As you approach the end of the J-1 visa application process, there’s one final hurdle. You’ve gotten through the Form DS-2019 and Form DS-7002, found and applied for an internship or training that you love, and gathered all of your J-1 visa documents. But the last step is often the scariest: answering the J-1 visa interview questions.
For many people, the J-1 visa interview sounds terrifying. It’s daunting to think that your whole J-1 visa application rides on this one conversation. However, with the right preparation and insight into the J-1 visa embassy interview questions, you can ace the interview and get your J-1 visa quickly.
So what are the possible interview questions for the J-1 visa? And how will you know how to answer them?
Common J-1 Visa Interview Questions
Depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you have your interview, you might be asked different questions. Some interviews will only last for a few minutes, while others will take longer.
The questions that your interviewer asks will also depend on your exchange visitor category and the purpose of your trip to the United States: for example, J-1 visa interview questions for physicians will be different from J-1 visa interview questions for teachers.
Still, there are some common categories of J-1 visa questions that will come up in most J-1 visa interviews. You can answer questions in each of these categories using a few simple strategies.
Educational J-1 Visa Questions
Most exchange visitor categories have some sort of educational requirement. Just take a look at some of the eligibility guidelines:
- Interns need to be enrolled in a post-secondary academic institution (like a college or university) or have graduated within 12 months of the start of their internship.
- Trainees need a post-secondary degree or professional certificate, as well as at least one year of relevant work experience. Without a degree, trainee applicants must have at least five years of relevant experience.
- Professors and research scholars need to be professors, graduate students, researchers, or similar. They also must have at least a bachelors’ degree and relevant job experience.
- Specialists need to be recognized as experts in their particular field.
- Au pairs need to be at least secondary school graduates. They also have to pass a personality profile and background check.
Your J-1 visa interviewer will probably ask you questions about your educational background to make sure that you are eligible for your J-1 visa. They will also want to make sure that you are a qualified candidate who will succeed in your specific program.
Common education-related interview questions for the J-1 visa include:
What university or college did you attend?
The interviewer will need some basic information about your background to assess your eligibility for the J-1 visa. In many cases, exchange visitors need to be enrolled in a non-U.S. college or university.
What did you major in, or what subject did you study for your Ph.D.? Why did you choose that subject?
Trainees, specialists, and many other types of J-1 visa holders need to have a background in the field they plan to study or work in during their exchange visit. Expect your interviewer to ask you specific questions about your educational background to determine whether you have enough experience to participate in your selected program. Be sure to mention any relevant experiences or awards that make you qualified for your exchange program.
What is (or was) your GPA in college? What was your percentile? What was your class rank?
Interviewers might ask about specific test scores, grades, and other education-related metrics. Although they won’t make a visa determination exclusively based on your test scores, your interviewer might be skeptical about your ability to perform well in an exchange program if you have an exceptionally low GPA. In that case, you should be prepared to explain why you’re qualified and able to succeed. If any mitigating circumstances led to your poor performance 一 maybe an illness in the family made it hard to focus on your schoolwork for a year 一 you should also be ready to explain those.
What was your score on the TOEFL, IELTS, or another English language test?
You need to be proficient in English to receive a J-1 visa. An English test score is one of the J-1 visa documents you need to submit for your DS-2019. Although the interviewer will probably be able to determine your English skills throughout the interview, some of the U.S. J-1 visa interview questions might specifically focus on your English abilities.
Where did you last work? Where do you currently work? Why did you leave your last job?
In addition to asking about your educational background, your interviewer might ask J-1 visa questions about your work history. These questions serve multiple purposes: they allow the interviewer to judge whether you will do a good job in an internship or training program, but they also can indicate any ties that you have to your home country. As we’ll explain later, J-1 visa interviewers want to ensure that you’ll return to your home country after your exchange program, so discussing financial or work-related ties to your home country can improve your chances of receiving a J-1 visa.
J-1 Visa Questions About Your Exchange Visit
In addition to understanding how you’ve prepared for your internship with previous school and work experiences, your interviewer will want to ensure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. That is, they may ask you J-1 visa interview questions about the internship or training program you will be completing in the United States.
You should already have gone over this information in other parts of the J-1 visa application process. For example, the DS-2019 includes a brief description of your internship’s focus area, and the DS-7002 contains many sections related to your internship, including:
- The number of hours per week you will be working
- Your compensation and your employer’s worker’s compensation (WC) policy
- The activities and responsibilities you will have to complete during your internship or training
- The cultural activities that your host will help you participate in outside of work
Because of all this preparation, J-1 visa embassy interview questions about your internship or exchange program should be easy to answer. Reviewing your DS-2019, DS-7002, and any other paperwork your employer has given you should help prepare you for any of the following possible interview questions for the J-1 visa:
- Why do you want to go to the United States? Your interviewer might ask related questions, like “Why did you choose a program in this specific state?” or “Why not choose an internship in a different country?” Be as specific as possible when you explain why you chose your program. Maybe this program is prestigious and will help you apply your new skills in your home country. Maybe working with Americans is important in your industry because you want to work for a multinational corporation. If you can’t explain why you chose your training program or internship, then your interviewer might think you have some other motive for coming to the United States.
- What is the purpose of your program? Depending on your category of exchange visit, you will probably have to explain some of the details of your program. For example, you may need to tell your interviewer about the people you will be researching with, the tasks you will be responsible for, and the reason you were selected for your position.
- What do you want to do while in the United States? What places will you visit? Review the “cultural activities” section of your DS-7002 for help with this J-1 visa question. One piece of the exchange experience is cultural exchange, which means your interviewer will want to hear about how you’ll explore the United States outside of work. If there are any landmarks you want to visit, traditions you want to experience, or events you want to participate in, this is a good time to mention those.
- Where is your exchange program? What will your housing situation be? You may have to answer specific logistical questions about the location and duration of your internship. Make sure you know the specific start and end dates listed on your DS-2019, as well as where you will be living and how you will get there. You need to prove that you know what you’re getting yourself into, and answering with vague responses makes it seem like you’re unprepared for the program.
Remember to be as specific as possible 一 you need your interviewer to believe that you are qualified for and knowledgeable about your program. Prepare yourself by reviewing your travel dates, living arrangements, and work responsibilities.
You should also describe your program accurately: if it’s a training, call it a training; if it’s an internship, call it an internship. If your interviewer thinks that you’re confused about the purpose of your visit 一 for example if you call your training program a “job” 一 they will be less likely to approve your J-1 visa.
Personal and Financial J-1 Visa Interview Questions
U.S. Embassy and Consulate officials don’t want you to go broke (and cost the U.S. money) while you’re in the United States. As a result, they might ask you questions about your financial status and how you’ll be paying for the program. These questions might seem personal, but be sure to answer them honestly.
- What are your parents’ jobs?
- What is your annual family income? How much money do you have in savings?
- Do you have siblings?
- How are you paying for your program? Do you have any sponsors? Will you be paid? Have you taken out any loans?
- What was the placement fee for your program?
Explain the sources of your funding accurately and in detail. If you’re not being paid for your internship, explain how you’ll be able to afford food and rent. If your employer is providing for your housing or living expenses, be sure to mention that, too.
Bringing bank statements, tax returns, and other financial documents can help you make your case. Having evidence that you can afford the exchange visit will improve your chances of receiving your J-1 visa. These documents can also demonstrate ties to your home country 一 if you’re leaving money behind, your interviewer is more likely to believe that you’ll go home once your exchange visit is over.
Future Plans J-1 Visa Questions
One key step in J-1 visa interview preparation is planning for what you’ll do after your exchange program. Although it may seem strange that an embassy interviewer is asking you about your life goals or future plans, the purpose of these questions is to demonstrate “nonimmigrant intent.”
Since the J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it doesn’t allow you to permanently move to the United States. Many J-1 visa holders are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. This requirement prohibits you from receiving certain types of visas and becoming a lawful permanent resident for two years after your J-1 exchange visit. Although it is possible to receive a waiver for this requirement, it’s still important to prove to your interviewer that you understand that your exchange visit is temporary.
To that end, the interviewer might ask you questions about what you’ll do after the program. These questions include:
- Where do you see yourself in a few years?
- What will you do after the program?
- What are your plans if you receive the J-1 visa? What are your plans if you don’t receive the J-1 visa?
In response to any of these questions, emphasize that you will be coming home after the exchange program. J-1 visas are meant to facilitate cultural exchange, so it’s also helpful to talk about how you’ll share what you’ve learned with your home country: maybe you’ll tell your relatives about all the U.S. traditions you experienced, or maybe you’ll use the skills you develop to serve people in your home country.
In addition to answering these specific questions, there are ways to demonstrate nonimmigrant intent throughout the J-1 visa interview. There are a few broad types of evidence that you can use to demonstrate nonimmigrant intent:
As mentioned earlier, you can prove that you have financial ties to your home country that would make you want to return. If you have property or savings in your home country, bring physical proof of these investments.
Use this kind of evidence if you have a job lined up when you return from your exchange program. For example, if you are taking a temporary leave of absence from your current job for the exchange visit, ask your employer to write a letter indicating that you’ll return to your job after the program ends. Even talking about companies in your home country that you want to work at after the exchange visit can be useful.
Demonstrating close ties to family members in your home country can prove that you’re not going to stay in the United States for longer than you’re meant to. If your interviewer asks you about your family, discuss how excited you are to share what you learn with them at the end of your program.
If you’ve traveled to other countries before, you can use old passports or travel documents to indicate that you have a history of complying with travel and visa requirements. After all, if you returned home after one foreign exchange visit, you’re more likely to return home after another.
Proving nonimmigrant intent is especially important if there’s a reason for your interviewer to think you might want to stay in the United States, like if you have relatives living in the U.S. or if you are bringing your spouse and children with you under a J-2 visa. In that situation, you should focus on displaying nonimmigrant intent during your J-1 visa interview preparation.
J-1 Visa Interview Preparation
Now that you know the basic types of questions you will probably have to answer during your J-1 visa embassy interview, you can start practicing. Ask a friend or relative to pretend to be an interviewer and practice answering possible interview questions for the J-1 visa. Although you don’t want to sound scripted during your interview, practicing regularly can help you reduce your nerves and give appropriate answers during the real interview.
As you practice, remember that your J-1 visa interviewer will be looking for a few key things:
- Proof that you can speak English proficiently
- Proof that you are qualified for your exchange program
- Proof that you can afford to travel to and stay in the United States
- Proof that you will return home after the exchange program
Keep these considerations in mind as you practice. Make sure you always practice in English and that you know your English test scores; you might even want to practice making small talk with your interviewer in English. Review all the forms and documents you’ve gathered so that you can accurately talk about your program, travel plans, and expenses. And think about how you’ll demonstrate nonimmigrant intent.
Most of all, remember that you’ve got this! If you practice regularly and know how to answer common J-1 visa interview questions, you’re more likely to succeed. And if you want more information about the J-1 visa interview, including what to wear and what documents to bring, check out these 10 smart tips to confidently answer J-1 visa interview questions.