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DOS Expands Visa Interview Waiver Program

January 6, 2022

The New Policy:

The Department of State has extended its visa interview waiver policy. This policy gives U.S. consulates discretion to waive the visa waiver interview for certain nonimmigrant visa categories. Each consulate will decide internally whether it will be implementing the policy and to what degree. Here are the biggest changes under the new policy:

  1. U.S. consulates may waive the in-person interview requirements for any type of nonimmigrant visa in the same classification and whose visa expired within 48 months. Under the new policy, this authority is given to consulates indefinitely.
  2. Through December 31, 2022, visa interview waiver may be an option for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P and Q visa applicants who hold valid, approved I-797s and F, M, and J visa applicants. To qualify, visa applicants must apply in their country of nationality or residence and must satisfy either A or B below:
    1. Hold a previously issued visa of any kind if they have never been refused a visa, unless such refusal was overcome or waived and they have no apparent ineligibility to obtaining a visa.
    2. Hold no previously issued visa of any kind if they are citizens or nationals of a Visa Waiver Program country. They must have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility to obtaining a visa and have previously traveled to the U.S. using the Visa Waiver Program using ESTA.

What to expect in real-time:

As mentioned above, U.S. consulates have discretion to implement this rule but are not required to do so. For consulates that choose to participate in the new policy, the consulates still may require an interview even after the application documents have been submitted. What’s more, visa applicants will likely still need to apply for a visa appointment in order to secure visa interview waiver. Visa appointments remain difficult to procure in India and Europe due to COVID-19 related precautions. Visa applicants should closely follow the website and social media accounts of their desired consulate to stay up-to-date on how these policies will be carried out. Our firm recommends having a flexible return date in case policies and procedures at the consulates change.

Our firm will continue to follow this development closely. If you would like to be included on future updates, subscribe to our firm’s updates by entering your email address on the right-hand panel.

This blog is made available by the The Immigration Group, PC for educational purposes only in order to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. For legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Victoria Gentry is the Managing Attorney with The Immigration Group, P.C. practicing exclusively in the areas of work visas and employment-based green cards. She enjoys assisting corporate clients with a variety of immigration needs including international transfers, visa eligibility, and the green card process. She works primarily with professionals in IT, Engineering, Finance, Pharmacy, and Insurance. She is a graduate of Belmont University College of Law and the Nashville Bar Foundation Leadership Forum.