Department of State Expands Waiver of In-Person Interviews for Certain Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants at U.S. Embassies through December 31, 2022
Most visa applications at U.S. embassies require in-person interview before approval of a non-immigrant visa. Consequently, visa applicants typically have to schedule a visa appointment, which could be many months away. However, embassies always had some ability or authorization to waive the need for an in-person interview. . On December 23, 2021, the Department of State expanded authorization for embassies to waive in-person interview requirements in certain cases of nonimmigrant visa applicants until December 31, 2022.
Just who is covered by the expanded authorization?
The expanded authorization covers those who apply for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas in their country of residence or nationality. Individuals applying for these types of visa can be granted an exemption from the interview requirement by consular officers if they have been issued any other type of visa in the past and there is no obvious or potential ineligibility, However, if an applicant has ever been refused a visa in the past, they will not be eligible unless the refusal was overturned or waived. Also, consular officers can waive the interview requirement for first time H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visa applications who are citizens of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating country with no apparent or potential ineligibility and previous travel to the United States using authorization under ESTA.
The expanded authorization also covers F and M and academic J applicants: The DOS has extended previously approved policies to waive visa interviews (F,M and academic J visa applications) for certain students and professors, researchers, short-term scholars or specialists (F and M visa applicants). This authorization now extends through December 31, 2022. To be eligible for interview waiver, applicants must be citizens or nationals from a VWP participant country.
Additionally, consular officers are authorized to waive interview visas for F, M and academic J visa applicants who have previously been issued any type visa. This is provided that they have not been denied a visa and there is no obvious or potential ineligibility. If a first-time F,M or academic J visa applicant is a citizen of a VWP participant country and has previously traveled to the United States with ESTA authorization, their interview may be waived.
Authorization to waive interviews for certain visa renewals has been extended. The authority granted to consular officers to waive an in-person interview for applicants renewing the same visa category within 48 months has been extended indefinitely, and could apply to renewals of B-1/B-2 visa applicants. Many visa applicants would benefit from this policy because of the long wait times at certain consular posts.
It should be noted that embassies can refuse to waive an interview even if the applicant is eligible for such a waiver. Interview waiver is entirely at the discretion of the embassy.
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