My parents got their visa last week. I'm on H1-B and in my 7th Year. I have a sister and she's also in the US. My Father has been working overseas in one of the Persian Gulf countries, for a long time now - he would be out for 2 Months and back on vacation for a month, so he has a lot of exit/entry stamps on his passport. My parents have some property in Chennai and have been paying taxes regularly.
My Parents have been to the US once before, but that was about 4 years ago, my sister was in India that time. They got a 6 Months visa and were here for about a month.
The documents I sent them were
2) Copies of all my Approval Notices
3) Copies of all pages of passport
4) Employment Verification Letter - Have been employed with the same company for the last 7 Years [1 Year OPT + 6 Years H1-B]
5) Pay Stubs - Last Six Months
6) Bank Statements/Letter - Last 3 Months and an Account Verification Letter with average balance for the last 6 Months
7) Tax Documents - Last 3 Years; Just W-2 and 1040
The documents my parents had on them along with the documents I sent were
0) HDFC Receipt, Appointment Letter and Demand Drafts
1) My Original Birth Certificate
2) Application Forms
4) Consolidated Property Statement from a Charted Accountant
5) Fathers Employment Verification Letter
6) Tax receipts for the last 3 year
They had an early morning appointment and were there about 15 minutes before their appointment. After the security check they submitted their application forms/passport and got a clear plastic envelope to put their documents in and were asked to hold on to them and present them to the Visa Officer only when asked to do so. Then after finger printing they had to wait in the interview room for about 2 hours. A few minutes before their number was to be called they were asked to stand in a queue in front of the window. They had 2 elderly couples in front of them at this point and both of their applications were rejected and my parents were very nervous when they approached the window.
Visa Officer : Good Morning
My Father : Good Morning
Visa Officer : Who are you going to visit in the US?
My Father : Our son and daughter
Visa Officer : How many children do you have?
My Father : Two; both of them are in the US
At this point the Visa Officer started looking at each and every page of my fatherís passport. Took him about 5 minutes to go through all the pages.
Visa Officer : I see an exit stamp on XXX, where did you travel?
My Father : Have been working for the government of XXX, since XXX [Visa Officer looks at the Current Employment section in my fathers DS-156]
Visa Officer : Please pay your fees at window 1. Enjoy your trip to the US.
As my father is about to approach the window to pay the issuance fees, my Mom apparently thought that the stamping takes a few minutes and is done by the Visa Officer right after the interview, approaches the interview window and asks the Visa Officer "Passports please?", the visa officer politely smiles at my mom and says - "Mam, You'd get them in a couple of days. They'd be delivered to your home". My father couldn't believe what just happened, walked her away from the interview window, paid the fees and left as soon as he could, with my mom!!!
My father picked up the passports the next day at the VFS Service Center.
I think my parents had a lot of things going against them, like
1) All children living in the US for a long time; who have immigration intent.
2) Even though still employed, not based in India.
The only thing that I think was in their favor was that they've been to the US once before and had gone back - but again that was when my sister was in India and it was very clear to the Visa Officer that was not the case this time around and my father is more closer to retirement now.
In my opinion, things that you might want to keep in mind, if you are preparing a Visitor's Visa application for folks back home in India are
1) Be as truthful as possible in your application and during the interview - If your folks see that people ahead of them are getting rejected, its easy for them to loose their cool and may forget the made up answers.
2) Documents mean very little to the Visa Officers - Absolutely NONE of the documents that I sent or the documents prepared by my parents were looked at, by the Visa Officer. Not even my birth certificate, My Visa or the I-134 - All the visa officer looked at were the application forms and my parentís passports. So the outcome depends mainly on the Interview, so don't waste too much of your time preparing long letters to your parents or to the consulate, this is not going to be read by any one in the consulate. If the Visa Officer thinks that the applicant is lying, they wouldn't bother looking at any documents and the interview lasts, not more than 10 minutes, so they don't have that much time to go through documents.
3) Spend a lot of time preparing your folks for any angle of questioning by the Visa Officer. All of which would start with the assumption that your folks are going to stay back in the US.
4) Visa Officers are definitely not mean-spirited and rude; they are reasonable and truly understand the situation. And are extremely smart at finding out if someone is lying. Between Myself, My sister and my Father we have attended 8 visa interviews and this is based on all our experiences.
5) Explain the whole visa application and interview process to ALL applicants. Things like, what might happen before and after the interview, Security Checks before entering the consulate, Finger printing, Wait time, what to do if the application is rejected/accepted. Again explain this to ALL applicants, even if they are not going to face the questions, so nothing would be a surprise.
6) Be as organized as possible with the documents and its advisable to carry only what is required - No need for bulky property documents.
7) Security Checks before entering the consulate - NO electronics [Cell Phones, Pagers, Hand-held Video Games etc]. Itís advisable to wear as little jewelry as possible. The entire interview process could take up to 3 or even 4 hours.
If you've read this far, you probably have a relative who has an interview soon, good luck!!!
As with any other post in this forum, you should take the contents with a grain of salt. Especially my thoughts about the documents. The Visa Officer who interviewed my parents didn't ask to see a single document I sent, that doesn't mean all Visa Officers would base their decisions primarily on the interview.
I think I've covered pretty much all aspects of the application and interview process. I sincerely hope that the contents of this post would help you in preparing your relatives' case.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!!!