Consular officers have been permitted by the Department of State to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain non immigrant visa applicants who have petitions approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
To begin, the State Department has extended its existing policy of permitting consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement for foreign individuals applying for a non-immigrant visa in the same classification as previously issued and whose visa has expired within the last 48 months. This power has been given to you indefinitely.
Additional possibilities are available for H-1, H-3, L, O, P, and Q visa applicants who do not otherwise fit the above conditions until December 31, 2022.
Temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, L, O, P, and Q visas who meet the following criteria may be exempt from the in-person interview requirement under this expanded policy:
- Are applying in their country of nationality or residence;
- Have been issued any type of visa in the past;
- Have never previously been refused a visa, unless such refusal was overcome or waived;
- Present no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility for a visa.
H-1, H-3, L, O, P and Q visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of Visa Waiver Program participating countries are eligible for the same interview waiver, provided the applicant previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and has no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility for a visa.
Similarly, through December 31, 2022, the Department of State has extended its interview waiver policy to select students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, and specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants). To qualify for an interview waiver, these applicants must have previously been granted any form of visa, have never been denied a visa (whether overcome or waived), and have no obvious ineligibility or probable ineligibility. In order to qualify for this interview waiver, F, M, and academic J visa applicants from Visa Waiver Program participating countries must have previously traveled to the United States with a valid ESTA authorization.
Last but not least, the Department of State’s previous ability to waive the in-person interview for certain H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural employees) has been extended until December 31, 2022.
Consular offices may nevertheless require in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis under this regulation. As a result, applicants should keep an eye on the consulate’s websites for the most up-to-date information on interview waiver regulations. The Department of State’s COVID-19 immunization policy should also be known by travelers.
Currently, all air travelers who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. immigrants (i.e., not a U.S. national, not a lawful permanent resident, or not traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) are required to prove that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 AND provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 1 day of boarding a flight to the United States. There will be very limited exceptions to this policy.
This is welcomed news for applicants seeking visas at U.S. Consulates abroad, who may have experienced difficulty obtaining appointments due to lengthy backlogs and/or have avoided travel altogether. For more information on these interview waiver policies, please visit this Department of State webpage.