performing artist visas/getting started/preparing for your consular interview (artist code access only)

That’s enough for us to prepare your petition for the USCIS in the U.S.

Next, you need to get ready to deal with your local US consulate.

Once your visa is approved in the US, you’ll need to complete an interview at a US consulate. Following a successful interview, you will be granted a visa, which will be placed in your passport.

Unfortunately, every US 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 US, you will need to arrange an interview with the consulate. This is usually done through a special phone line that charges by the minute. You’ll need to go into the interview and submit the local application, 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 US 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 remarkable accommodating for artists; others make life very difficult. Your best defense against a last minute crisis is to contact your local consulate as early as possible in the process. You may not want to (or be able to) schedule an interview at this time (this is because: 1. some embassies require that the visa be approved before they will schedule your interview, and 2. normally you can’t complete the interview until after the visa is approved, and since you can rarely be sure when a visa will be approved, it’s risky to schedule in advance of approval), but it’s good to get a sense of what you’re up against. Most importantly, it’s important to communicate with CoveylawPC 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 go on to the website of your local US embassy or consulate and complete the DS-160 form.

This online form is very “buggy” so leave plenty of time to complete it, and save your work frequently. (A few consulates still use the old DS-156 and DS-157 forms. If you encounter these, let us know). CoveylawPC will supply you with notes to help you prepare these forms.

NOTE: Many US 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. It must be:

taken within the last six months

2 inches (50mm) square, with the head centered in the frame. The head (measured from the top of the hair to the bottom of the chin) should measure between 1 & 1 3/8 inches (25mm to 35mm) with the eye level between 1 & 1/8 inches to 1 & 3/8 inches (28mm and 35 mm) from the bottom of the photograph

in color, or black and white against a white or off white background. Photographs taken in front of busy, patterned or dark backgrounds are not acceptable

unmounted, full face, with the face covering about 50% of the area of the photograph. In general, the head of the applicant, including both face and hair, should be shown from the crown of the head to the tip of the chin on top and bottom, and from hair-line side-to-side. It is preferable that the ears be exposed.

Head coverings are acceptable only when the applicant’s face is completely exposed.

May contain a small (one quarter inch) white border on one side.

NOTE: If the consulate you are using requires the DS-160 rather than the DS-156, they may also require that you submit a digital photo rather than a hard copy of a photo. Again, please carefully read your consulate’s website, and ask us if you have any questions.

You’ll need to pay a fee of 190USD to the consulate for issuing the visa. This is the “Visa Application Fee”, otherwise known as the “Machine Readable Visa” fee. Usually, the consulate insists that you stop by the consulate prior to your interview, pick up a bank payment form, go to a bank, pay the form, take the receipt, and include the receipt of payment in your application.

You’ll need to have a passport, of course, and it will need to be valid at the time of your entry into the US. 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 US 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 or may not need the I-797 approval notice from the Immigration Service in the US (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, the embassy may charge you something called an “Issuance Fee” or “Reciprocity Fee”. These apply to citizen’s of only a few countries, but if you’re not coming from an EU country, it may be worth your time to check the table at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/reciprocity/reciprocity_3272.html to see if the embassy will charge you this extra fee.

For Canadian Citizens: US 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 board (either in the airport or at a land boarder 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.

For residents of the United Kingdom: because so many of our clients come from the United Kingdom, CoveylawPC has established a partnership with a London-based visa expedition firm. For a reasonable fee, these good folks can lead you through the process of dealing with the US 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 excellent services can be invaluable. Please contact us for further more information about CoveylawPC‘s London partner.