State Department extends interview waiver for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants

27 Dec 21

UNITED STATES

The U.S. State Department has extended a policy that grants consular officers the authority to waive in-person interviews for certain temporary employment and academic-based nonimmigrant visa applicants and for any nonimmigrant visa applicants renewing a visa that has expired within the last 48 months.

Key Points:

  • Between now and the end of 2022, consular officers will have the authority to waive the in-person interview requirement for the following nonimmigrant visa applicants:
    • Individual petition-based temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P and Q visas.
    • Certain temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers applying for H-2 visas.
    • Students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars and specialists (F, M and academic J visa applicants).
    • Any nonimmigrant renewing a visa within 48 months of expiration.
  • To be eligible to receive the interview waiver, H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, Q, F, M or academic J visa applicants must:
    • Be applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence; and
    • Have previously been issued any visa type; never been refused a visa unless the refusal was overcome or waived; and have no apparent or potential ineligibility; or
    • Be a first-time H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, Q, F, M or academic J visa applicant who is a citizen or national of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country; have previously traveled to the U.S. using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA); and have no apparent or potential ineligibility.
  • H-2 applicants who were previously eligible for interview waiver through Dec. 31, 2021, will continue to be eligible for interview waiver through Dec. 31, 2022. Eligible applicants include first-time H-2 applicants with no associated derogatory information and no apparent or potential ineligibility requiring an interview; H-2 renewal applicants whose H-2 visas have expired within the last 48 months; and H-2 renewal applicants who are no longer ineligible for having been unlawfully present in the U.S.
  • Applicants renewing a nonimmigrant visa within 48 months of expiration are also eligible for an interview waiver. Such applicants must generally apply in the consular district of their normal residence.

Additional Information: The State Department continues to advise applicants to check the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm which services are being offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.

BAL Analysis: While the extension of the interview waiver benefits some applicants, consular officers retain discretion to require an interview. At this time, visa services at many consulates are limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. BAL continues to monitor the administration’s response to the pandemic and will provide updates as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.
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