The Ultimate Guide to the O1 Visa Interview

Updated on August 14, 2023
At a Glance: The O1 visa is a work visa for highly accomplished individuals in specific fields. It has two types: O-1A for extraordinary abilities in science, art, athletics, education, or business, and O-1B for extraordinary achievement in motion pictures or television. Qualifications include a job offer in the US and demonstrated extraordinary abilities. The application process involves proving eligibility, submitting required documents, attending an interview, and paying fees. O1 visas are initially valid for three years and can be extended. Transitioning to a green card is possible, and dependents can accompany O1 visa holders on O3 visas.

Only the most accomplished individuals are eligible for an O1 visa, but how do you actually obtain an O1 visa if you are eligible? The application process is complex, and the part of the process that people often worry about the most is the visa interview.

However, with proper preparation you can make the O1 visa interview a strength of your application. Read the following article for a detailed breakdown of the O1 visa application process and interview so you’re ready.

What is an O1 Visa?

The O1 visa is a work visa for highly accomplished individuals in a variety of specific fields.

There are two types of O1 visa, the O-1A and the O-1B. The O-1A visa is for individuals who possess “extraordinary abilities” in the fields of science, art, athletics, education, or business. The O-1B visa is for individuals who have proven “extraordinary achievement” in motion pictures or television.

Who Qualifies to Apply for the O1 visa?

Applicants must have a job offer in the U.S., and their visit must be for the purposes of employment in a field that they have demonstrated extraordinary abilities in.

Demonstrating your extraordinary abilities at the US Embassy

Applicants must be able to demonstrate their extraordinary abilities to be eligible for the O-1 visa, and this can be done in a number of ways. You can present any of the following as proof of your abilities to the U.S. embassy:

  • Any major awards or prizes you have won for your work, like an Olympic medal or Pulitzer prize
  • Published articles in major academic journals
  • Original research in an academic field
  • Membership in a highly prestigious organization
  • High salary

O1 Visa Requirements

To be eligible for an O1 visa, there are a number of documents that you must provide the US embassy upon applying. In addition to the usual documents required for US work visas, you must submit:

  • O1 visa interview letter
  • Proof demonstrating that you have a job offer in the U.S. (employment letter or contract)
  • Proof demonstrating your extraordinary abilities
  • Proof demonstrating your family relationship to any relatives you are bringing to the U.S.

How to Apply for the O1 Visa

Applying for an O1 visa is similar to applying for other US work visas. Once you receive a job offer from an American employer begin the application process detailed in the following section.

Have your O1 visa petition approved

The first step is getting your visa petition approved. Your employer will send the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant worker, along with documents proving that you meet the O1 visa requirements. These documents can include:

  • Copies of awards
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Testimonials or referrals from prestigious organizations

Your employer must submit these documents 45 days before you start working, and pay a $460 filing fee.

File Form DS-160

All individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa must submit a Form DS-160 detailing your personal information and the reason for your visit. Once you submit the form, you will receive a confirmation code.

Pay the O1 visa fee

Applying for an O1 visa also involves a $190 filing fee. There may be other fees involved, depending on your country of origin. You will also need to keep the receipts from your filing payments since they will be used later in the application process.

Schedule an interview with the US Embassy

If you are older than 13, younger than 80, or applying for an O1 from outside the U.S., then you will probably have to complete an interview at the U.S. embassy with a consular official. Embassy interviews can have long wait times, so schedule your interview as soon as possible. Once your interview is scheduled, you will receive a confirmation letter that you must present at the interview.

Gather necessary O1 visa documents

Put together all of the O1 visa documents that you will need to prove your eligibility, achievements, job offer, and more. Any missing document may damage your prospects, so be careful that you include everything.

Attend your interview

Make sure you are on time for your interview on the scheduled date, and answer all questions the consular officer asks you as truthfully as you can.

The O1 Visa Interview

Individuals already in the U.S. on a visa applying for an O1 do not need to complete an O1 visa interview, since they have already been interviewed at a U.S. embassy. While most other O1 visa applicants must complete an interview, it is not a requirement for all applicants. Some O1 applicants are selected for an interview and some aren’t, typically depending on the amount of evidence and supporting documentation provided for the application.

O1 Visa Documentation and Other Interview Items

You will be required to bring the following documents to your O1 visa interview:

  • The confirmation page of your DS-160 application
  • The appointment letter for your interview
  • A valid passport that will not expire until 6 months after the period you intend to stay in the U.S.
  • A photograph of yourself that accords with Department of State guidelines
  • I-797 Approval Notice from the USCIS
  • The receipt for the Machine Readable Visa (MRC) fee

At your O1 interview, the embassy will record your biometrics and you will have to pay any remaining fees.

O1 Visa Interview Questions

One of the best ways to prepare for your O1 visa interview is to prepare answers for commonly asked questions. See some examples of the types of questions you can expect for your interview in the following section.

  • What is your name?
  • What company/organization do you work for?
  • Have you ever been to the U.S. before? If so, when?
  • Where will you be living while in the U.S.?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, what was the crime?
  • Are you planning on returning to your home country?
  • How long have you been working in your field?
  • Why do you need to be in the U.S. to fulfill your goal?
  • What qualifications do you have to fill the position?
  • What is your highest qualification?
  • How long have you worked for your employer?
  • How did you first get in contact with your employer?
  • Currently, what is your salary?
  • What is your current employment?
  • When will you be traveling to the U.S.?
  • Is this your first U.S. work visa?
  • Who will be going with you to the U.S.?
  • What work have you done for your employer in the past?
  • What work will you be doing in the U.S.?
  • How long do you plan on staying in the U.S.?

O1 Visa FAQ

How long does it take to process the O1 visa?

O1 visas are typically processed by the USCIS in two to three months. However, O1 applicants have the option of paying for faster processing. Premium processing costs $1,225, and your application will be processed within 15 days. You will receive an approval or denial notice once your application has been processed.

How Long is the O1 Visa Valid?

O1 visas are initially valid for a 3 year period. Once 3 years passes, O1 visa holders can extend their visa for 1 year an indefinite number of times. To be eligible for an extension, though, your employer must demonstrate to the USCIS that your employment is still needed.

Can I get a Green Card With an O1 Visa?

Yes, you can transition from an O1 visa to a green card. O1 visa holders may be eligible for a Green Card for Extraordinary Abilities, or EB-1. Obtaining a green card requires a much more rigorous application process, though, and you will have to provide ample documentary evidence of your extraordinary abilities.

Can I Bring my Dependents With an O1 Visa?

Yes, you can bring your spouse and unmarried children under 21 to the U.S on an O3 visa. Your family’s O3 visas will be valid for the same length as your O1 visa.

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Now that you have all the information you need for your O1 visa interview, it’s time to prepare. If any of your answers are incorrect — intentionally or not — then your application is at risk of rejection. Practice with your spouse, and make sure your spouse is prepared as well if he/she must participate in the interview. If you’ve made it this far in the application process, then as long as your answers are truthful you have an excellent shot of obtaining an O1 visa.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.