Scheduling an Interview
In most cases, an in-person interview is required. As soon as USCIS approves the petition, the artist should contact the consulate to schedule an interview appointment. Wait times can vary, and security issues can cause delays.
The U.S. Department of State is now posting online approximate wait times for consular visa processing. The Visa Wait Times Site provides some information about how to find average wait times for appointments and for each consulate to issue a visa. Please note: Wait times represent averages and do not take into consideration the time it takes to return the passport to the artist, which varies but is typically within a week of the interview. Note that consulates will not generally issue a visa more than 90 days in advance of the validity period.
In some cases, applicants may be eligible to request a waiver from the in-person interview and instead mail in the application materials. In order to qualify for the mail-in process, applicants must apply in their country of nationality or residence and have an approval notice from USCIS by the time they submit their passport to a consulate. O and P international guest artists, as well as applicants for certain other classifications, may be eligible if they have been issued a U.S. visa in any category in the past, or if they have not previously been approved they may be eligible if they are a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and have traveled to the U.S. at least once before under ESTA.
If the applicant has an arrest or conviction, a previous visa denial, was denied entry to the U.S. or answers yes to any of the security-related questions on the DS-160, s/he is not eligible for the mail-in program (see our Preparation for the DS-160 document to preview the questions). Note that consulates cannot guarantee processing times, and the mail-in approval still requires completing the DS-160 and paying the accompanying fee. It may, in some cases, take just as long or longer to receive one's passport back, so international guest artists should think and review all information carefully in order to decide which option makes the most sense.