Visa applicants to be interviewed should familiarize themselves with the contents of the petition copy the petitioner hopefully has sent along with the approval notice. Normally, interviews are to the point, lasting only a few minutes and seeking to confirm the accuracy of the information in the DS-160, but occasionally, consular officers will query applicants on their whereabouts and schedule in the U.S. Interviewees should know what they are requesting, and what the petitioner said on their behalf to USCIS. They should make good eye contact, and treat the consular officer with respect. Except for O-1B applicants, they should also be prepared to address any questions of nonimmigrant intent (214b) that may arise. Again, check with the individual consulate for details on required documentation. Most interviews will require a passport-style photo, a current passport, and payment.
Artists are not supposed to be required to present original I-797 approval notices at the visa interviews, as clarified in an update to the foreign affairs manual issued in September 2011. Each consulate can now electronically verify that the I-797 approval notice was issued. If an artist encounters difficulty on this point, the artist can refer the consular official to the following support for this policy for O visas here, and for P visas here, but if time permits, it is a good idea to send the artist the original approval notice (or at least an electronic copy that can be printed out) and a copy of the original petition submitted to USCIS, just in case the consulate demands it.
In response to concerns expressed by the performing arts community, and as a result of meetings facilitated by the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Department of State issued a 2005 memo to consulates encouraging policies favorable to foreign artists applying for a visa to perform in the United States. The policy memo encourages consulates to accommodate the time-sensitive nature of arts-related visas and to avoid delays in issuing artist visas. Also, in the case of P visas, the memo reminds consulates that individual artists that are part of a group are not legally required to undergo consular processing at the same time and place. (Note that some groups may find group interviews to be an efficiency, and some posts can accommodate this if contacted in advance.) Finally, the memo urges consulates to exercise restraint in questioning the performance abilities of artists applying for visas, and specifically discourages consular officers from asking artists to perform as part of the visa application process.
While the memo does not require consulates to change their interview or issuance rules, having a copy of the memo on hand may help artists encountering problems on a case-by-case basis. Please consider providing foreign artists with a copy of the July 19th 2005 State Department Memo. While each consulate has the authority to determine its visa issuance policies in light of local conditions, the memo is a strong statement in support of reasonable visa processing for artists.