The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for the State Department to process visas which has resulted in a reduction in the number of visas processed. So, with the increase in COVID-19 cases of late, the United States has stated that it will be waving the requirement for an in-person interview for a number of visa applicants for 2022. This will include students and H-1B workers, a number of whom are from India.
Companies in the United States use the H-1B visas, which are non-immigrant visas, to hire foreign employees in specialty occupations when there is a lack of available domestic employees. Technology companies are one of the biggest users of these visas. They hire many thousands of employees from India, China, and other countries using these visas.
The State Department has announced that it will allow consular offices to waive in-person interviews for some visa applicants until December 31st, 2022. The in-person interview requirement may be waived for some individual petition based non-immigrant work visas or their qualifying derivatives for certain categories as follows: trainee or special education visitors (H3 visas), athletes, individuals in specialty occupations (H-1B visas), artists, intracompany transferees (L visas), participants in international cultural exchange programs (Q visas), and entertainers (P visas).
The Secretary of State has also stated that consular offices’ current authority to waive in-person interviews has been extended until December 31st, 2022, for student exchange visitors (Academic J visas), students (F and M visas), and Temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers (H-2 visas). Embassies may still require an in-person interview in some cases. It is a good idea to check with the embassy and the website of the consulate to get more information about the consulate’s hours and the services it is currently providing.
The State Department has also indefinitely extended the authorization for in-person interviews to be waived for individuals that are applying to renew a visa within 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa that is in the same visa class.
The new authorization also applies to temporary workers that are applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas. However, these workers must meet certain conditions, such as applying for their visa in their country of residence or nationality.
Consular officials also have the authority to waive the in-person interview requirement for those applying for individual petition based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who: