The State Department on Thursday announced it would extend interview waiver authorities for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants.

Interview waivers have played a key role in helping reduce State Department processing backlogs. In announcing the extension, the department also put in place some changes to the current policy. Beginning Jan. 1, consular officers will have the authority to waive interviews for:

  • First-time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and nonagricultural workers).
  • Other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who (1) were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa; and (2) are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

Applicants renewing a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date continue to be eligible for an interview waiver.

The new interview waiver authorities will be reviewed annually and will remain in place until further notice.

To be eligible for an interview waiver, applicants must meet certain criteria, including that they:

  • Apply in their country of nationality or residence.
  • Have never been refused a visa (unless such refusal was overcome or waived).
  • Have no apparent or potential ineligibility.

The department stressed that consular officers may still require in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis or because of local conditions.

BAL Analysis: The extension of interview waiver authorities is welcome news that should help the State Department continue to improve visa wait times. While the interview waiver authorities no longer specifically cover F, M, and academic J visa applicants or individual petition-based based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visa applicants, these individuals may qualify for an interview waiver under one of the above-noted categories. Applicants are reminded that interviews may be required on a case-by-case basis and should check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about visa application requirements and procedures.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice Group.

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