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US Visa Dropbox Eligibility – 48 months, until Dec 31, 2021

US Visa Stamping at Consulates usually involves in-person interview, unless you qualify for the Interview Waiver Eligibility, which is popularly called as Dropbox Visa Appointment. In many cases, US Visa Dropbox Appointment is a must, if you are eligible for it.   In light of COVID and safety of everyone, US Department of State has announced small change in eligibility criteria for interview waiver or Dropbox stamping, we will cover that details in this article.

As a background, let’s quickly review the Dropbox process.

US Visa Stamping – In-Person Interview vs. Dropbox

In general, when you are applying for a new US Visa, as part of process to apply for US Visa, you would give biometrics and then attend in-person visa interview.  But, for renewing your existing US Visa, if you meet certain criteria, then you do not have to appear for in-person interview.  You can submit your visa related documents at Visa Application Center and your US visa maybe issued without interview. It is called as Visa Interview Waiver or Dropbox Visa Stamping.

Below are the typical general requirements to be eligible for Dropbox Stamping for anyone above 80 years and below 14 years. You need to meet all of them

Visa Interview Waiver or Dropbox Stamping Eligibility Criteria

  • You need to have Visa renewal in same category. Meaning, let’s say you have renewal for H1B, your previous visa in passport should be H1B as well.
  • Most recent visa should have been issued in your same country (home country)
  • Visa was received after Jan 1, 2008
  • Your visa should not have annotations like “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization”
  • You visa should be issued after 14th birthday
  • Your US visa was not lost, stolen or cancelled.
  • There were no US visa refusals in any other visa class, since your recent visa issuance
  • If applying for H, L or R visa, it should be valid or expired within last 12 months.  Also, if it is other classes of visa renewal, it is still same 12 months requirements (should be valid or expired in last 12 months).
    • To clarify, 12 months is the normal rule, this is the part that is changing to 48 months with the update

Some general criteria for other visa types, ages

  • Blanket L1 holder do not qualify for Dropbox or interview waiver. Only Blanket L2 Spouses are eligible
  • If you are applying for F visa, you should be at same school for which your previous visa was issued.
  • If applying for J visa, your DS-2019 is also issued by same institution as it is on previous visa.
  • Children under 14 years of age are eligible for dropbox
  • Adults over 80 years of age are eligible for drop box, if their recent visa application was not refused.

Now that we know the background and eligibility, let’s look at what has changed.

Dropbox Stamping Requirement Extended to 48 months from Expiry

Due to COVID-19, many US Consulates are still functioning with limited appointments and not open for regular visa operations. To help the situation and avoid public risk, back in 2020 US Department of State increased the 12 months from expiry to 24 months from expiry of previous visa for US visa renewals using dropbox or interview waiver option until March 31, 2021.

On March 11th, 2021, US Department of Statement released a press note indicating the expansion of dropbox visa stamping eligibility from 24 months from visa expiry to 48 months from expiry. Also, they are extending the eligibility beyond March 31st, 201 until Dec 31, 2021.

How does 48 months from Expiry Dropbox Visa Stamping Work ? ?

In the past, the requirement was “Your previous visa was in same class and valid or expired within last 12 months . Now, they have changed that to “Your previous visa was in same class and valid or expired within last 48 months.

Example : Let’s say you had H1B Visa stamping previously done in one of the US Consulates in India. Now, you are applying for H1B visa renewal in India on April 1st, 2021. For general drop box eligibility, your US visa had to be valid or expired on or after April 1st, 2020. Now, with this 48 month eligibility change, you can apply for Dropbox Visa stamping, if your visa has expired on or after April 1st, 2017.  You have basically 4 years from the date of expiry to apply for Visa Renewal using Dropbox now.

Usually, if you are eligible for Dropbox appointment, you would get a confirmation in the online system itself like below to schedule for Dropbox Appointment. When 24 month from expiry changes was done, users were getting the same confirmation. Now, with 48 months from expiry eligibility, we can expect to see the same change.

When should you book Dropbox Appointment with 48 months from expiry option ?

On March 16th, 2021, US TravelDocs CGI Federal website, which is used for US Visa appointment booking, has the updated question related to the 48 months from expiry option. See below screenshot from USTravelDocs CGI Federal Website. They also gave guidance saying in the question saying that “you need to submit the documents at dropbox location (VAC Center) at least 7 calendar days before your US Visa has been expired 48 months”. In short, you need to submit 7 days before your visa’s 48 months from expiry deadline.

What it means is that, for example, let’s say your eligibility of 48 months from expiry is ending on June 30th, 2021, then you need submit documents 7 days before June 30th. So, you should submit your documents before June 23rd, 2021. If you want to be safe, submit it couple more days before.

US Visa Renewal - 48 months from Expiry in CGI Federal System
US Visa Renewal – 48 months from Expiry in CGI Federal System

Below is the screenshot of the confirmation you would get on USTravelDocs CGI Federal Website, if you qualify for the Interview Waiver or Dropbox option for US Visa Renewal. Also, if you notice closely, the 48 months from expiry is also highlighted here and also has guidance that you need to submit at least 7 calendar days before the 48 months from expiry date reaches.

US Visa Stamping - Interview Waiver or Dropbox Confirmation on USTravelDocs Website - 2021
US Visa Stamping – Interview Waiver or Dropbox Confirmation on USTravelDocs Website – 2021

Latest News – 48 month Dropbox Validity, Timeline

March 16th, 2021 : USTravelDocs CGI Federal website that is used for Appointment booking for US Visa is updated with the 48 from expiry change. See above article for the details.

March 11th, 2021 : US Department of State made an announcement expanding the 24 month from expiry eligibility to 48 months from expiry. Also, they are extending the interview waiver or Dropbox eligibility with the 48 months until December 31st, 2021. See below screenshot of the Official Press release on Travel.State.Gov

US Dept of State Expands Interview Waiver Until Dec 31-2021
US Dept of State Expands Interview Waiver Until Dec 31-2021

December 29th, 2020 : Today, US Department of Stat issued a press release and update that extended the eligibility of 24 months until March 31st, 2021. They are extending this to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 at consulates. Below is the screenshot of the news update and you can check official news Link on travel.state.gov

US Visa Interview Waiver Eligiblity Extended until Mar 31-2021
US Visa Interview Waiver Eligiblity Extended until Mar 31-2021

August 25th, 2020 : US Department of State gave original guidance today indicating the flexibility in the dropbox eligibity. Below is the screenshot of the news, you can check official news alert from US Department of State

US Dept of State Update on Interview waiver requirement
US Dept of State Press Release on Interview Waiver 24 months Rule Change

Common FAQs

What is the key criteria for Dropbox ? How does 48 months work ?

The key criteria is that you need to meet the 48 month criteria on the day of submission of the documents. Even though system may allow you book appointment, you should meet the 48 month requirement on the day of submission.

Will 48 Months Dropbox be extended after December 31, 2021 ?

No one knows, they have extended it from March 31st, 2021 until December 31st, 2021. It will depend on the COVID situation by end of the year, consulates operations situations and the new Biden administration priority on how to handle it.

Can I go for regular visa interview, even if I am dropbox eligible ?

No, the system will not let you go for regular visa interview, if you are dropbox eligible. You need to use the dropbox option. This changed with the introduction of appointments option in India. Read US Visa Stamping Dropbox Appointment mandatory, if eligible

Is there any special process to get 48 month eligibility ?

No, the process is straightforward, the USTravelDocs system does the eligibility check automatically based on your information. You just need to answer the questions truthfully.

What is the reality of US Visa Stampings ? Emergency Appointments ?

Even though US Department of State announced in late 2020 that US consulates across the globe will open in phases, the reality is that many of the consulates are still not yet open for regular operations. Most of them are still operating in limited scope.  

For instance, India Consulates are not yet open for regular operations. They are processing only emergency appointment and limited slots are given for Work Visas like H1B, L1, others like B1. Check US Visa Consulates Updates COVID – India for complete details on the appointments, US Travel Docs updates.

Now that US State Department has expanded the Interview Waiver or Dropbox Visa stamping requirement to 48 months from expiry, we may see more people able to get Visa stamping. You can connect with others in US Visa Stamping Telegram Group  and get help from community or be part of the US Visa Stamping Experiences Group (only repository of experiences, no messaging option)

What do you think of the change to 48 months ? Will it help ease the waiting ?

   


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225 Comments

  1. Hi Kumar/Everyone,

    Can someone confirm if dropbox is applicable for L2 (independent) extension. My spouse (L1) is not traveling with me to India. But i want to make sure I will be eligible for stamping through the drop box.

    Reply
  2. My H1 visa expired on sep 2017 with employer A now I changed my employer and my new i797 is valid till June 2022.. if I go India on June 2021 am I eligible for Dropbox

    Reply
  3. Hello,
    My H1B visa stamp from 2016 has annotation – clearance received due to 221g. My second and the most recent H1B stamp didn’t receive a 221g and has no annotation. Do I qualify for dropbox for my next visa stamping?

    Thank you,
    Raj

    Reply
  4. Hi,

    My Son’s previous H4 Visa stamping was before he was 14. Now he is 14+ and am planning for a Drop box option (all other criteria are met for me and my family, except for this one). Does this mean we as a family would need to appear for an in-person interview ?

    Thanks in advance for the response

    Reply
    • Your son is eligible for Dropbox. Before 14 the 12months(now 48months) requirement is not applicable but after 14+ the 48 months expiry is applicable.

      Reply
  5. Am on H4 Visa and last visa expiry is 6th March 2018 and when i try to schedule appointment step 7 I don’t see the option “Did you previous visa expire in last 48months”

    Reply
  6. Hi,

    H1B Stamping was done in Feb 2016. Since then I did not travel to home country. An extension was done in 2018 which expires in Jun 2021.

    Another extension filled last week and was proved until Jan 2024.

    Can I be eligibile for drop box or need to go for visa interview?

    Thanks

    Reply
  7. in Feb when i booked my visa , it has 24 months drop box rule and as i am out of that bucket (visa expired in oct 2017) so i got face to face person interview appointment in delhi..but .it seems in March drop box for expired visa extend from 24 months to 48 months….and now i am eligible for drop box..so in that case do i need to do anything like cancel old one and get new drop box dates or just keep it as it is…any idea…
    in new process(after cancel old appointment) i may not get appointment as per my requirement as i m flying on April 10
    so far i did not get any email from anywhere to change my existing face to face interview process.
    please suggest

    Reply
  8. One of cousin gets inadmissible entry and his visa has been volunteered withdraw by CBO officer, and they put “Wd” stamps on h1 b stamps , however his I-797 is still valid , can he still eligible for drop box or he need to appear for interview ?

    Reply
    • Kiray,
      He maybe…but you need to understand the complexity of the situation, he may be sent back at Port of entry or called for interview as well as he was sent back by CBP..

      Reply
  9. Hi,

    My location amendment was denied once. later i changed the employer. so still am eligible for drop box option?. location amendment is considered as visa denial?.

    Reply
  10. Hello Everyone

    My wife is eligible for Dropbox because of 48 months expiration period, but every time when I login into ustraveldoc and continue my appointment I am getting “There are currently no appointments available” for Hyderabad center. Does anyone have the same problem? All other OFC center is available for dropbox, but not Hyderabad.

    Any suggestion will be very appericated.

    Reply
  11. My stamped Visa expired on Mar 2020 and my new 797 is approved till April 2024. I have changed jobs in March 2021 but my Visa Class remains same. If I visit India in June 2021 will I be drop box eligible?

    Reply
  12. Hi
    I am planning to go to India for stamping. Due to this 48 month rule now I fall under drop box category. I am trying to schedule an appointment at hyd consulate for the month of may. When I check cgi federal it says no appointments available for the month of May. Do I call consulate to find out when they open the appointments or keep checking the site every day? any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
  13. Hi Kumar,

    I have been following your blog for the past 5 years and it’s been really insightful and comforting for all the anxious US aspirants from India. Kudos to you for that. I have 2 questions .Request your response for the below

    1) I came to visa through employer A in Jan 2017 (visa valid till Jun 2019). I changed to employer B on Oct 2018 and joined on receipt (as PP was suspended). The transfer got denied on may 2019 and i returned to India. Now after 2 years my visa got approved through employer B (approved till Dec 2023) and my company has asked to initiate stamping. My query is ‘am i eligible for drop-box if my previous transfer petition was denied.? Is transfer petition denial treated as visa refusal as this question is asked in DS -160 (have any of your Visa denied in the past ?) .What should be my answer to this question.

    2) The project for which i got petition approval is getting over in the next 2 months. Is it better to get visa stamping and get an amendment (through which project i can travel) or get an amendment first and then travel?

    Regards,
    Tilak

    Reply
    • Tilak,
      1. USCIS Petition denial is not same as US Visa denial at Consulate. Both are different.. Your visa was not denied as per your info, it is only USCIS petition denial.
      2. It is better to have longer duration for stamping and approval, will give more room for Visa officer to see that you will be longer in US…with short duration, it can get tricky, if there is some delay and your effort can get wasted.

      Reply
  14. HI
    The 48 months change is updated in the Questionnaire. I booked an appointment, but in the appointment confirmation I am still seeing 24 month.

    H and L applicants ( -H1, -H4, -L1 Individual, -L2 Individual, -L2 Blanket)
    Prior visa in the same class which is still valid or expired within last 24
    months. (applicable for H1,H4,L1Individual,L2)

    is anyone else seeing this?
    Will this cause any issue with submitting the documents??

    Reply
  15. My H1B visa expired on Oct 2020 and I am eligible for Dropbox. Do I need to renew before Dec 2021 before the policy expires?

    Reply
    • 48 months expiration limit has been extended till Dec 2021 so If they remove this extension and go back to 12month after Jan 2022 then you will not be eligible for dropbox. So it is better to renew it before Dec 2021 of wait till Nov 2021 for new announcement from US state dept or embassy

      Reply
  16. Dropbox appointment website has been updated with 48 months expiry in the eligibility questionnaire
    https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/

    Reply
  17. Hi,

    Query on stamping fees –
    I had paid the fees for appointment last week, and before scheduling the appointment, my account got locked for 72 hours. Then the news of dropbox eligibility extension to 48 months came in, and since I’m eligible for it, I initiated a new application yesterday (didn’t book the in-person appointment) to check for dropbox and it wasn’t updated to 48 months. Whenever the change happens on the portal with new guidelines of 48 months extension, will I still be able to use the visa fees already paid? Could you please help with this.

    Thanks,
    JR

    Reply
    • I am in same boat, I had an employer change and my visa from former employer expired last week. Did you get any input on whether this situation is eligible for interview waiver?

      Reply
  18. Thanks for detailed article, this makes me eligible for dropbox since my last visa expired on 2017, 19th July, one question I have , to book dropbox appointment I still have to be exempt from Presidential Proclamation 10052 correct or wait for ban to end in Mar 31st?

    Reply
  19. Hi Anurag, Sri,

    Did you get any confirmation on Dropbox appointment after April1st is valid or not?

    Thanks,
    Deepak

    Reply
    • Hi Deepak,

      I am in the similar situation and already booked a April date, but not sure if it will
      be valid or not,

      Please let me know if you found anything on this topic.

      Reply
      • Yes, this has been extended to dec 31, 2021. Also, the eligibility for the interview waiver period/time has extended to 48 months. That’s a big relief.
        Refer to the link below.
        https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/expansion-of-interview-waiver-eligibility.html

        Reply
        • Be aware you may get stuck with request for interview after Dropbox. They don’t allow walk in like they used to pre covid

          Reply
        • however current system is still showing 24 month message not sure ,when it will be updated in “https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/”.
          Let me if anyone see updated message for 48 hour into system.
          Thanks

          Reply
          • sandy,
            It may take few days, maybe week to 10 days for them to update this in system. Will update the article once we see this change.

        • Does anyone know how long it took last time for cgi website to update it to 24 months from 12 months? It is still showing as 24 months now.

          Reply
  20. Hi.. my visa expired in Sep’2019 and I am planning to visit India in May 2021. Completed DS-160. When trying to schedule an appointment it was showing that I will be eligible for dropbox considering the 24months expiration period but that exception will end on Mar 31st 2021.
    How can I proceed further? Am I really eligible for dropbox? What will happen if I schedule a dropox appointment for May 2021?

    Reply
    • hi sri,

      I am in exactly the same boat as you. My visa expired in Dec 2019. When I am booking an appointment now, it says that I am eligible for dropbox, but that will expire on March 2021.

      Did you get an answer to your question?

      Reply
  21. Hi Kumar,

    Could you pls provide your inputs –

    My wife and daughter have valid visa till July 2021 which got stamped through my previous employer in April 2019 they never travelled to USA , they can avail Dropbox while stamped visa is still valid or only applies to Expired ones ?

    Regards
    Hemanth

    Reply

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