Congratulations! If you’re researching how to prepare for your O-1 visa stamp interview, chances are your O-1 case has already been filed with, and approved by, the USCIS. If so, congratulations are in order. If your O-1 case has not yet been filed, or it’s pending, we hope this post gives you some tips on what to expect if/when you get that highly anticipated approval.
At McEntee Law, we have particular expertise with both the O-1A visa for those with extraordinary ability in business (like the startup founder O-1 visa) science, education, and athletics, and the O-1B for those with extraordinary ability in the arts and TV/film.
The O-1 process can be a labor of love from all parties including the client, any potential employer or agent in the U.S., and our team here at McEntee Law. Hands down one of the best parts of our job is letting our clients know that their O-1 case has been approved. This sparks joy and excitement quickly followed by the inevitable question… what are the next steps?
Depending on the specifics of your case – like where you are physically, how your case was filed etc. – your next step may involve you making an appointment at an Embassy or Consulate for an O-1 visa stamping appointment.
One thing to note is that, based on tremendous advocacy by us immigration lawyers and our bar association AILA, there is currently an interview waiver process in place. This means that some people may be eligible to mail in their passports to the Embassy or Consulate instead of having to you do an in-person visa stamping appointment. More on that from the Department of State here.
However, for purposes of this article, we’re assuming you’re going for an in-person appointment to get your O-1 visa stamp, so read on for some of our best tips for O-1 visa interviews.
O-1 Visa Interview Tips
Be Prepared and Able to Explain Your Extraordinary Ability
During your O-1 visa interview, you should be able to explain how you qualify for the O-1 visa and be ready to discuss your major accomplishments. Read the Letter of Support for info on the type of O-1 (O-1A or O-1B), how your field of expertise was described, and what criteria was used in support of your case. You should be able to discuss this with confidence – now is not the time to be humble! Preparation is key here to so make sure you read your case several times before the interview.
Dress to Impress and Be Polite
Generally, we recommend wearing business/smart attire to your interview, but this is industry specific too. Our rockstar musician clients likely wouldn’t roll up to the Embassy in business attire so use your best judgment!
You should never argue or be disrespectful to the Consular Officer. You should always be respectful, even if they are not. They have a huge amount of power and are the ultimate decision-maker. Keep in mind that – while you may be able to re-apply if denied – the officer’s decision cannot be appealed.
Be Familiar with the List of Exhibits and your O-1 Case
Even though the O-1 case has already been approved by USCIS, the officer may ask about the supporting evidence and what you’re going to do in the U.S. Although you may not need it, we typically advise our clients to print the O-1 case and bring it with them. You should familiarize yourself with the List of Exhibits so you are quickly able to find a document should the officer ask to see specific evidence e.g., evidence of major award, employment contract, etc.
Listen to the Question
Make sure you listen carefully to the question and answer the specific question asked. Nerves can make people go off on tangents, so keep this in mind and try to answer just the question asked.
Answer Questions Honestly
It’s really important that you answer all questions honestly. If you don’t remember something, just say that you do not remember. If a visa is denied because of lack of documentation, you can always apply again in the future. If a visa is denied because an officer thinks you lied, it will be tougher to get a visa in the future.
Know Your Form DS-160
You should review your DS-160 application before the interview and pay special attention to any questions where they asked you a “yes” or “no” question or to “explain.’
Has anyone ever filed an Immigrant Visa (Green Card) on your behalf?
Have you ever been refused a U.S. Visa, or been refused admittance into the United States, or withdrawn your application for admission at the port of entry?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, these areas may be a focus of the interview. Often officers will ask some of the same questions that are on the DS-160 application, and your answers during the interview should be consistent.
Make sure you discuss this part with your attorney so you’re all on the same page about any tricky areas of the DS-160.
Try to Relax
The officer is asking questions to make sure you’re eligible for an O-1 visa. If the USCIS approved your O-1 case, it’s likely strong and hopefully your attorney presented the evidence in a really clear manner. Please try to relax and do not stress too much about this interview. Often the interview is very fast, and the officer only asks a few questions. However, the interview can be longer if the officer has questions so don’t panic if it feels longer than you expected.
Remember you are extraordinary! Your O-1 case has been filed and approved. You can do this!
What Documents Should I Bring to my O-1 Visa Interview?
We generally recommend that clients bring the list of documents below to the O-1 visa interview. However, this is a general list, and you should always check with your attorney and with the Embassy/Consulate as there may be additional documentation needed.
- Passport: your passport should ideally be valid for at least 6 months beyond the requested end period of visa stamp but this may not always be possible
- 1 x U.S. Passport-Style Photo (5x5cm) taken in past 6 months
- DS-160 Confirmation Page
- Receipt/Proof of Payment of Visa Application Fee
- Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation & Instructions
- I-797 O-1 Approval Notice
- Copy of the O-1 Case Filing
- If you are already working in the U.S. on O-1 status, you should bring 2-3 most recent paystubs
- Copies of any prior approval notices
If your spouse and/or child is applying for a dependent O-3 visa, they will need their own appointment and documents including the original marriage/birth certificate and certified translations, if applicable.
O-1 Visa Interview Questions
You can prepare for your O-1 visa interview by reviewing your case thoroughly and by preparing answers to some commonly asked questions.
Here are some questions you may be asked at your O-1 visa interview:
- What is the name of the company you will work for in the U.S.?
- What does the company do?
- Explain what the company does & also why it is distinguished/reputable in the industry e.g. it’s one of the top 10 design firms in LA.
- What will your role/job duties be?
- What projects will you be working on?
- Where will you work?
- What salary will you get?
- Where and what did you study?
- What is your employment history?
- How do you qualify for the O-1 visa?
- You should have reviewed the case and the Letter of Support so you should be well able to explain the case, your field & how you meet the criteria.
- What is your area/field of extraordinary ability?
- What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?
- Which of the experts that wrote your expert letters do you personally know?
- Have you had an O-1 visa before?
- Have you ever been in the U.S.? What visa were you on?
- Is the job you will be doing in the U.S. in the same field as your previous jobs?
- Do you have ties to your home country, and can you document this?
We hope this post gives you some tips on how to prepare for your O-1 visa interview. Remember that while you are extraordinary, some preparation for your interview can go a long way and it’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Next stop – hopefully – USA!