suffice.
    • If none of the above apply to you, try to document close family ties and be able to discuss specific plans for after your internship is over.

This can vary greatly from country to country and consular officer to consular officer; it’s a good idea to bring this kind of documentation with you so that you will be prepared to present it if needed.

Advice: Bring a water bottle, some light food, and a book to help with the waiting time. Make sure your phone has plenty of battery. Make sure you have ALL the documents with you. Make sure you have a visa photo done BEFORE arriving at the embassy, because the service inside the embassy for a photo requires exact cash change. Make sure you plan for one to two hours for the whole process.

Louis Ariss from the U.K.

The Day of Your Interview

Don’t be nervous! Thousands of J-1 participants successfully complete their visa interview every year. You can prepare for your day with a few simple tips.

  • Dress nicely. You don’t need to wear a suit, but it is more respectful if you wear neat, clean clothes since first impressions can mean a lot.
  • Arrive at the embassy early. They will serve you on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be finished early as well. Early morning appointments are usually the best.
  • Bring some water, a snack, and a book. Because there are sometimes long waits, you want to make sure you’re comfortable.
  • Go alone. This interview is for you, not your family or your friends. (If you will be bringing a dependent on a J-2 Visa, however, they should accompany you to your interview.)

I'd advise people to take the earliest time slot in the day that they can! It’s a lot less busy in the morning. And to arrive half an hour before your time.

Rebecca Hickman from the U.K.

At the Embassy

The majority of J-1 participants find that their interview appointments are fairly straightforward. You are usually asked to submit your documents at one window; then you’ll be asked to move to another window or another room for your interview. If your documents are in order, your interview is more likely to go smoothly and quickly. The questions our participants have been asked vary, and you should be prepared to answer a number of questions about your program, your qualifications, and what your plans are for after you return home.

Here are the most common questions asked of our participants:

  • What will you be doing in the U.S.?
  • Tell us about any previous visits to the U.S.
  • What are your plans for when you return home after your program? (It’s good to think about your plans for after your program in advance of your interview, as this is an important question.)

Although every interview is different and you should be prepared to answer all types of questions, this article should help you feel a bit more prepared. It is also a good idea to ask other people in your country who have done the same type of program for their advice, as their experience will probably be closest to yours.

Most importantly:

Be polite, be honest, and prepared on interview day! - I think that's all they need to know.

Filip Juric from Croatia

Elizabeth Cummings By

Liz got the travel bug as a teenager when she volunteered in Mexico. After extensive travel, interning and studying abroad, she is excited to help others fulfill their dreams of experiencing another culture through InterExchange’s Career Training USA program.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation