The Department of State announced on December 23, 2021 that the U.S. embassies are temporarily authorized, through December 31, 2022, to waive in-person interviews for the following nonimmigrant visas and their dependents -
Specialty Occupation Visas - H-1B
Trainee or Special Education Visas - H-3
Intracompany Transferee Visas - L
Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Visas - O
Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers Visas - P
International Cultural Exchange Programs Visas - Q
Student Visas - F, M & Academic J
In addition all visa classes that have expired in the last 48 months and are renewing in the same class are eligible for interview waiver, indefinitely.
What does Interview Waiver mean?
Interview waiver means that an applicant (beneficiary of the above mentioned visas) may no longer be required to attend a visa interview if they meet the following requirements -
Have a previous U.S. visa of any type
OR have used ESTA to travel to the US
AND have never been refused a visa in a way (that wasn’t overcome)
Does this mean that I can travel to the U.S. without getting a visa?
No. The interview waiver in no sense means that you do not need a visa to travel to the U.S. or that you can travel on an expired visa. This waiver only allows the embassies to waive interview on a case-by-case basis. You still need to fill out the DS-160 to see if you qualify for the waiver program. If you do qualify, you still have to wait for a date for an OFC (Offsite Center) aka VAC (Visa Application Center) or dropbox slot to drop off your passport. This means, filling out the DS-160, paying the fee and finding a date and time to drop off the passport to get a visa.
Note - The embassies may still require you to come in for an interview even if you qualify for an interview waiver initially.
Do I still need to pay for the visa interview?
Yes, you still have to pay the same fees as were applicable before the waiver authorization.
What is the process to get a visa interview waiver?
Just like before you need to follow the same steps -
Fill out and submit DS-160
Pay the visa fee
Pick a date for fingerprinting and dropping off the passport/s
Can I use the interview waiver at any U.S. embassy or consulate?
The Department of State has left it to embassies or consulates to make their own decisions on the waiver rule. Therefore, the best way to figure out if the U.S. embassy you intend to submit your passport to is allowing visa waivers or not.
How soon can I expect to get my passport back from the embassy after I submit it?
This one is hard to predict since people have just started to take advantage of the rule but we think that you should allow 2 - 4 weeks if you are getting the visa for the first time and 1 - 2 weeks if it is a visa renewal.
Note - for some visa processing may take more time if the embassy/consulate wants you to provide further evidence or do background checks.
Do I need to submit additional documents with my passport?
You are not required to submit any additional documents unless you are asked for them. Note, however, that you may have to submit your filled out DS-160 and some other basic documents depending on the instructions from the embassy/consulate.
The information contained here is meant to be informational, and while WayLit has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information, it is not promised or guaranteed to be complete. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this alert/blog without seeking professional counsel. This alert does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Any reference to prior results, does not imply or guarantee similar future outcomes.