9 Questions in your J1 Visa Interview and How to Answer Them

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9 Questions in your J1 Visa Interview and How to Answer Them

Are you ready to go to the USA with Work & Travel? You might say “Yes”, but there is still one BIG step to achieve. During March, April and May you’ll need to go to the final jury, and they will tell you if you are ready or not: the USA Embassy.

If you are anxious about this future step…and you:

  • want to know the 7 questions that you can get during the J1 visa interview
  • my personal experiences during the interviews (I went 3 times)
  • the biggest risk that I made which could cost me my Visa

this article might be for you. :-)

But first, let me tell you a story…

When I first went for the J1 interview, 4 years ago, it was an entire adventure. It was June 13th. I decided I want to go to the USA just 3 weeks before that interview. Normally, you get your visa in March, April or May. But I was a special case. I got a self-placement job with my employer because we were already working together in Cluj-Napoca. He decided he needs to go back to the USA for the summer, and he invited me to continue to work for him.

As you can imagine, I immediately said yes…but all the paperwork was done in a hurry + I did not have a passport. I went to the Visa interview in the last Friday the Embassy organized them. It was a situation “NOW or NEVER.” I was shaking like hell and my voice was trembling. It was also a day of 13. I am not superstitious, but during that day I had a big reason to be. What if I don’t get my Visa? I had a temporary passport, my last exam (which was Wednesday) did not appear in the school documents… So when I went there, they asked me…


What happened with this exam? Why isn’t it in your documents?

“Because I don’t have the results yet, I sat my exam on Wednesday.”

After discussing all the questions below, he told me:

Next time, don’t come with a temporary passport. I won’t give you the VISA again!

That was my biggest risk that I have ever taken while traveling. As you can imagine, the only reason I made the temporary passport is because you can get it earlier and you don’t have to wait 2 weeks. I was so crazy to do that! Meanwhile, they gave a law which prohibits to apply for a USA Visa with a temporary passport.

I told you this story, just to realize that…if you do everything in time and you follow your agency’s guidelines, there is no reason to worry!  You will get your VISA. If I got it in those circumstances….you will also get it. To make things easier, you won’t need your University grades anymore.

Now you might wonder, what will be the judging criteria? What are they looking for in a candidate? Well, last year there were 6,000 applicants…And this number is increasing every year. If grades are not criteria anymore, they might pay more attention to your English level.

9 Questions in your J1 Visa Interview

Click on each question to see the possible answers.

1. What do you study?
I am in my first year at Economic Informatics, at the Babes-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca.
2. Where will you go this summer and what will you work?
Explain your position, the name of your employer and be confident: “I’ll be working at The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe, California as a server attendant.”
3. Have you ever been to the USA before?
No matter the case, show your enthusiasm, smile and avoid answering just with “Yes” or “No”. This is a good opportunity to refer to the multicultural side of traveling.

“No, this is the first time I go and I am looking forward to getting to know the American culture.The movies are not enough for me.”

4. Why do you want to go to the USA?
This is a tricky question where you need to give an inspiring answer. Don’t mention that you go to make money, even if that is the only reason you want to go. A possible approach can be:

“I have always dreamt of visiting the streets of New York and traveling in a van on Highway 1 in California. Going to the USA means fulfilling one of my biggest childhood dreams. Plus, I want to expand my cultural horizons, make international friends, improve my English and learn about the true American culture.”

5. What are your plans for the future?
This is a tricky question as well. Your answer needs to prove that you want to come back to your home country and this is just a temporary experience.

“I will finish University in 2 years and on the long -term I want to open my own business in Romania. I really love studying in Romania and I plan to combine what I learn in school with what I learn in my travels to be a successful business woman.”

6. What are your travel plans in the USA?
It is important to give a knowledgeable answer which shows that you did your research and you know where you are going.

“Well, because I will work in Lake Tahoe, I will be pretty close to San Francisco and I can easily make a road trip on Highway 1. Depending on how much money I will make, I want to visit the American icons: Hollywood, Vegas, the Golden Gate and the Grand Canyon.”

7. Are you traveling with friends or family?
The last 2 times I went to the USA with my sister. On top of that, I was in my final Master years. I was very worried when this question came because I had all the technical reasons not to come back to Romania again. That’s because:
  • I was taking the person that I love the most with me.
  • I was finishing school.
Here is my emotional reply which made the Council not even think that I could stay there.

“Yes…I will actually travel with my sister. She is also having her interview at the nearby office with your colleague. We are very enthusiastic to go together on this trip and our parents are very proud of us. We love them very much and we can’t wait to come back and tell them about the beautiful culture that we learned about. This will represent the education that they could never give it to us.”

8. Do you have any relatives and friends in the USA?
It is important not to lie. Be sincere, smile and don’t hide the facts. They already know everything about you. In my case, because I went 3 times there, I had friends in the USA.

“Yes, I do. I made lots of friends in the last summer and I can’t wait to see them again.”

9. What are your rights as an employee in the USA?
At the entrance of the Embassy, you will get a brochure with the legal rights. You need to read it. The more rights you tell them, the better. Here’s a list:

1. Be treated and paid fairly;

2. Not be held in a job against your will;

3. Keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession;

4. Report abuse without retaliation;

5. Request help from unions, immigrant and labor rights groups and other groups;

6. Seek justice in U.S. courts.

When the interview is over (it usually takes 3 minutes), the Council tells you to have a great summer and doesn’t hand you the passport. You’ll get the passport with the VISA via mail, at your home address in a couple of days.

Some other weird questions others got are:

“What did you eat in the morning?” or “How did you get here?”

These are shocking questions that are meant to find out your English level, but they can be confusing. Your first impression can be “What do you mean, how did I get here…by bus, by train.” My advice is to explain to them what they want and smile. :)

Do’s & Don’ts Before you Get at the Embassy

  • Get a good rest the night before. Many students travel the whole night by train or bus which is cheaper, but very exhausting.
  • Don’t take big backpacks with you. You are allowed to get in the Embassy only with your documents. Everything else will be placed in the security room. (phone, wallet, keys)
  • You will be scanned just like at the airport. Don’t wear belts or watches.
  • Expect big queues and even if you are scheduled at 8:00 am, try to be there earlier. There is no guarantee about the hour you will actually get in.
  • Wear a casual outfit and comfortable shoes. Girls, think twice if you wear heels because there’s a lot of standing…

Inside the Embassy there will be 3 queues that you need to pass. You’ll get a number which you need to follow on the screens (just like when you pay your bills in the public offices). At the first office, you will hand in your papers, at the second office they will get your fingerprints and only at the third office, you’ll have the interview itself.

Put your smile on and you will be ready.

I hope this info was useful. If you received any other weird questions please write them in the comments below. Let’s be prepared for everything!

Good luck,

Watermark Ioana