The U.S. State Department recently expanded a policy that grants consular officers greater leeway to waive in-person interviews for F, M and academic J visa applicants.

Key Points:

  • Until Dec. 31, 2021, consular officers will have the authority to waive visa interviews for students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars or specialists (F, M and academic J visa applicants).
  • To be eligible to receive the interview waiver, F, M, and academic J visa applicants must:
    • Have previously been issued any visa type (B, F, etc.); never been refused a visa unless the refusal was overcome or waived; and have no apparent or potential ineligibility; or
    • Be a first-time F, M or academic J visa applicants who is a citizen or national of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country and have no apparent or potential ineligibility.
  • Waivers will be granted at the discretion of consular officers, meaning some visa applicants who meet either of the above criteria may be required to complete an interview.
  • The State Department encouraged applicants to review the websites of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on what services are available and for instructions, if applicable, on how to apply for a visa without doing an interview.

Additional Information: Details regarding country eligibility through the VWP and further procedures can be found on country-specific embassy or consulate websites. Applicants from non-VWP countries whose previous visas were issued when they were under the age of 14 may be required to submit biometric fingerprints but may receive an interview waiver.

BAL Analysis:  While the expansion of the interview waiver benefits some applicants, the impact may be limited both because consular officers retain discretion to require an interview and because of limited visa services due to 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

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