Below-Average Applicant Tells How He Got an F-1 Visa to Attend a Below-Average U.S. University

By David North on January 12, 2016

We rarely see detailed accounts of how a below-average applicant for an F-1 visa manages to secure the visa despite self-admitted problems with the application; in this case the applicant, an Indian national, wanted to go to what the Indian press (and apparently some American officials) regard as a borderline institution in the United States.

The line-by-line text that follows is a bit long, but it shows how one persistent F-1 applicant, planning to go to Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in Fremont, Calif., a marginal but DHS-licensed university, eventually got his visa. It is a "let it all hang out" bit of reporting, albeit in sub-standard English.

This Indian national managed to get the visa despite these multiple disadvantages:

  1. Both his Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) scores were below average, according to a website that deals with such issues, Grockit.
  2. He had a major problem with 55 "backlogs"; Indian universities allow students to graduate and complete their academic papers later. The missing papers are called backlogs, and he had a lot of them.
  3. The first three American visa officers, at two different consulates, turned him down in a matter of minutes; later he convinced a fourth one, at yet a third consulate, that he was eligible for the F-1 visa. I have serious difficulties with the appropriateness of that fourth decision, an approval made despite three prior denials.
  4. He wanted to go to NPU (this was in 2014), a non-distinguished institution that was later to become controversial, as we have reported in earlier blogs.
  5. He told the consular officer in Mumbai that he had reached out to a Professor Thaisu, said to be at NPU, and "he asked me if I can join in his research." The Mumbai officer should have known that NPU is not a research university and does not claim to be one.

Why one would be reckless enough to tell this story on the Internet, where U.S. immigration inspectors could read it, is beyond my comprehension. The text seems to indicate that Mohan Rahul was so pleased to get the visa that he wanted to tell the world about it, never mind the possible consequences; or maybe he was unaware of those possible consequences. (Remember, he is a below-average student.)

We at CIS, of course, are pleased that he went public with his story because it is rare piece of participant/observer reporting on how to manipulate our visa system.

Let's elaborate quickly on the five points noted above.

1. The Applicant. Rahul is quite open about his academic status, reporting (as can be seen below) "GRE 285 (Q 145, V 140) AWA 3."

Grockit, a website dealing in the significance of academic scores, stratifies the GRE scoring as follows: top scores (top 10 percent), competitive scores (the next 15 percent), good enough scores (the next 25 percent) and below-average scores (the bottom 50 percent). The cutoffs for the below-average scores are quantitative (Q) 152 and Verbal (V) 151. Rahul's total, 285, was thus l8 points below the median of 303.

The average for the AWA is 3.5, and he received a 3.0. His abilities with the language are also shown in his testimony, below.

It is fair to say that he is a below-average candidate for an advanced degree. He may be near the 40th percentile of those tested.

2. Backlogs. Rahul's profile states: "Acads: 56 with 55 backlogs (said 19 to the VO [visa officer])."

Apparently Rahul had not written 55 of the 56 academic papers he was supposed to have written to get his bachelor's degree; someone with this kind of record would have flunked out of college in his freshman year in the States. Then he lied to the U.S. government about how many he had. This is an important, and puzzling admission — why tell people such things? Why tell the Internet that you lied to a government official?

It all suggests a dismissive attitude toward personal integrity. (To be fair, this variable, and the story itself, would not have been known to any of the consular officials.)

The line in his profile listing "ielts: 6.5 (L:7,S:7,R:6,W:6)" refers to the International English Language Testing System, a widely used exam of language proficiency for those seeking to be foreign students at English-speaking universities. A score of 6.5 is below the minimum for top-ranked U.S. universities.

3. The Interviews. He was rejected, in turn, by our consulate in Hyderabad, by our people in Chennai (Madras), and then by the Hyderabad consulate, again. He was doing some forum shopping, and it finally worked for him on the fourth interview, in Mumbai (Bombay).

I showed this file to my colleague Jessica Vaughan, once the officer-in-charge of nonimmigrant visas at the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago, and her reaction was:

It was clearly a malpractice to issue a student visa to this loser after he had been refused three times before, apparently because of a poor academic record. Not only was he rejected three times before as unqualified, he was out of district. An officer in Mumbai should not be issuing a visa to someone clearly from Hyderabad. (The cities are more than 400 miles apart, and are served by different U.S. consulates.)

She explained that all applications for visas are entered into the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) so the fourth officer should have been alerted to the three previous interviews. An application filed after a previous denial may be considered, but it is unlikely to be approved unless there had been a change of circumstances, which was not the case here.

4. NPU. When a below-average student wants to attend an obscure U.S. educational institution, consular officers are supposed to weigh an application carefully, as the first three officers did in this case.

5. Professor Thaisu? Here is what the applicant had to say on this subject:

When I was doing my project work in my I was searching for information and I read about the research by Prof. Thaisu then I happened to mail him thrice he replied and I took his assistance in completing my project then he asked me if I can join his research as I did my project in the same field, so I applied to NPU.

NPU (despite its title) is not a research university and the visa officer should have known that. (Professor Thaisu is not on the current NPU website faculty list, and my efforts to learn whether he is now, or ever was, on the faculty proved fruitless earlier this month, as discussed in an earlier blog.)

Rahul's story would have been better had he described his project in a few words, and did the same for the professor's research. He did not do that.

The full, unedited text of Rahul's statement follows. We are printing exactly what he wrote, errors and all:

List of my F1 Visa Interview Questions. Attended for F1 Visa Interview 4 times. I am posting all of my student visa interview questions here.
Finally the wait comes to an end..
Here goes my VISA experience.

Profile :
Gre : 285 (Q145,V140) AWA : 3
ielts : 6.5 (L:7,S:7,R:6,W:6)
Acads : 56 with 55 backlogs (said 19 to VO)
univ : NPU
No Consultancy
It's a bit lengthy, if you are interested and got enough patience go ahead or quit reading rite here.

1st attempt- 20 Nov- Hyderabad
2nd - 25 Nov - Chennai
3rd - 5 Dec - Hyderabad
4th - 19 Dec – MUMBAI (Approved)

Visa Questions in 1st attempt

1st attempt- 20 Nov- Hyderabad, counter : 15, slot 8 am, univ : NPU

Was standing in the q at counter 15, three guys for F-1 in front of me. He checked all the transcripts of them so I've decided not to bluff about my backlogs.

Visa officer around 30 years with a serious face.

Me : Good morning Sir (with a close up smile, brushed with Colgate though :P)
VO : Can you pass me your Passport (Gave)
VO : I 20(gave)
VO : When did you complete your under graduation?
Me : 2012 sir
VO : What were you doing from 2012?
Me : I was working for Amazon as a "Digital Specialist" from September 2012.
VO : Whats "Digital specialist"?
Me : Explained.VO : Can I see the proof?
Me : Gave my business card and salary slips. (checked them thoroughly)
VO : Is it or any supporting company for Amazon.
Me : I directly work for Amazon Sir.
VO: Are your pay slips by Amazon.
Me : yes sir
VO : How many backlogs do you have.
Me : (I was prepared to ans 24 as I removed few transcripts) I said 19 sir.
VO : Can I see ur transcripts.ME : Yes sir (Passed my transcripts)
VO : Checked each and every transcript.(Mean while I was explaining him that I met with an accident in my 3rd year and was bed ridden for 5 months so I missed few exams, When he was going through my 3rd year transcripts I was pointing at them and was explaining that AB represents Absent and this was the sem I missed my exams and then when he moved to 4th year I said him that I worked hard and cleared all the backlogs and scored 80% in my final sem)
VO : Sorry I cannot approve your visa(with 214(b)).

Said thank you and walked away with tears running down my eyes.

Came out of the Consulate, went to the tea stall outside the consulate took a chai with my regular Oxygen I was totally blank dint know wat to do, there was a song playing in my Mind all the way till I reached my place.
"This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!"
Came home.. took money from my Mom went to Axis Bank, paid my visa fee

.Questions in Chennai
2nd attempt- 25 Nov – Chennai – counter 19, slot 11am, univ : NPU

My number was displayed on the screen, went to the counter.

VO was almost 6 foot 4" was and was speaking with a pleasant smile with the lady before me for her H1 visa, her visa was approved.

VO : Hello Sir
Me : Hello officer, how are you doing.
VO : I'm great can see your Passport.
Me : Yes sir,
VO : Pass me your I20 and which university.
Me :Norwesen Politechnc university (in a fake accent)VO : I'm sorry can you repeat the name.
Me : Sir its Northwestern Polytechnic University, in CA.
VO : Can I see you GRE score card.
Me : passed both my GRE and IELTS (IELTS on the top)
VO : I want only your GRE sir.
VO : You scored low in your GRE
Me : Sir I'm working for Amazon and I hardly find time to prepare for my GRE and I just had a gap of 3 days after my IELTS to prepare for GRE, I concentrated much on my IELTS and I ended up scoring Low in my GRE sir.
VO : Ohk, whats your percentage?
Me : 57% sir.
VO : 57?? thats so less man
VO : You have low GRE score , and 57 percentage and I also see that you have many backlogs(previous officer annotated that I have 19 backlogs).
Me : Sir can I grab a moment of yours so that I can explain you why I have backlogs.VO : Ofcourse, the time is all yours man.
Me : Sir, after completing my schooling in my 1st year of my under graduation I thought I got freedom and I started enjoying my life I was into every sport and event conducted in my college and I did not concentrate much on my studies and so was my second year, in third year I met with an accident and was bed ridden then I realized that I have dreams to fulfill, goals to achieve and I started working hard and.....(he stopped me)
VO : But, doesn't seem to be working had.

ME : Sir, all I need is one chance to prove myself and I promise you that I'l work hard and I'l never let you down for approving my VISA.
VO : I'm sorry I cannot approve your Visa this time, better luck next time.
Me : Sir can I know what can I add to my profile so that I can get my Visa approved next time.
VO : I'm sorry I cannot speculate, but you can try again.

Came to Hyd next day morning I got my salary credited, went to ATM took RS10400 and went to Axis bank paid my Visa fee.

Visa Questions in Hyd

3rd attempt - 5 Dec – Hyderabad- counter 11, slot 10 am, univ : NPU

A lady in her late 20's was good looking with a perfect formal attire, blonde hair and bob cut.

VO : waved her hand to come forward.
Me : Good morning mam.
VO : Good morning Can I see your passport and I 20 please.
Me : yes Mam
VO : So, North western Polytechnic university.
Me : yes mam.
VO : Which stream?
Me : Computer science.
VO : in your under graduation?
Me : its Information technology mam.
VO : Why you choose NPU?
Me : NPU offers Mobile application development course which is my area of interest.
VO : in the US many universities offer that course why only NPU.
Me : Yes mam but I choose few universities in which I can get admission with my profile and among those only NPU offers Mobile application course.
VO : When did you complete your under graduation ?
Me : 2012
VO : What have u been doing?
Me : I was working for Amazon as a "Digital Specialist" from September 2012.
VO : Is it or any supporting company for Amazon.
Me : I directly work for Amazon Mam.
VO: Are your pay slips by Amazon.
Me : yes mam
VO : When you are already working why do you want to do your masters?
Me : Mam I'm working for amazon as a tech support guy where I troubleshoot errors faced by customers in application sold by Amazon, I dont think after completing my engineering I have to work as a tech support associate, I want to be either a software engineer or an application developer where I can develop apps with no errors.
VO : ok good, place your left hand four fingers on the scanner (thought my Visa was approved, turned back to the visa officer)
VO : So, wat about the backlogs now tell me the story?
Me : (I thought **** this shit, not again man) was in a confusion what to answer for few seconds

then I said, Mam I met with an accident in my third year missed a semester and I could not attend my exams.
VO : (in a sarcastic way) But I dont think there are 19 subjects in a semester.
Me : (Was shocked) No mam there are only 8 subs in a sem but in my first two years I was into spots and I was the captain of my cricket team so could not balance both sports and studies.
VO : Sorry I cannot approve your Visa 214(b)
Moved from the counter.. came back again, Mam can I know the reason.
VO : sorry
Me : Mam I can nither increase my percentage of my under grad now nor I can decrease the no. of backlogs so wat else can I add to my profile to get a visa.VO : with a Angry look and loud voice "YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE TO GO TO THE UNITED STATES IS THAT A PROBLEM? JUST MOVE AWAY."
Me : sorry mam.

Came Home was in a dilemma if I should go for an other attempt. Took my time was thinking the whole day. Next day I woke up decided to give my last shot in Mumbai.

Visa questions in Mumbai

4th - 19 Dec – MUMBAI (Approved), counter 25 no tokens was sending to a random counter, slot 7.45.

VO in his early 40's.
VO : Step forward
VO : Can I see your passport and I20
VO : So Northwestern Polytechnic ha??
Me : yes sir
VO : how did you Know abt this univ?
Me Sir, when I was doing my project work in my I was searching in google for information and I read about the research by Prof. Thaisu then I happened to mail him thrice he replied and I took his assistance in completing my project then he asked me if I can join his research as I did my projrct in the same field, so I applied to NPU.
VO: When did you complete your under graduation ?
Me : 2012
VO : What have u been doing?
Me : I was working for Amazon as a "Digital Specialist" from September 2012.
VO : Is it or any supporting company for Amazon.
Me : I directly work for Amazon Sir.
VO: from which univ did u complete ur under grad.
VO was typing something for 1 min, my legs were shivering.
VO : who's sponsoring for ur education.
Me : My dad and My brother, I have a savings of 16 lacks and a bank loan of 12 lacks.
VO: whats ur dad.
ME : He is into rice business and we own a rice mill.
Vo : whats ur brother?
Me : He is dog breeder sir and we own a kennels named play kennels which is one of the popular Kennels in HYD.
VO : Oh dog breeder.
Was typing for 1 more min, suddenly he saw me and said visa approved.
Me : Sir??
VO : (could not hear properly but it was something like)Keep your things moving man I've approved your VISA.
ME : thank you Sir, Merry Christmas.
He showed me Thumbs up and I left the consulate..... no idea which way I was walking, when I got my senses back I realized that I came out of the consulate without my knowledge.

I hope these Visa interview questions are useful.

- Mohan Rahul.