So here we are, part two of the O1 visas for actors journey! In our previous article, we looked at everything you need to file your petition. It covers literally everything you need for your visa, so please check that out before reading any further. This article will go through the next steps once your visa has been approved by immigration, along with what you need to do for your family’s visas. First of all, Your visa being approved does not mean it is on its way to your doorstep! The next step requires you to go to a US embassy to have the visa issued. Until the consulate decides that you are worthy of the visa status, your application can be rejected at any point. Make sure you keep in constant communication with your lawyer; they will guide you through these next steps and should be helping and advising you right through to the day you get to the embassy.
O1 Visas for Actors, the Next steps
Upon approval by immigration, you will be invited to apply for a visa appointment at a US embassy of your choosing. Before doing this, you will need to complete a DS 160 form. When you start this process, it will advise you that it takes around 90 minutes – it is not exaggerating! My top tip here is to ensure that you save your work every time you complete a page, as the application consistently crashes. If/when this happens, sadly you lose all of your work! Every family member who wants to have a visa will also need to complete these applications. This even applies to babies! Naturally, you can fill out the form for them. Do make sure you look online for how long the waits are for appointments prior to starting your DS 160. This is because the forms are not transferable from embassy to embassy. So, in other words, if you complete a DS 160 for Sydney Australia, but then decide you want to attend the embassy in Athens Greece, you have to start the form over again. O1 Visas for actors are not common. At the same time, so few actors actually achieve this status when looking at the industry from a global prospective.
Visas for an Actors Family
There are many different types of visas. The O1 visa is a working visa. When someone is granted the right to work they are also granted the right to live along with all the benefits that come with that, such as opening a bank account and obtaining a driver’s license. However, you would still need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) once the visa is granted. This is a privilege you unlock once you get the visa. With that said, your family are of course allowed to reside with you. The O1 visa is accompanied by other digits such as the O2 visa and the O3 visa. The O3 visa is what your spouse and child/children will need to apply for with the USA consulate should your visa be approved by immigration.
Booking the O1 Visa Appointment
It is worth noting at this point that you can not do this in the USA if you are already there for whatever reason. Your home country is usually the preference for the appointment. However, you may want to look for somewhere a bit faster as sometimes it can be over a 6 months wait for an appointment. In theory, you can visit any US embassy in any country. Once you complete your DS 160 you next need to your appointment with the consulate. Make sure you check the date of your appointment before paying because once you pay, it is non-refundable and you can’t change the embassy appointment. If you get to the payment page and have no idea what date they are offering you, then you need to go back a few steps. The suggested next date is not exactly obvious, but they do display it!
Moving Things Along – Visas for Actors
So you have now booked your appointment but would rather wait 2 weeks over 2 months! Well, you can always apply for an expedite! This is something you can only do once. One of the criteria for the expedite is if the wait for an appointment prohibits work. Remember that deal memo and three-year calendar you made for immigration? This comes in handy now if your application start date is either past or nearing commencing when it comes to applying for an expedite. The idea is you will lose precious work time from being delayed. Though the expedite is at the discretion of the consulate, an expedite is worth applying for and is a good likelihood for you to obtain. Now, I would not put all of your eggs in one basket, either go for an embassy with a shorter wait time or get comfortable waiting for your appointment because the expedite is no guarantee! Note: when applying for the expedite, ask for it to be a minimum of 2 weeks post-immigration approving your petition. Anything less than that and you risk the paperwork not reaching the embassy in time for your appointment, believe me, this happens! O1 Visas for actors are so tricky to get and you should be proud of yourself if you are at this point in the process.
Prepare for the O1 Visa Conversation with the consulate – The Organised Actor
At last, the day has come! The final hurdle to your visa journey! The embassy! O1 Visas for Actors are really not easy to get, are they? Now this process is pretty daunting! So I have made a ‘top tips’ guide to support you on this journey. The groundwork for these tips is to make sure you read everything a dozen times over when it comes to what you need for the appointment. You get sent a lot of information and it can be very confusing. Make sure you keep a good dialogue with your lawyer throughout.
Tip 1. Print everything (even if it seems redundant)
Tip 2. REALLY print everything (they want everything printed)
Tip 3. If they say things which don’t seem clear assume the worst. For example, the ‘what to bring’ email might say something like ‘you MAY need printed photos’. The reality was there is no ‘may’ about it, you do in fact ‘need’ printed photos. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Tip 4. You can not take ANYTHING other than your paperwork into the embassy, cell phones are a hard no! Make plans to leave these somewhere. You literally can’t take your phone in (or Apple/smart watches etc…), it’s got to go or they remove you from the premises.
Tip 5. If you need photos taken you can probably get some done locally but best to just bring these with you rather than rushing about on the day.
Tip 6. If you find you are lacking documents, you can probably get some printed locally in the same location as the photos. Companies often set themselves up for printing, photos and storage close to the embassy for this very reason. It is a gold mine for them.
Tip 7. Take any appointment you can get but later in the day is better. The reason for this is if you are lacking stuff, you have time to get it sorted. An 8am appointment means you are waiting around for stores to open.
Tip 8. Go early, but not too early. The group before you will get queuing space and you will be asked to leave. Someone with an appointment slot at 8am queuing at 7:40am would be asked to leave the queue because the queue is likely only to be for the 7:45am group prior.
Tip 9. Once inside and passing security, if you are going with your family, they can sit inside whilst you line up but they will have to look at joining you when you get to the front of the line (although this may not be the case at other embassies).
Tip 10. Check, double-check check and triple-check check your documents are correct. For anyone who’s coming off a B visa for example make sure your DS 160 forms state O and not B. This will ruin everything for you if you present the wrong DS 160 form and other than a letter, it is very hard to tell the difference.
Tip 11. Check all the above again, trust me you can’t over-check this.
Tip 12. If your spouse and child are getting O3 visas, a copy of the birth certificate and wedding certificates are fine as long as you print them. You won’t need the originals.
Tip 13. If you have travelled to an embassy that is not native to your country, bring evidence of your status in that country, such as a tourist visa. This is, of course, assuming you are not a resident of that country too.
Tip 14. Do not take it personally. The staff outside are exceptionally abrupt (the staff inside are a lot warmer).
Tip 15. If you have travelled to a different country, have a buddy with a driver’s licence native to that country on hand. The embassy will take your passports if you are successful in your appointment, however, you can not collect them yourself. You need a resident of that country to collect them on your behalf who can provide ID confirming their residency there.
What Happens After Your O1 Appointment
If approved, you can opt to have your passport sent to your designated address (within that country) for a small fee. Note, ID verification will be required. You can collect it from the local post office to the embassy in many instances though. If not, it will be a designated location for the embassy. If you are in a foreign country you will need a resident of that country to pick the passports up for you. The address and name on their ID will need to match that which you put in your embassy appointment form, so have this planned well in advance. Just to reiterate this, the address of your buddy’s ID MUST match the address you put in the form. If you take nothing else from this article may it be the following: If you are in a foreign country they WILL NOT give you your passports back! So making sure you have a buddy with the right ID is critical. Aside from their ID evidencing their address, they will need the barcode the courier will send to you via email as well.
O1 Visas for Actors – Additional Informaiton
You will find there are hundreds of people waiting outside. As for what happens when you get to the front of the line, they first check your name off a list by checking over your passports. You then go through security inside and before entering the processing room you present the DS 160 forms. Your spouse is likely to be scanned by security but depending on the age of your child it is likely they will not be scanned.
You then enter the room with the consulate which has 3 kiosks. This is where your family may be able to wait in a waiting area whilst you queue. The first kiosk will look over all of your paperwork and prep your passports. It’s here that you will be informed if anything is missing (such as the approval ‘i717’ notice from immigration in an expedited situation). Next, your family will join you here for verification checks. If there is anything wrong with your petition, you will discover it here. Then, kiosk two is your biometrics. your child probably won’t need to be scanned. Then kiosk 3 is the interview with the consulate.
They also recommend that you don’t bring children. However, they acknowledge that in some instances it may not be possible to acquire childcare (i.e. if you are not in your native country). If this is the case, remember phones and iPads are prohibited in the building, so take books and snacks to keep your child entertained if needed.
Actors’ Questions With the Consulate
Upon handing the passports to the consulate you will be asked some basic questions. Do not be surprised if they seem shocked by your visa type! They get a lot of the same visa applications and a work visa is not the most common. Here is a breakdown of a basic conversation for actors:
What do you do?
How long have you been doing it?
What upcoming projects do you have?
Have you ever won an award?
Was it local, national or international?
Where do you live?
What are you doing in this country? (If you are in an embassy not native to your home country)
What is your permanent residence?
These are just examples of the types of questions you get asked. Some are based on your application, others are based on your visa type. Be ready for anything within that nature. All of this is likely to be discussed in maybe 2-5 minutes flat. Don’t overcomplicate it, keep it simple and honest and be familiar with your deal memo and schedule. They can probe but often don’t. If you make them suspicious they will delve deeper so be cool. Your spouse and child will not be asked any questions. From there they spend some time processing the passports and the paperwork and will give you some form of update based on one of these four avenues:
- Your visa application has been rejected (in this instance they will give you your passports back and a sheet telling you why – should this happen you will need to correct the measurements they have laid out and try again. This can take months so it is best to make sure everything is right the first time. In this instance, get in touch with your lawyer immediately)
- Your visa application looks good but we are missing a few bits (this is common in an expedited situation, they will likely still take the passports and keep you updated on the portal until everything comes through from immigration, providing they are happy with the rest of the evidence and documentation you have provided)
- Your visa application is approved and it will be ready for collection in a few days (you can track this on the online portal)
- We will let you know our decision (they will update the portal and may or may not take your passports)
Note: They take your passports as the visa is added to one of the blank pages. This can be daunting when you are international but the online portals do update pretty regularly. Everything is subject to rejection until the moment you see it change to ‘issued’, even if it says approved they can change their mind. Until you see the word issued, you still need to avoid getting your hopes up. Once they take your passports, you are looking at around 2 weeks if there are any delays to getting the passports back. If there are no delays, you are looking at a few days to a week. You can always call the helpline, though they generally are not able to provide any information and will just tell you that the processing time is at the discretion of the consulate.
And there you have it folks! That’s a wrap on O1 visas for actors!
O1 Visas for Actors – Your Embassy Appointment by Alan Shires