State Department temporarily waives in-person interview requirement for some visas

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Over the past two years of the pandemic, federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State have taken steps to accommodate their services and facilitate the issuance of visas at consulates around the world in light persistent security issues. . The Department of State (DOS) took one such step on December 23, 2021, granting consular officials the discretion to temporarily waive in-person interview requirements for certain nonimmigrant visas through the end of 2022. .

This new authorization applies to H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visa applicants who: 1) have an approved application; 2) apply for a visa in their country of nationality/residence; 3) have already received another type of visa; 4) has never been denied/denied a visa (unless the denial has been overturned or revoked) and; 5) have no apparent or potential ineligibility. The waiver is also available to new applicants in the same categories as citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The applicant must have previously traveled to the United States using authorization under the Electronic Systems for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

In addition, DOS has extended its previously approved visa interview waiver policy for eligible students, professors, researchers, and scholars or short-term specialists (F, M, or scholar J visa applicants) until the end of 2022. To be eligible, these candidates must 1) apply in their country of residence; 2) have received a visa in the past; 3) has never been refused a visa (exceptions made if refusal is overturned or revoked); and 4) have no apparent or potential ineligibility. New applicants in these categories must apply from their own country, be a citizen or national of a country that participates in the VWP program, and have previously visited the United States with ESTA authorization.

Applicants who renew a visa within 48 months of expiration are also eligible for this interview waiver/drop box process.

DOS also said that waiving the in-person interview process varies widely from country to country. Each consular section will continuously review its ability to adjudicate visa applications during the global pandemic and balance its priorities. Applicants should check their US consulate’s website for information regarding interview waiver procedures.

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