As a practitioner, I always face the often-nagging question of how an applicant may increase their chances for a B1/B2 visa in Ghana. In this piece, I have attempted to state some guidelines and information that may be useful. Let me add that these guidelines have no necessary correlation to your eligibility for a visa.

1. The B1/B2 visa is not a documentary application

B1/B2 visa applicants are not required to submit extensive documentation in support of their cases. Documents such as invitations from friends or relatives in the US, guarantees from those individuals that they will feed and house you, bank and property documents are all not relevant to adjudication of the visa.

Consular officers do not routinely review documents submitted by applicant, especially in countries where local documents are unreliable. Quite often, applicants channel all their energies into obtaining documentation but cannot state an actual, concrete reason why they are visiting the US at the interview.

2. Know what the consular officer is looking for

The presumption of law is that you are intending immigrant unless you can convince the consular officer that you have no immigrant intent. You must convince the officer that you have such ties to your home country, and you would not overstay or try to live and work permanently in the US.

Consular officers are trained to carefully review applications on a case-by-case basis, taking into account specific circumstances and requirements that apply to the visa. They may consider a range of factors including purpose of travel, ability to financially support the trip, and any potential ties to the home country. Consular officers consider the totality of the circumstances and make judgment calls. Whiles having ties is a major consideration, eligibility is assessed on factors much more than ties.

There are no set of questions that a consular officer may ask you. They may ask any question so long as they are useful and appropriate in assessing your eligibility for the visa. They may even ask you questions to trip you if you have been coached by a friend, family or third party to make certain representations. Your demeanour, body language, confidence and even your appearance, together with other seemingly inconsequential factors all add up in considerations.

3. Tell the truth, and nothing but the truth

Tell the truth. Do not exaggerate. There is often a temptation to lie in your application in order to hide something. However consular officers are well-trained to be able to see through such lies. If you are found to have used false information or failed disclose some information in your application, you may be barred from receiving a US visa. It is always better to explain why you are unable to provide a document than be encouraged to obtain a forged one.

4. Complete and submit Form DS-160

Form DS-160, is the online application form for B1/B2 visas. You must complete and submit the form online prior to your interview at the Embassy. You must review all information on the form for completeness and accuracy before submitting the form. The Form DS-160 must be submitted online and the printed confirmation page must be brought to the interview. You will not be permitted to attend your interview without a confirmation page.

The Form DS-160 contains information for the consular officer to your eligibility for the visa. It requires you to provide your full name, personal and family details, employment, education, and travel history. It also includes details on your income, position, duties, and travel plans. As a rule, always ensure that you have completely and accurately completed the Form DS-160 with all relevant and true information.

5. Prepare well for your interview

You must review all information you provided on the Form DS-160 and other supporting documents. This will enable you provide clear and confident responses to questions at the interview. If you are a tourist or business traveler, you must know where you are going, why you are going, how you are going to get there, what you are going to do there, and why this time, and not some other time. You must focus on how to convince the consular officer of your actual, concrete reason for wishing to visit the US than spending all the time putting together loads of documents that add nothing to adjudicating.

6. Do not turn up late

You may not want to enter the consulate breathing and sweating profusely because you turned up late for your interview. This may be discomforting and may even affect your confidence at the interview. It is advisable to arrive at the consulate not less than 30 minutes before your appointed time. This may give you adequate opportunity to relax and take in your environment whiles you wait to be admitted into the Embassy.

7. Know your travel plans

You must provide clear answers on your plans for the visit. You must have specific and concrete plans for your visit and must clearly articulate this at the interview. You must know why, when, and where you are visiting the US. You must provide clear information. If you are asked for instance about what you will do in the US, you must provide specific plans as opposed to answers like "My brother says he will take me to see a number of places when I reach the U.S."

Answers suggesting uncertainty in your travel plans and how long you are staying in the US is usually a negative factor. Remember that you are presumed to be an immigrant unless you can prove a contrary intention. You must be definite in your responses and refrain from answers like "I want to visit the US for about two months or for two to three weeks".

8. Give firm and accurate responses to questions.

You must be firm and confident in your responses. You must give short and clear to-the-point responses in a clear voice. Do not hesitate to ask the officer to repeat a question if you did not hear the first time. If you do not know an answer to a question do not attempt to contrive one. Say you do not know provided it's the truth. Do answer questions with "I think this" or "I think that" as this clearly indicates uncertainty and lack of assuredness. Listen carefully to the questions and answer them; no more, no less. Do not volunteer any unsolicited information. If the officer requires further questions, they will ask you.

9. Your statements must correspond with the facts

Your statements must be consistent with the information provided on the Form DS-160 and other documents. Multiple errors on the face of the Form DS-160 is not a good sign. So are poor grammar and spelling errors on the face of documents purporting to be invitation letters from business associates.

10. Dress appropriately and be courteous

You must dress appropriately for your interview. Simply put, your appearance must reflect your status. If you are a business executive, you must appear as one. If you are a student, you must look like one. Avoid hot colors. This is not a beauty contest. In fact, the consular officer will not be convinced by your new and expensive clothes. Simplicity is the key here.

Be nice and courteous even if you are not receiving the same courtesy. Do not try to argue unnecessarily with the officer or shout in a loud or angry voice. The officer may make adverse notes on your case file which will be visible to other officers who may adjudicate your future applications.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.