While there are many the parts of the fiancee visa or marriage visa application, the focus of this article is on the interview at the US Embassy because it is the most crucial aspect of the process.
Our firm operates in Thailand, so I am only qualified to talk about the immigrant visa interview at the US Embassy in Bangkok. While similarities may exist between embassies, neither you nor I should assume this.
First, I will begin by telling you that the visa interview and document requirements are changeable from month to month and year to year, and more specifically from counselor officer to counselor officer.
The counselor officer is the most important and influencing factor in the visa interview. The officer is his/her own boss and has the sole discretion to approve or deny the application. With this in mind I will begin by giving you a feel for the officers most recently posted at the American Embassy in Bangkok, going back just three years.
Counselor officers generally rotate out approximately once a year, but this varies greatly. In the immigrant visa section there is only one officer assigned at a time to handle all interviews. Up to 25 interviews per day. In the last year and a half there have been three officers. Two worked approximately 7 months each and the third took the position on June 15th of this year. Prior to the previous three officers one officer remained in the position for a period of 1 ½ years. The fact that this officer remained longer than normal was beneficial to all. He knew his job inside out, upside down, backwards and sideways. He was professional, polite, friendly and helpful. He understood one important and basic thing that most other officers don’t understand, (however it is becoming more and more apparent that the current counselor officer understands this as well) and that is: that 99.9% of Thai ladies appearing for a K-1, K-3, or CR-1 visa interview don’t use American men to circumvent the US immigration laws to gain entry into America.
While ladies from other countries may more often try to use American men to circumvent the immigration laws to enter the USA, Thai ladies love Thailand, the culture, their families, friends, Thai food, Thai TV, and the King. The vast majority would never dream of leaving Thailand if they didn’t have a stronger love for their American fiancee or husband.
When Thai ladies do use an American man to gain entry into America it is usually due to the influence of a Thai friend, relative or acquaintance already in America. But having a relative or friend living in the USA does not automatically reveal an ulterior motive.
After the tenure of the officer who remained for 1 ½ years, two officers worked for very short periods of time. Both were female (all counselor officers are American citizens). The first filled the position for a brief three week period. During one of our client interviews she abruptly accused our client of being a prostitute. When our client denied the accusation the officer went ballistic and further accused our client of lying. The officer ended the interview and told our client that she was going to give her time to think about her answer and when she called her back she had better not be lying or she wouldn’t issue the visa. She further indicated that if she just told the truth she would issue the visa, a clear trick.
In the middle of a busy morning with many people waiting for interviews, the then very emotionally distraught officer left her post for a period of one hour. Presumably to compose herself after her emotional tirade.
This was the only counselor officer who ever accused a Thai lady of being a prostitute. No one before her and no one after her has ever been so impolite.
The second female to fill the position for a brief period of time did a fantastic job. She was thorough, pleasant and efficient. But a wise man recognized her abilities, talent and great personality and recruited her to the American Citizens Services Section, to the great benefit of the American citizens.
The next officer was a 30’s something gentleman who appointment himself in charge of the visa section on his first day, assuming authority not entrusted to him. He was the narcissistic personality disorder poster boy with a Napoleon complex. A bull in the China shop with a rude and irritating way about him, he offended everyone he met. He took on more work than he could handle in a timely manner because he considered himself the only one who could do it right. His interview questions revealed his lifestyle as a young single man (player) who lived in a Sukhumvit Soi and was intimately familiar with the night life and the seeder side of Bangkok. As a little boy who didn’t play well with others, he will not be missed.
Next we were treated to the poster boy’s protege. A stocky short tempered man who would begin every interview with a confrontation. During his seven months as a counselor officer, more ladies cried than in the entire ten year period before him. He held one of our clients applications for an eight month period. The application, petitioner and applicant were perfect in every way. Monthly follow ups and inquiries were made and after holding it for eight months he issued the visa with no explanation for the delay.
The current counselor officer is a dignified lady only weeks in to the position as of the writing of this article. Early observations are that she knows her job well. She is thorough, fair, reasonable, stable, and polite. Her interview questions are appropriate and logical, general and specific to the applicant before her.
From the counselor officer descriptions above you can see the changeable nature of things. Sometimes the changes are positive and sometimes they are not. Some counselor officers have made things unpleasant for our clients without good cause. Other counselor officers have helped applicants with difficult applications. On more than one occasion I have told a client that they were truly blessed to have encountered an officer with a good heart who was very good at their job. To ingratiate myself with the Embassy I would prefer to tell you that all counselor officers conduct themselves in a professional, polite, and businesslike manner. Unfortunately, this is not the truth, and while the Embassy may want to kill the messenger, I only report the facts. And the fact is, some are professional, polite and do their jobs well while others are bizarre and mean spirited.
The ease or difficulty of your visa interview comes down to the personalities in place at the time. If you are unlucky and interview during the tenure of a counselor officer with a chip on his shoulder or worst, the interview can be more difficult than if you interviewed with a polite professional with a stable personality.
Keeping in mind the variety of personalities you may encounter, and the power the counselor officer has over your future and your ability to be with the person you love, you need to present yourself to the counselor officer on the day of your interview as you would to a judge deciding your fate.
You want to show the counselor officer the utmost respect. Most deserve it anyway. Dress as you would for a job interview. Wear your hair back and away from your face. Make sure your hair is not bleached or heavily highlighted. If you have tattoos cover them. Wear a small amount of make-up. Jewelry should be minimized, small earrings, and a small necklace.
When answering questions do not speak Thai, speak in clear English, loud enough for the officer to hear you. Do not talk too much, be brief and to the point. If you don’t understand a question, tell the officer that you didn’t understand. Tell the officer that it is hard to hear through the glass window, and ask them to speak more slowly. If a translator asks you a question, look to the translator to hear the question only. When answering the question look to the counselor officer and speak in English. Never answer a question in the Thai language even if the question is asked of you in Thai. Show the officer that you have the ability to communicate with your fiancee’ or husband in the English language. If you can’t communicate effectively in English, get in to an English language school.
Many people are only concerned with what questions will be asked in the visa interview. Everyone thinks this is the most important thing to know. It’s not. How you answer the questions is the most important thing. Generally speaking, all you need to do is tell the truth. It doesn’t matter what the questions are. Just answer all questions truthfully. If you don’t think you can answer the questions truthfully you will definitely need to retain professional assistance.
Here is what the counselor officer is looking for in a nut shell: Your application is evaluated in two areas: First, the counselor officer needs be provided with appropriate evidence to assure that the petitioner (your American fiancee’ or husband) has the ability to financially support you after you arrive in America. The minimum income required depends on the size of your family, where you will live in the United States and is adjusted yearly based on the cost of living. The petitioner provides the appropriate evidence and he either meets the minimum income requirement or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t meet the minimum income requirement retaining professional assistance may help the petitioner to see how he can qualify.
Second, the counselor officer needs to determine (to his or her satisfaction) that you and your fiancee’/husband have a real relationship. That you did not artificially create a relationship with an American citizen as a way to gain entry into the USA. Properly presented, the evidence you provide the counselor officer to prove a real relationship needs to be very substantial and convincing.
Questions at your interview will not have anything to do with your fiancee/husbands ability to meet the minimum income requirement. The questions asked of you are to determine if you have a real relationship.
After reviewing all the various aspects of your application, all documents and biographic information submitted, the counselor officer will ask general questions and questions specific to you and your application.
General questions: Can be sourced from many places on the internet. Accuracy varies. Knowledge of the questions a specific counselor officer will ask can only come from a firm with clients appearing regularly at the embassy where you will interview. Our firm had 11 clients appear last week for interviews at the US Embassy in Bangkok. Questions posted on the internet for a specific counselor officer may not benefit you if that officer is no longer in place at the time of your interview.
Specific questions: These questions are asked based on the specifics of the entirety of your application. It is extremely unlikely that you will be able to determine what these questions will be. Even if you retain good professional help the chances of them being able to determine the specific questions you will be asked is unlikely, unless they have educated themselves by reading this article, and care enough about you to properly prepare you.
Here are two examples of specific questions: In preparing a client for an interview first I consider who the counselor officer is and what questions that particular officer could potentially ask. Our clients are always over prepared for their interview.
Example one: The lady being interviewed is 22 years old and has been working as a food waitress in Pattaya, Thailand for the two year period prior to her interview. This counselor officer’s mind set is basic and simple: he believes all young ladies living and working in Pattaya sell sex. In his mind there are no ladies working at the super markets, real estate offices, retail stores, etc. Some of the questions asked were: 1. what is the name of the place where you work in Pattaya. She worked at a restaurant but during my conversation with her in preparation for her interview she couldn’t remember the restaurant name. While this may seem strange to some people, my experience has taught me that Thai girls sometimes do not know or remember basic things like the exact address of where they live or the name of their employer. If I assumed that she did remember the name of the restaurant and failed to ask to talk with her about this, there is a chance she would have been denied the visa. 2. How many people work at this restaurant? 3. What is your job? 4. What hours do you work? 5. Do you serve both food and alcohol? 6. What are some of the things on the menu? 7. What is your favorite thing on the menu? 8. Where is the restaurant located? 9. When did you begin working there?
The officer was trying to establish that she did in fact work as a food waitress at this particular restaurant. As stated above, this officer believes that all girls living and working in Pattaya are prostitutes. Additional questions were general in nature.
Example two: The lady interviewed was 25 years old, living in Bangkok, originally from Udonthani, who’s application stated that she is working at a beauty salon on Sukhumvit Soi 18, in Bangkok. Questions: 1. What is the name of your place of work. 2. What is your job? 3. How many people work in your salon? 4. What are the hours of operation? 5. What services does your salon offer. 6. Does your salon offer massage.
The officer knows that many beauty salons in this area offer massage. Many salons and small massage parlors provide a massage that includes sex, commonly referred to as a special massage. While not all massage parlors offer sex, you can only be assured that you will not be offered sex by going to a spa. The officer is politely trying to rule out that the applicant is selling sex.
To summarize, you will need to present evidence that the petitioner meets the minimum income requirement and evidence that your relationship is real and not artificially created to circumvent the immigration laws as a way to gain entry in to America.
While it would be beneficial for you to know the general and specific questions that a particular counselor officer will ask, it is virtually impossible for you to know this without having very competent professional assistance.
Obviously, the approval or denial of the visa decides your future with the person you love. The fate of two people hangs in the balance. Your happiness is at risk and emotions are high. Having no prior knowledge or experience with the visa application process, the most important two questions you will ask yourself are: 1. am I willing to accept the risk of being denied the visa by attempting to obtain the visa without professional help, and 2. who is the best qualified, most knowledgeable and experienced to help me and assure that I can be with the person I love.