Once we have received all the documents we need to prepare the petition, we will review the information you have submitted and get back to you shortly about the next steps.
Meanwhile, (unless you’re Canadian*) you need to get ready to deal with your local U.S. consulate.
Once your petition is approved in the U.S., you’ll need to complete an interview at a U.S. consulate. Following a successful interview, you will be granted a visa, which will be placed in your passport. Unfortunately, every U.S. consulate has different policies and procedures. What might be simple in Lisbon might be impossible in Tokyo. It’s always a good idea to check your local consulate’s website for information about their procedures du jour.
However, a few parts of the process are consistent: once your petition has been approved in the U.S., you will need to complete an online form called “the DS-160,” then arrange an interview with the consulate. This is usually done through an online appointment system accessed through the consulate’s website. You’ll need to go into the interview, submit a packet of paperwork including the confirmation page from the DS-160, and assuming all goes well, you should have your visa and passport back in 2 – 10 days. (Please note: If you are from a nation the U.S. government views as a security risk, or if you have a criminal record, this whole process can be significantly different, and you should talk to us about the process immediately).
Unfortunately, scheduling an interview is not something that we can do for you: it needs to be done locally by the artist or their management. Getting an interview at the time you need will probably not be a problem, but in some situations, and at some consulates, it could be the hardest part of the process. Some consulates are remarkably accommodating for artists; others make life very difficult. Your best defense against a last minute crisis is to schedule your interview appointment as soon as you hear from us that your petition has been approved. You may not want to (or be able to) schedule an interview now, but it’s good to get a sense of what you’re up against. (The reason we typically recommend waiting to schedule the interview is because: 1. some consulates require that the petition be approved before they will schedule your interview, and 2. normally you can’t complete the interview until after the petition is approved, and since you can rarely be sure when a petition will be approved, it’s risky to schedule in advance of approval.)
Most importantly, it’s essential to communicate with CoveyLaw about the consular interview, so we can work together to anticipate and hopefully avert a last minute crisis.
Before your interview, you’ll need to prepare your application. To do this, you’ll need several things:
- You’ll need to begin completing the DS-160 form, which must be done before you can schedule your interview. You can book the interview on your local consulate’s website (annoyingly, this is not the same as the DS-160’s website) once you’ve begun the DS-160 and been assigned an “Applicant Number.” However, we recommend completing the DS-160 before scheduling your interview, unless timing is extremely urgent. This online form is very “buggy” so leave plenty of time to complete it, and save your work frequently. MAKE SURE YOU WRITE DOWN YOUR APPLICANT NUMBER AS SOON AS IT IS ASSIGNED. CoveyLaw will supply you with notes to help you prepare these forms. Many U.S. consulates require that the DS-160 be completed online BEFORE you can schedule an interview. Please carefully read your consulate’s website, and ask us if you have any questions.
- You’ll need a passport photo. They are very specific about the format of your passport photo. Specification can be found here.
- You’ll need to pay a fee (typically 190USD) to the consulate for issuing the visa. This is the “Visa Application Fee”, otherwise known as the “Machine Readable Visa” fee. Different consulates handle the payment process differently, though most allow applicants to schedule the interview and pay online through the consulate’s website. This fee usually must be paid at the time the appointment is booked.
- You’ll need to have a passport, of course, and it will need to be valid at the time of your entry into the U.S., and through your intended period of stay. In some cases it will need to be valid for a minimum of six months following the expiration of the requested visa. It’s important that it not be damaged, have at least two consecutive pages without any stamps on them, and it probably needs to be either “machine readable,” “bio-metric” or both. Certainly, if you have an older passport without a bar code, you should check immediately with your local U.S. consulate to make sure that it will be acceptable when it comes time for your interview. If you have a question about your passport, ask us.
- You may need to bring your I-797 approval notice from the Immigration Service in the U.S. Consulates sometimes call this your “petition, “ and getting this for you is our main job. Depending on your local consulate’s policies, you’ll either need the original (which we will send to you), a copy (which we will send to you), or nothing at all, because the Immigration Service sent the approval notice directly to your consulate.
- Issuance Fee: Depending on where you’re from, you may be charged something called an “Issuance Fee” or “Reciprocity Fee”. These only apply to citizens of certain countries. You should check the table at this link to see if the embassy will charge you this extra fee, which is usually payable directly at the consulate.
For residents of the United Kingdom: because so many of our clients come from the United Kingdom, CoveyLaw has established a partnership with a London-based visa expedition firm. For a fee, these good folks can lead you through the process of dealing with the U.S. Embassy in London. They can schedule your interview, complete your forms for you, and generally grease the wheels. In the vast majority of situations, their aid is not necessary for the budget-minded. However, if you have a complex situation, or if you would prefer to pay someone rather than sort it out yourself, their services can be invaluable. Please contact us for more information about CoveyLaw’s London partner.
*For Canadian Citizens: U.S. consulates in Canada no longer process P or O visas. You are required to have the I-797 approval notice with you when you cross the border (either in the airport or at a land border crossing), and the officials will process your visas at that time, while you wait. Whether or not the original I-797 is needed seems to depend on the crossing, the individual official, or, indeed, the mood of said official. If you are an O-1 holder, you will be required to have your original I-797 approval notice with you on the first entry into the U.S. Other visa classifications usually do not need this.