The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. O-1 visa grantees may also bring their loved ones — using the O-3 category — or an assistant needed for a particular event — using the O-2 category.
How and Why an O Visa Interview Happens
After your petition has been approved, you will likely have a consular interview. Not all O-1 visa applicants are required to have a consular interview. If you’re already in the U.S. on a visa when your O-1 petition is approved, your O-1 visa will simply be granted to you. But if you currently live outside the United States, you’ll need to go to your local U.S. consulate or embassy to sit for an interview.
The consular interview process for your O visa happens in order to confirm your identity and to ensure nothing in your history would disqualify you for a visa. By the time you have entered the interview part of the process, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has already approved your visa. The interview is the government’s final opportunity to make sure that all the information in your application is true and accurate before officially issuing you the visa.
The interview process starts when you make an appointment with the U.S. consulate. When you arrive at the consulate on the day of your interview, you’ll first pay fees if you haven’t already. Then you’ll have your fingerprints taken, and your interview will be conducted by a consular officer. You will need to present the officer with a copy of your visa application and the letter you received from USCIS stating that your visa was approved, as well as any other forms that may be required. The officer will then question you based on your paperwork and documents. You will be asked about your artistic work that qualified you for the visa. These questions aren’t meant to judge your extraordinary ability but to make sure you are who you say you are. Once the interview is complete, your visa will be inserted into your passport.
Preparing for Your O Visa Interview: Documents and Questions
You always want to come to a visa interview over-prepared, even for your O visa. Although you will not likely be asked for all of the documents listed below, it’s best to have as many of them with you as possible so that you’re not caught off-guard by an interviewing officer’s request. Here are some documents you’ll want to have on hand during your O visa interview:
- Your passport, ideally valid for at least six months beyond the requested end period of your visa stamp if possible
- U.S. passport-style photo (5x5cm) taken in the past six months
- Receipt/proof of payment of your visa application fee if you’ve paid in advance
- A copy of the O-1 petition that you filed
- Your DS-160 confirmation page
- Your I-797 O-1 Approval Notice
- If you’re already working in the U.S. on O-1 status, you should bring two or your most recent pay stubs
- Copies of any prior approval notices
Here are a few questions that your interviewing officer may ask at your O-1 visa interview. You might want to practice with these questions by having a mock interview with a friend or an immigration attorney.
- Have you had an O-1 visa before?
- What company will you work for in the U.S., and what does it do?
- What will your role/job duties be, and what kind of projects will you work on?
- Tell me where you went to school and what you studied.
- What is your employment history?
- What is your area/field of extraordinary ability?
- What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?
- Have you been in the U.S. before? What visa were you on?
- Please explain your ties to your home country.
Tips for a Successful O Visa Interview
Besides gathering together your documents and practicing potential questions that may come up, you can prepare for your interview in a number of other essential ways.
- Dress smartly and be polite
Although you don’t have to be too formal, it’s wise to wear business/smart attire to your interview. Be respectful and cordial to the consular officer, even if they are not. As the ultimate decision-makers for your case, they have the power. Although you may be able to re-apply if denied, the officer’s decision cannot be appealed.
- Listen to each question and answer it accurately
Listen carefully to each question and answer the specific question asked. Try to be as succinct as possible in your answers—you don’t need to over-explain your situation. Answer all questions honestly. If you don’t remember something, just say that you don’t remember. If your visa is denied because an officer thinks you lied, it will be tougher to get a visa in the future.
- Be ready to explain your extraordinary ability
Be prepared to confidently talk about how you qualify for the O-1 visa and what you’ve accomplished. Prepare by reading your case several times before the interview.
- Be familiar with your list of exhibits and your O-1 case in general
Even though your case has already been approved by USCIS, your interviewing officer may ask about your supporting evidence and what you’re going to do in the U.S. Bring a print-out of your O-1 case—you may not need it, but it’s worth the trouble just in case. Familiarize yourself with your list of exhibits so you can find a document in case your officer asks to see specific evidence.
Know your Form DS-160
Review your DS-160 application before your interview, especially questions like a) whether anyone ever filed for a Green Card on your behalf or b) whether you’ve ever been refused a U.S. visa or been refused admittance into the U.S. If you answered “yes,” to any of these questions, your interviewing officer may focus on those questions and ask them again, so your answers during the interview should be consistent.
As noted above, by the time you get to the interview stage, the USCIS has at least approved your O-1 application, which likely presented the evidence for your case clearly. So, there’s no need to stress too much about this interview. It will likely go quickly with only a few questions from the officer.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
Do you have questions about how to prepare for your O visa interview? Then contact US Immigration Law Counsel through our website or by calling 1-800-666-4996. We deal with the government so you don’t have to. We look forward to helping you at this time.