The US Department of State (DoS) has expanded interview waivers for the L1 visa, and other US visa categories, until the end of 2022. In an effort to tackle visa processing delays and backlogs, the DoS has authorized US consular officers worldwide to waive the in-person interview requirement for several US visa categories.
The expansion applies to those applying for an L, O, P and Q visa or an H1, H3 or H4 visa who are applying for a US visa from within their country of birth or residence. Under the new guidance, consular officers have been given permission to waive in-person appointments for people applying for these visa types who have previously been issued a US visa.
Applicants who have had a US visa application rejected in the past do not qualify unless the refusal was overturned on appeal or waived and there are no further grounds for ineligibility. Consular officers can also waive the interview process for people applying for any of the qualifying visas for the first time if they are citizens of nations on the US Visa Waiver list.
Interview waivers for students and academics
The DoS also announced those interview waivers will apply to certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars or specialists applying for F1, M1 and J1 visas until December 31, 2022.
However, those applicants who qualify for a waiver because they are citizens of a country on the US Visa Waiver program must have previously travelled to the US using an ESTA authorization to qualify.
Consular officers also have permission to waive in-person appointments for F, M and J visa applicants if they have previously been issued with any type of US visa.
Meanwhile, the DoS has also confirmed that the authorization previously given to consular officers to waive in-person appointments for applicants renewing a US visa in the same visa class within four years of the previous visa’s expiration date, has been extended indefinitely.
B1/B2 visa categories could be included
There’s speculation that interview waivers could soon be applied to B1 and B2 visas. Given lengthy waiting times for an appointment at certain US consulates, this could be beneficial for thousands of applicants.
While certain visa categories will have the option for consulates to waive in-person appointments, it remains the discretion of consular officers to actually waive visa interviews for applicants. Immigrant advocates say that this is ‘concerning’ as this could lead to profiling rather than adjudicating an application based on merit.
The caveat is that there’s no guarantee of an interview waiver, even if an applicant meets all the initial criteria as the application of the guidance might vary from consulate to consulate, according to the DoS.
The DoS has therefore urged applicants to monitor the website of the consulate with whom they are making an application to check for any limitations on eligibility for an interview waiver.
Applicants are also reminded that any application they make must be submitted from within their country of nationality or residence in order to be granted their visa. It’s not possible to remain in the US to receive a new US visa.
If an interview waiver is permitted, the applicant must submit their application package, along with their passport, as per the directions of the consulate website with whom they are applying.
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