State Department Temporarily Expands and Extends Visa Interview Waiver Eligibility
On December 23, 2021, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State authorized consular offices through December 31, 2022, to waive in-person interview requirements for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants.
Who is covered under the expanded authorization?
The new authorization applies to those applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. Consular officers have the discretion to waive the interview requirement for individuals applying for these visa types that were previously issued any type of visa. Applicants that have been refused a visa in the past do not qualify unless that refusal was overcome or waived, and there should be no apparent or potential ineligibility.
Consular officers also have the discretion to waive the interview requirement for those applying for H-1, H-2, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas for the first time who are citizens of a VWP participating country if there is no apparent or potential ineligibility and the individual has previously traveled to the United States using authorization under ESTA.
Who is covered under the extended authorization?
The State Department has extended the previously approved policies to waive visa interviews for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through December 31, 2022. However, applicants eligible for waiver authority because they are citizens or nationals of a VWP participating country now must have previously traveled to the United States using an ESTA authorization to qualify.
In addition, consular officers have the authority to waive visa interviews for F, M, and academic J visa applicants previously issued any type of visa, provided they have not been refused a visa that was not subsequently overcome or waived, and where there is no apparent or potential ineligibility. First-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens of a VWP participating country and have previously traveled to the United States using ESTA authorization may also have their interview waived provided they have no apparent or potential ineligibility.
Finally, the authorization provided to consular officers to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely. This broad language suggests that interview waivers could be extended even to renewals for B-1/B-2 applicants, many of whom would benefit given lengthy visa appointment wait times at certain posts.
MVA is closely monitoring consular and travel-related developments and will issue follow-up alerts as appropriate.