At the beginning of the year, the State Department coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in expanding and extending the waiver on visa interview requirements for many non-immigrant visa applications. These changes include many employer-petition-based visas as well as certain spouses and dependents allowing for visa applicants to receive faster processing while embassies and consulates maintain partial capacity.
Embassies and consulates can waive interview requirements for certain non-immigrant visas at their discretion. However, no facility is required to do so. Individuals are encouraged to check with their embassy or consulate to determine whether an interview is required.
Changes to Interview Requirements
Part of the extension includes specific changes. Here is what employers should know:
- Renewing Visas Once They Have Expired : Before, interviews were waived if non-immigrant visa applicants were renewing visas that were either still valid or expired sometime within the last 12 months. The allowed expiration period is now extended to 48 months, effective indefinitely. However, it is crucial to understand that this change applies only to applicants renewing visas in the same classification. This change seems to apply to all categories of non-immigrant visas, including the renewals for B-1 and B-2 visas and H-2 applicants.
- Waivers for Employer-Based Petitions for H-1, H-3, H4, L, O, P, and Q visas as well as H-4 Spouses and Dependents : For visa interviews in these categories, it is possible to waive the requirement if:
- The applicant was previously issued any variation of a visa.
- The applicant has no history of past visa denials, or the refusal was waived or overcome.
- The applicant applies in the country of nationality or residence.
- The applicant appears to be eligible for a visa.
- First-Time Applicants: Those who are first-time applicants in a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program are also eligible for an interview waiver if they meet the following conditions:
- They appear to be eligible for a visa.
- They have previously traveled to the U.S. under an authorization acquired using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
The changes coordinated between the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department are expected to reduce the delays which have plagued many applicants thus far. However, the waiver policy is optional, so not all embassies and consulates will waive interviews. Therefore, it is essential to speak with the embassy or consulate ahead of time to determine if and which interviews are waived.
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