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U.S. Department of State Expands Interview Waivers for Certain Non-immigrant Visa Applicants

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Pasricha & Patel

The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has announced that it is authorizing consular officers to waive in-person interview requirements for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants in the following visa categories: H-1B specialty occupation and H-4 dependent family members; H-3 trainee or special education visitors; L-1 intracompany transferees; O visas (individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement); P visas (athletes, artists, and entertainers); and Q visas (international cultural exchange program participants). This in-person visa waiver will last through December 31, 2022.

In order to qualify for in-person visa waiver, these particular visa applicants must be applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. The U.S. consular officers also have discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for individuals petition-based H-1B, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility and have previously traveled to the United States using Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Furthermore, the DOS has also extended the previously approved policies to waive the visa interview for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through December 31, 2022.

In addition, the previous consular authority of allowing the waiver of interviews for certain H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants is also extended through December 31, 2022.

Also, applicants renewing any visa within 48 months of expiration are also eligible for interview waiver.

Department of State explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted its visa processing functions greatly. With the gradual return in international travel to the United States, DOS is trying to reduce visa wait times by being more efficient while still maintaining national security goals. But DOS does also clarify that individual embassies and consulates are within their authority and discretion to still require in-person visa interviews on a case-by-case basis and depending on local conditions. With that in mind, it is highly recommended that visa applicants do check with their particular embassy and consulate websites for any updated information about their specific operational process and procedures.

We also encourage readers to continue to check back with our site for any more updates about visa processing and changes in procedures.

Should you have any questions about this latest development or any more specific inquiries, we suggest you contact our office for more formal consultation.