US expands interview waivers for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants

January 10, 2022

WASHINGTON, CMC – The United States Department of State announced on Sunday that consular officers are now temporarily authorised to waive in-person interviews for certain individual petition-based nonimmigrant work visas and their qualifying derivatives. 

The categories for the qualifying derivatives include Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas); Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas); Intracompany Transferees (L visas); Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas); Athletes, Artists and Entertainers (P visas); and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas). 

The new provision will be in place through to the end of the year.

Additionally, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has extended consular officers’ current ability to waive the in-person interview, through December 31, 2022, for other categories of nonimmigrant visas: Temporary Agricultural and Non-agricultural Workers (H-2 visas); Students (F and M visas); and Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas). 

“The Department of State recognises the positive impact of temporary work visa holders on the United States economy and is committed to facilitating nonimmigrant travel and reducing visa wait times,”said the department in a statement. 

“We recognise the many contributions of international visitors to our communities and campuses,” it added, stating that the authorisation to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely. 

The state department said that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in “profound reductions” in the department’s visa processing capacity, and that it is taking these temporary steps “to further our commitment to safely and efficiently reduce visa wait times while maintaining national security as our priority.” 

The department also said it made its determination with the concurrence of its Department of Homeland Security partners. 

“Embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions,” the department said.  

“We encourage applicants to check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about this development, as well as current operating status and services.” 

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