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June 2, 2006 10:15 AM   Subscribe

How do I teach 10 or so Indonesian academics and postgraduate students how to "ace" their US Embassy visa interviews and "prep" for life in the US? Personal experiences with the US immigration process? What are some interview strategies you can pass on to my students?

I am three months into my first year as a (CELTA-certified) TEFL teacher, and this assignment seems an order of magnitude or five more difficult than what I've done so far - I've never *designed* a class from *nothing.*

I don't know who these people are aside from what's in the original question, how well they know each other, what their English abilities are, what they're researching, how long they'll be there, if they plan to move there permanently, if any of them have been there before, or where in the US they'll be going.

They *may* all attend the same university; none of them need TOEFL assistance (perhaps because it's not required for their programs, or perhaps because they have an existing score). Why these people need our school's extra help when (I hope) they've got perfectly legitimate reasons to go to the States and their institutions working for them is a mystery.

Worst of all, I have no idea what they expect or how this "class" was sold to them. "American Culture 101," "Brush Up Your English Conversation," "Learn to Fool American Visa Officers"?

The root of the question is this: how do I create a class that accomplishes the dual goals of getting them through the stress of obtaining the visa itself *and* making them confident (lingusitically, culturally, socially) enough to start a new life abroad?

Finally, I would be so grateful if anyone shared their personal experiences about navigating the US visa process - something I've never done as a US citizen.

Thank you so much!
posted by mdonley to Grab Bag (2 answers total)
All about visas.

In my experience administering an awards program that brings over foreign researchers:

* They need to make sure their applications are carefully proofread.
* They need documentation for the program in the US that's sponsoring them, and proof of income while in the United States.
* They should fully understand the type of visa for which they are applying, and be able to explain clearly why they are eligible for this type of visa.
* If they are getting salary in the US, make sure they understand that 1/3 of their salary will go to taxes, benefits, etc.
* They should be encouraged to do some research to find out if there is an Indonesian community at their destination in the US.
* I can't find them now, but the international students department of major US universities sometimes have "new to the US" guides on their websites. This covers a lot of the cultural issues.
posted by desuetude at 12:12 PM on June 2, 2006

I immigrated from Canada, and on a marriage visa rather than student/work visa, so my experience was significantly different from theirs and won't help you. I can tell you, however, that as a university-educated person with excellent reading comprehension skills, a high level of cultural fluency and English as my first language, I still had to get an attorney in order to figure out how to navigate the system.

If you're in the US currently, call the USCIS 1-800 number and ask for their suggestions. See if you can talk to a US immigration lawyer or better yet involve them in the class, maybe as a pro bono thing if your school/employer is a charity.

Helping them with language and cultural fluency and comfort is an excellent thing. Under no circumstances should you allow your employer to put you in a situation where you are advising students on the immigration process itself.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:03 PM on June 2, 2006

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