The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) provides free legal help to some refugees and displaced people.
- IRAP helps some people find services and prepare refugee and visa applications.
- IRAP is not part of any government, IOM, or UNHCR.
- IRAP cannot grant refugee status or visas or speed up cases.
- IRAP cannot provide financial help, find or pay for housing, or find jobs.
- All of IRAP’s help is free. No one affiliated with IRAP has the right to ask you for money or any other service.
IRAP decides to help people based on their need and eligibility for immigration status. IRAP does not decide to help people based on any other social or political or religious criteria.
This website provides general information about legal processes available to some refugees. It is not meant as legal advice for individual applications.
This information was revised in August 2023. Requirements may change. Always check for current requirements from the government or agency deciding your request.
If you are in a refugee emergency, we recommend that you contact the UNHCR office in the country where you live .
If you are applying for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), you will have an interview at a U.S. Embassy in the country where you live now. At the interview, a consular officer will ask questions to decide if you can receive an SIV after you complete your security checks and medical checks. Interviews are usually between 10 to 60 minutes.
This guide tells you what to expect during the interview.
In addition to this guide, each embassy has a website that outlines requirements for booking an interview and submitting an application. For more information please also review the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview preparation instructions.
What should you bring to the interview?
The National Visa Center (NVC) should have sent you a letter explaining what to bring. Make sure you read this letter carefully for specific instructions. Usually you must bring:
- A copy of your NVC interview letter.
- Your unexpired passport and a copy of the page with your name and photo. If you have family members on your case, also bring their unexpired passports and a copy of the page with the name and photo.
- Two color photos of each person applying for a visa (including family members in your case). Department of State photo requirements are on this website.
Your birth certificate or your original national identity card. Also bring the original document, certified translation, and copies for each member of your case.
- If you are an Afghan SIV applicant, you can bring your tazkera (national identity card). You must also bring an official English translation and a copy of both the Dari or Pashto and English versions.
- If you are an Iraqi SIV applicant, bring your jensiya / national ID card (بطاقة شخصية). Also bring your birth certificate (شهادة الميلاد) or your Family Book "Qayd 57" issued by the Nationality Directorate (مديرية الجنسية). Bring the original and certified English translation. Bring a copy of both the Arabic and English versions. Also bring the original document, translation, and copies of each for each member of your case.
- Confirmation page from the Form DS-260 that you submitted online. If you have family members on your case, also bring their confirmation pages from the Form DS-260.
- If you are married, bring your original marriage certificate, a certified English translation, and a copy.
- If possible, bring a copy of your badges from your U.S. employment.
- Depending on where you live and how long you have lived there, you may need to bring police certificates for applicants ages 16 and up.
- A copy of your Chief of Mission (COM) approval letter.
- Your signed DS-157, or if you were required to submit an I-360 petition, your signed Form I-360.
- Copies of your recommendation letter, employment verification letter, and other documents you submitted in the COM application process.
Who can you bring to the interview?
- Read the instructions from NVC about your Embassy interview and who must attend the interview. In many countries, all family members on the application must attend the visa interview in person. Confirm with the Embassy who must attend the interview.
- If you have an attorney, your attorney can join you in the waiting room and at the interview. The attorney must provide a valid Form G-28 or Form G-28i to the Embassy before the interview and receive approval from the Embassy to attend the interview. They should include the date and time of your interview in the request.
- Applicants may bring one person to help if they are elderly, disabled, or a minor child. If you need someone to help you, notify the Embassy. Send the person’s name and biographic information as far in advance as possible to avoid any issues entering the Embassy. Include the date and time of your interview in your request.
- Anyone coming to the Embassy must notify the Consular Section in advance by contacting the relevant Embassy with the person’s full name, date of birth, and relationship to the applicant. Include the date and time of your interview in your email. Everyone entering the Embassy must show photo identification such as an original national ID or passport.
Requesting a translator or interpreter for your interview:
Visa interviews are in English. The Embassy usually has an interpreter for non-English speakers. You should contact the Embassy where you are interviewing before your interview to tell them that you need an interpreter. This is very important if the language is uncommon in the country where the Embassy is located.
What happens in the interview?
The officer can ask you about any of the questions or documents that were part of your SIV application. Here are some common topics:
- Your family: the officer will ask about whether you have a spouse or children. If you do, the officer will ask about your marriage and when your children were born. They might also ask you about your siblings and parents.
- Your work history: the officer will ask about your work for the U.S. that let you apply for an SIV. They will ask when and where you work or worked. They might ask about your U.S. supervisors. If relevant, they will ask why you left your job. They may also ask about your work history before your job with the U.S.
Your history in Afghanistan or Iraq:
- If you are an Afghan SIV applicant, the officer may ask questions about where you lived and worked when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. If you served in the Afghan military or police, the officer may ask you detailed questions about this.
- If you are an Iraqi SIV applicant, the officer may ask you questions about where you lived, studied, and worked when Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party ruled Iraq. If you served in the Iraqi military or police, the officer may ask you detailed questions about this
- The officer may also ask information about all of the places you have traveled and where you have lived. They might also ask you about phone numbers, emails, and social media accounts you have used. They might also ask about your siblings, children, and parents, and information about your supervisors.
Some common issues requiring follow-up are listed below. If you believe one may apply to you, consider contacting an attorney for legal advice about your case:
- Fired from your work: if you were fired from U.S.-affiliated work, this may affect your application. If your employer fired you because of a mistake, consider if there is any way to contact your employer to ask them to update their documents. Bring any evidence about what happened. This could include letters from military supervisors who know why you were fired.
- Children: if you have children, particularly over 14 years old, make sure you have accurate documents for their dates of birth. If the dates of birth on some documents, such as national ID cards, are not accurate, bring any other available evidence. This could include school records or other records that show your child’s age.
- Marriage: if you are already in the U.S. and your spouse is applying to join you in the U.S., your spouse should bring evidence of the date of your marriage. This could include photos from your wedding, especially if they show the date of your wedding, or receipts from services related to the wedding.
- Previous marriages and divorce: if you or your spouse were previously married to someone else, bring evidence of a divorce or the death of the prior spouse to show that your current marriage is legally valid.
- Past visa applications: If you have applied for any U.S. visas, be prepared to discuss them.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment.
- You may not bring any large bags, cell phones, or weapons into the embassy.
- You must bring all of the documents listed above in the “What must you bring to the interview?” section to the visa interview.
- You will likely have to wait several hours at the Embassy before your interview begins. You may want to bring a sweater, water, and something to eat.
Working with an interpreter
If you require an interpreter during your interview, answer the questions in short sentences. This will help the interpreter to interpret your complete story. Give the interpreter time to interpret all the details of your story to the Officer.
You should tell the officer if:
- You have problems understanding the interpreter.
- You think the interpreter may not understand you.
- The interpreter is not fully translating what you have said.
- The interpreter is disrespectful to you.
Then explain in detail the interpretation problem you are having. Your interpreter will not have any impact on the final result in your case. Your interpreter will not discuss your case outside the interview. They are required to keep your information confidential.
In the beginning of the interview it is likely that all your family members will be present. If there is anything that you are asked that you are uncomfortable sharing in front of your family, tell the officer that you would rather talk about this in private. This is better than leaving out important details or saying, “I don’t know.”
The U.S. government considers your information confidential.
- How to respond to questions when you do not know the answer. If you are asked a question and you do not know the answer, do not answer the question with wrong information.
- But if you do not remember some details, explain as much as you do know. Then explain why you do not remember the rest. It is better to say you do not remember or you do not know and explain why.
- For example, if they ask you what date something happened, and you remember only that it was in summer 2013, tell them it was summer 2013 rather than giving a specific date.
- If you need a break, you can ask for one. It is not rude or impolite to ask for a short break during the interview. It is important for you to feel comfortable telling your whole story. If you are upset or uncomfortable, ask for a short break to calm down and recollect your thoughts.
- Do not leave anything out. Make sure you tell the officer everything that they ask you about. Answer the officer’s questions and focus on the issue that the officer asked about.
- Always be truthful. Whatever they ask you about, always tell the truth. If you are afraid that your answer may hurt your case, it is still better to tell the truth. You can then explain why this detail should not hurt your case. The officer may deny your case if you give wrong information.
After the interview:
- The consular officer will ask you to make a written statement that you intend to:
- Move to the U.S..
- Resign from your current job.
- Permanently leave your current work.
- At the end of the interview, the interviewing officer may tell you if your case will move forward to “administrative processing” or if it will be denied for a specific reason.
- If your case is denied, you will usually receive a notice over email stating the specific reason.
- If you are told your case will go forward to administrative processing, you may still receive a notice at your interview saying that your visa has been “refused” for administrative processing. The State Department considers all applications to be “refused” after an interview until a visa is issued.
- If your case status on this CEAC website shows that your case is in “refused,” you can contact the Embassy to confirm if it is in “administrative processing.”
- The State Department sometimes asks applicants for updated contact information for the supervisor who wrote a letter of recommendation or the company that provided your employment verification. If possible, you should stay in contact with them to ensure you have up-to-date contact information if it is requested.
- You and your traveling family members must complete medical examinations at a clinic approved by the U.S. Embassy before you can receive SIVs. Do not schedule a medical exam until the Embassy tells you to. When it is time for you to get your medical exam, you will receive an email telling you when and where to get the medical exam. You may be eligible to have IOM pay for your medical exams if (1) the total cost of your medical exams is more than $1,000, (2) you are being required to complete a second medical exams and it is not your fault, or (3) you will face financial hardship if you have to pay for the medical exams. If you fit in one of these categories, you should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with an explanation of which of those categories you fit into and ask if IOM will pay for the medical exams. If you send the request before your medical exams take place, IOM may be able to have the medical center bill IOM directly. If you contact IOM after you have paid for the medical exams, you should submit your receipt to IOM and request reimbursement.
Asking for help
You or your relative may want to ask an immigration attorney for help with this process. Here are a few resources:
- Information about asking for help from IRAP is here.
- If you are in Jordan, you can ask for IRAP Jordan’s help using this form. If the form is closed, you can check back at a later date.
- A list of free immigration legal service providers in the United States is available here. These attorneys are not affiliated with IRAP.
- A list of private immigration attorneys in the United States is available here. Please note that private immigration attorneys may charge a fee for their services. These attorneys are not affiliated with IRAP.