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US Visa Interview Waived for certain H1B, L1, H4: GUIDE

US Department of State made a significant announcement in late December 2021 that eases many of the Visa stamping issues for many non-immigrant visa holders. They announced that they are expanding interview waivers for many visa types if applicants meet certain conditions starting from January 1st, 2022. Also, they extended the 48 months US Visa dropbox eligibility rule as well. This article covers all the details related to the same.

Background – US Consulates Limited Operations, Visa Slots Issues

US Consulates have been operating with very limited capacity since early 2020 due to the COVID Pandemic. The situation of US Visa slots availability has been limited globally and many are scrambling for visa slots. US Consulates Visa Slots Situation in India is even worse due to the high demand and many are bending the rules by paying agents for slots.

Firstly, US Consulates are not able to open appointments for in-person visa stamping for many applicants due to the social distancing requirements for applicants due to COVID. Secondly, the Consulates said that their offices are not set up for social distancing, so can’t open more slots or increase capacity by adding more officers. Thirdly, US consulates staff are not fully available due to the pandemic situation with travel restrictions. Finally, the local conditions in many countries are unpredictable with lockdowns, restrictions with the new Omicron variant scare of highly transmittable nature.

Considering all the above, including the contributions of non-immigrant work visa holders, the US Department of State has made a significant decision to waive in-person visa interviews for certain types of temporary work visa holders, students, and a few other visa types. In addition, they are extending the 48-month dropbox stamping for renewals as well.

Now that you have the background, let’s dive into the details on what was the announcement and how it would work. We have divided the announcement details into sections for easy review.

US Visa Interview Waived for certain H1B, H4, L1, Other Work Visas

US Dept of State after working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given the authority to US Consular Officers to waive in-person visa interviews for certain temporary work visa applicants if they meet certain criteria as listed below.

Temporary Work Visa Types that are eligible for In-Person Interview Waiver

Below are the visa types that are eligible for in-person interview waiver, if they meet requirements in the next section:

  • H1B Visa, H1B1 Visa
  • H4 Visa
  • H3 Visa
  • Non-blanket L Visas ( L1A, L1B, L2)
  • O Visas ( O-1, O-2)
  • P Visas (P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S)
  • Q Visas ( Q-1)

Requirements for In-Person Interview Waiver

You need to meet all of the below 4 conditions to be able to be considered for an in-person interview waiver. It is up to the discretion of the Consular Officer to give you an interview waiver, just meeting the below conditions does not guarantee an in-person interview waiver.

  1. You need to have a petition approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS). Basically, this is something that your employer would apply with USCIS for working in US before you go for stamping and it is mandatory for stamping.
  2. You need to be applying for Visa Stamping in your country of Nationality or Residence. For example, if you are Indian citizen, you can only apply in India or alernatively, if you are India citizen but live in Germany due to work with proper work visa, then you can apply in Germany as it is your place of residence.
  3. You need to have any type of US Visa issued in the past. It does not have to be in the same category. For example, let’s say you are applying for H1B Visa, but you previously had B1/B2 issued, then you are eligible.
  4. You should have never been refused a US Visa at Visa Stamping. If you had an administrative processing refusal like 221g, then it should have been overcome or waived. You should have not any potential ineligibility aspects on your application (this is not clearly defined by them on what they mean)

Requirements for Interview Waiver for VWP Country Citizens

If you are a citizen of a country that is participating in the Visa Waiver Program(VWP), then you need to meet the below conditions. You are eligible for an interview waiver, even if it is your first-time visa stamping based on a first-time petition filed by an employer in the US if you meet the below conditions.

  1. You must of citizen of VWP designated country as per US Dept of State
  2. You must have previously traveled to the US using Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before.
  3. There are no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligiblity aspects on the application ( This is not clearly defined by them)

How long is the above interviw waiver eligible for Work Visa holders ?

The above interview waiver for the temporary work visa holder is until the end of 2022. It means that it will be until December 31st, 2022.

Interview Waivers for certain F, M, J visa Applicants

US Dept of State is extending the previously approved policy to waive the visa interview for certain students, professors, research scholars, other specialists who apply for F (F1, F2), M, and academic J visas if they meet all of the below criteria:

  1. They must be applying for the US visa in their consular district of residence. Basically where they live.
  2. They must have a previously issued US visa of any type. It means, any type of successful US visa stamping like B1/B2 or others in the past.
  3. They must never had any US Visa refusals in the past. If had 221g administrative processing, they should have been resolved and got Visa stamping done.
  4. Also they do not have any apparent ineligiblity or potential in-eligiblity on their application ( this is not fully clear what they mean)

These details were issued earlier this year 2021 and are not available on the US Dept of State website now. You can check the below screenshot or Archive.org for the actual info

F1 Visa - M and J Visa In person Interview Waivers Conditions
F1 Visa – M and J Visa In-person Interview Waivers Conditions

Interview Waivers for certain F, M, J visa Applicants from VWP Countries

If you are part of the Visa Waiver Program countries, you need to meet the below conditions. There is one change from the previous announcements, which is also updated in the below conditions. You can be a first-time visa stamping applicant as well.

  1. You must be a citizen of VWP designated country as per US Dept of State.
  2. You need to apply for the US visa in your country of residence or nationality ( VWP country)
  3. You must have previously traveled to the US using Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before. This is the new change that is added.
  4. There are no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligiblity aspects on the applicant for visa issuance. ( This is not clearly defined by them).

Again, even if you meet all the above, it is up to the discretion of the Consular Officer to give you an interview waiver, just meeting the above does not guarantee an interview waiver.

How does Interview Waiver Work in CGI Federal System ?

On Jan 1, 2022, USTravelDocs / CGI Federal Website, which is used to book the US visa appointments, got updated with the new Interview Waiver exception that was announced by the US Dept of State on Dec 23rd, 2021. Below is how it works in the CGI Federal website booking system.

They added two new questions and re-used previous general interview waiver/dropbox questions to make this new interview waiver rule work. Below are the questions and confirmation.

New Question : Do you have previous visa in any class issued ?

You will see a new question in the beginning that asks every applicant “Do you have previous visa in any visa class issued ?” as in the below screenshot. If you answer yes to this question, then you will get subsequent typical dropbox questions asking about annotations like “Clearance Received or Department Authorization”, and other questions.

Do you have previous visa in any visa class issued
Do you have previous visa in any visa class issued

New Question : Have you ever been refused a Visa before ?

Also, you will see a new question at the last that asks “Have you ever been refused a visa before?” as in the below screenshot. This is a key question that will be considered for the new interview waiver rule.

Have you ever been refused a visa before
Have you ever been refused a visa before

Interview Waiver Confirmation

If you answer “Yes” to the first new question that asks about if you ever got a US Visa and “No” to the second new question that asks about your previous US visa refusal, and if you meet the general dropbox requirements ( check H1B Dropbox Complete Guide for the questions ), then you will get a confirmation that says you are eligible for interview waiver. The confirmation screen looks like in the below screenshot. It is similar to general dropbox confirmation.

Visa Interview Waiver Confirmation Screen after New Rules
Visa Interview Waiver Confirmation Screen after New Rules

US Visa Renewals using Dropbox – 48 Months Rule

US Dept of State has extended the 48-month US Visa Renewal rule using the Dropbox option indefinitely. Meaning, there is no deadline as such when this will end. This was supposed to end on December 31, 2021. See below screenshot confirming the same. You can read complete details on how the 48-month rule works at Guide to 48 Month Dropbox Stamping Rule.

You may also check Step by Step Guide to H1B Dropbox Stamping

48 Months Dropbox Rule Extended Indefinitely
48 Months Dropbox Rule Extended Indefinitely

Also, US Consulates have extended the H2 Visa (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) interview waiver rule until the end of 2022 ( December 31st, 2022)

Latest News Updates : New Interview Waiver Implementation, Slots

Jan, Feb, March 2022: The US Consulates continue to provide interview waiver option for certain visa holders as listed above. There are no issues reported as such by our user community.

January 1st, 2022: Today, US Dept of State rolled out the new Interview Waiver rule that was announced on Dec 23rd, 2021 that waives in-person interview for many who meet the requirements as mentioned in above article. We have added a new section in the above article that shows the new questions and how the system works.


December 28th, 2021: Below are the latest update on the implementation of the new interview waiver rule :

  • US Consulates in India annouced that they will be releasing 20,000 Interview Waiver Slots to cater to the new interview waiver option announced by US Dept. See below screenshot from US Embassy website.
  • There is no info on when these 20,000 slots would be released.
  • There is no official update from US Consulates or Embassies on how this would be implement yet . Also, no update from the community as well.
Interview Waiver - 20000 slots for Spring in India Update
Interview Waiver – 20000 slots for Spring in India Update

December 23rd, 2021: This is up to the US Consulates and Embassies on how they will implement this new interview waiver rule. In the past, when we had the 48-month dropbox rule that was announced, it took about a week for the USTravelDocs ( CGI Federal System) to be updated to reflect the announcement. As of now, all we can do is wait for the US Consulates or CGI Federal updates.

We do not know the exact date on when they would implement this new interview waiver rule as well. We will update this page with details as we have more information.


Overall, it is a good move by the US Dept of State to reduce visa slots issue for fresh visa applicants. It may or may not help everyone, but does make the situation better for a few of them, who are eligible. I wish, they did this for everyone to avoid the visa slots issues.

We have worked with VisaGrader.com website team and built a US Visa Slots Tracker by Country for the community to have visibility on slots and when they will open. If you are checking for slots, do add slots availability for community benefit.

What do you think of the announcement on interview waivers for certain visa holders? Share your thoughts in comments below.

Reference : Official News on US Dept of State

   

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259 Comments

  1. Hey Kumar,

    I came to USA on H1B Visa ,which was expired on 30DEC2015
    In between I changed company .Currently having approved 1797 till Jun 2024
    Am I eligible for New Visa Wavier Program ?
    Currently in USA ,Can apply the for VISA from by staying in USA?
    Can you guide me the Steps or where to get more details …

    Regards,
    Siva Kumar

    Reply
  2. Hi Kumar,

    First time came here in 2013 on H1B visa. I had changed my employer on 2016. But never stamped my new visa after changing the employer. So whether I am eligible for this new interview waiver option?

    Reply
  3. Hi Kumar,

    So just to clarify on this point
    If a person is working and living in the US on a valid H1B visa (i797 approved only, stamping not done yet) and nationality is India.
    Is that person eligible for this by staying in the US itself without going to India?

    Reply
  4. In case of L1->H1 change of status(approved) with H4 application pending; will this waiver be available to both ; if we are visiting India in person in 2022 ?

    Reply
  5. Hello All, This might not be related to topic but I didn’t knew how exactly I could find help so posting here.
    I am currently on H4-EAD recently moved from India and I am looking to start my career in software industry. I have prepared myself by learning SQL and Tableau. Can anyone provide me with any contact details of any good Consultant services who can assist me in placing me into a Project and help me start my career.

    Reply
  6. Hi,

    My L1B – H1B COS was approved in August. My spouse’s L2->H4 is still in “Application Received” status. Would both of us be eligible for this waiver ?

    Thanks!

    Reply
      • Hi Kishore,

        Sorry. i got response from Kumar

        Vijay,
        You cannot send them to your country. You need to be in your country to avail this. Based on the rule, you are likely to be, but again, it is up to the discretion of the Visa officer. Also, we are yet to see the details on how this would be implemented.

        Reply
  7. I was earlier on H4 and have renewed visa in India. In 2020, I have now approved H1b in 2020 and I have also got appointment for biometric and interview on 8th April and 12th April respectively.
    My question is, will I be able to use same appointment for dropbox or I need to take new appointment?

    Reply
    • samiksha,
      We are waiting for update from consulate on how they would implement this. You can email the consualte for clarity. Still you have time, so we would know soon.

      Reply
  8. Hi Kumar,

    I came to US on f1 and now I have h1b. I could not find any info on how to apply for visa waiver program. Could you please let me know the process for visa waiver program ?

    1) do we still have to book the visa slot ?
    2) can we apply for visa stamping while we are in USA and have it approved even before traveling to India ?
    3) how to submit the documents?

    Reply
  9. Hi , my H1b visa stamping had expired on 2015-Sep-30 and currently I am in US, I didn’t travel to India since 2015 and planning for my Travel on 2022 from past 8 years I am working for the same company with same client. am I eligible for Visa Interview waiver program?

    Reply
  10. My US visa was initially refused in the first attempt in 2015 but in second attempt it was granted. I am currently on H4 Visa. I do have my H4 visa stamped which is expired and now I am trying to get my H4 Visa stamped based on my wife’s h1b approval notice. Am I eligible for H4 interview waiver ?

    Reply
  11. Hi Kumar,

    Please need urgent help.

    Mine was B2 to H1B COS in 2018, their on never went to my country (INDIA).
    Currently working in US on valid I-797.

    Am i eligible for visa interview Waiver? If yes can i send my Passport and other documents to US embassey in my country?

    Reply
    • Vijay,
      You cannot send them to your country. You need to be in your country to avail this. Based on the rule, you are likely to be, but again, it is up to the discretion of the Visa officer. Also, we are yet to see the details on how this would be implemented.

      Reply
  12. Hi,

    I am currently in the US and would want my H1B visa stamp renewed. If I’m eligible for interview waiver, can I just send my passport and documents to my home country without leaving the US?

    Reply
  13. Hi Sir
    How do I request for an interview waiver? Based on you video I qualify and I have filled my ds160 and paid fees on cgi.federal. What are the next steps to request for waiver?

    Reply
  14. Hi
    I have an expired B1/B2 visa about 24 months ago, I guess I am well within the 48 months criteria for a renewal without interview. But is the visa appointment still necessary? As there are no dates available for B1/B2 visas till next October in Mumbai. I need to be in the US for a workshop in May. Also how do I proceed after payment? any updates or leads would be appreciated. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Kumar,
      Have approved I797 petition.
      Have valid B1 visa.
      My L1b was not approved with reason not clearly approvable 5 years before. Is it kind of refused visa or?
      Kindly advise – Am I eligible for Interview Waiver?

      Reply
  15. It is mentioned in the para “Requirements for In-person Interview Waiver” that ” “You need to be applying for Visa Stamping in your country of Nationality or Residence. For example, if you are Indian citizen, you can only apply in India or alternatively, if you are India citizen but live in Germany due to work with proper work visa, then you can apply in Germany as it is your place of residence.”

    There it was given the example of ” Indian Citizen living in Germany due to work with proper work Visa and in such situation he can apply in Germany as it is his place of residence”

    Here, the given example, appears to be not correct for the reason that there is no concept of USCIS in Germany. The context may be that of those Indian Citizens, who went to USA on F1 Visa and who are presently living in USA (Place of Present Residence) and working on a valid work visa (H1B) in USA , but unable to visit India for VISA Stamping due to pandemic, are eligible now to get the same completed in USA itself. Please clarify. Thanks

    Reply
    • JSRAO,
      The context of work visa is Work Visa to live and work in Germany, which has nothing to do with USCIS. The example or analogy was given to explain that someone having residence in a country like Germany by working there. Hope it is clear. The key thing is Country of Residence. It could be any country where you work and reside at the moment. Their point is, you cannot go to a country for tourism and get stamping there.

      Reply
      • Hi Kumar,

        So just to clarify on this point
        If a person is working and living in the US on a valid H1B visa (i797 approved only, stamping not done yet) and nationality is India.
        Is that person eligible for this by staying in the US itself without going to India?

        Reply
  16. Hello,
    I have a basic question around this 48 months if my Visa has been expired in Sept 2017 then how does this rule works do I still need to appear for an interview ? I do have Valid I-797 and petition has been approved kindly let me know if you have clarity around this that would be helpful .
    Thanks , Amit

    Reply
    • I am also on the same boat, my visa also expired exactly in sept 2017.As per the new rules which they have added it’s mentioned that below text
      Under this authority, consular officers have discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived
      so we should be eligible but additionally requires the consular officer approval, that is the part i am not sure how it will work out.

      Reply
      • Ok thanks yeah that needs more clarity , also I can still see 48 months when I try to schedule in this case its > 48 months so not sure how will that going to work

        Reply
  17. Hello ,

    I have my L1B visa stamped on 2009 and got my H1B visa on 2012 . I’m yet to do my first time H1B stamping. Am i eligible for dropbox?

    Thanks
    GK

    Reply
  18. Hello

    I am a fresh applicant(I don’t have any previous H1B stamped). It means this is the first time I applied for H1B VISA in 2021 and I satisfy all the below conditions

    1. My petition got approved – 2021
    2. I am applying from Hyderabad
    3. I already have a valid B1 VISA
    4. I have been **never refused any VISA from US

    So Am i eligible for DropBox program (In person Interview Waiver program)??
    Also when it will start reflect to show these options in DS 160 to categorize me as dropbox eligible, because right now I filled DS 160 but could not see those options here https://redbus2us.com/visas/usa/renewal/h1b-dropbox/

    Reply
  19. Is it applicable to Pakistan too? I have my l1 restamp interview scheduled for 3rd January 2022. Should I contact my embassy and ask them or wait for them to contact me.?

    Reply
  20. Hello, I previously had an F1 and now my h1 is approved and I have the visa interview in Jan 1st week. I am already in india. What should I do now? I meet all the criteria. I am not sure what are my next steps. Please help.

    Reply
  21. Hi,

    I got my F1 visa in 2016 , now in USA with H1B change of status and planning to get my FIRST TIME H1B stamping.

    Will I be eligible for the interview waiver just announced, even though my F1 VISA HAS EXPIRED?

    Reply
  22. Do we know if same country clause is removed too? Or was it till 31st sec 2021 for drop box? I had my last stamping in canada and wanted to use dropbox in 2022 ..

    Reply
  23. Hi ,
    Currently I am on H4 Visa (stamping expired August 2018) and now have to renew H4 visa . I have I-797 for H4 approved till sept , 2022 .
    Based on 48 month rule I am eligible for dropbox .
    But My Tourist visa (B1/B2) was refused in year 2014 even before applying for H4 visa.
    Based on the new rule published for Interview Waiver on 23rd December , Since i had US visa refusal in B1/B2 category , does that make me dropbox ineligible for H4 visa renewal ?

    I have to travel next week as have dropbox date in first week of Jan . Help is much appreciated !!

    Reply
  24. Will the dependents be eligible for this too if the main applicant meets the criteria??

    My wife hasn’t traveled to US and doesn’t have a Visa issued to her earlier.

    Same for the kids too.

    Reply
  25. Hi,

    I am currently on F2 in US and got my H1B approved for this year but need to travel to India for a visa interview, am I eligible for an interview waiver as per the recent notification? Kindly provide your inputs..

    Reply
  26. On Condition#4: You should have never been refused a US Visa at Visa Stamping.

    In 2012 when my h1b Visa was issued, my B1 visa was cancelled. I have no idea why it was cancelled and I didnot ever inquired as I didn’t need it. I saw this when I received my passport back after H1B stamping. I did my last drop box for H1b in 2015 and it’s been more than 48 months my visa has expired.

    Am I eligible for the new Interview waiver?

    Reply
  27. Hi,

    I got my F1 visa in 2015 , now in USA with H1B change of status and planning to get my FIRST TIME H1B stamping.

    Will I be eligible for the interview waiver just announced, even though my F1 VISA HAS EXPIRED?

    Reply
  28. Greetings,
    W.r.t “L” visa category, is there a clarity on whether the interview waiver is applicable for both “Individual” and Blanket” petitions?

    Regards,
    Vippin

    Reply
    • Vippin,
      It should be for both, they have not said anything specific, it says L. They would say specifically, if there was something as such.

      Reply
  29. i came USA on student visa in 2016 then i got my h1b in 2018. and i never went to india for stamping if i go to india in 2022 after my h1b extention am i eligible for this?

    Reply
  30. Hi ,
    Me and my Wife have a dropbox date for 13th Jan, 2022 .
    Our previous visa stamped was expired in september , 2018 so we fall under the category of interview waiver as visa expiting within 48 months .

    However due to new rules published yesterday , for interview waiver it says , you should never have “any” US visa refused . But my spouse had a Tourist Visa (B1/B2) refused in 2013 and after that she got H4 visa in 2016 .
    So is she still eligible for dropbox ?
    Her H4 was never refused and that is her latest Visa and we have dropbox appointment for H4 visa only .
    We have a flight on 26th December and now speculating whether we should travel or no ?
    Please help !!

    Reply
  31. Hi, I have a change of status H1B, which was converted from an F1 visa but do not have a stamped H1B yet. I need to travel back to India from US but have been avoiding it due to the requirement of getting the visa stamped before entering back in the US and lack of consular appointments in India. Is this new waiver relevant for me too? Can I now travel back and get the visa stamped without an appointment?

    Would appreciate any help, thank you!

    Reply
  32. Hi Sir,

    I have an approved US petition (2021-22). My company is about to schedule an US embassy interview. Do i need to attend the interview or shall i fall under waiver program.

    01. First time H1b approved.
    02. Not travelled to US before with any visa.

    Looking for your kind advice.

    Reply
  33. same question. I have filled application ,still showing no CA available. Do I fill a new application for dropbox? how do we wave this and get only ofc appointment?

    Reply
  34. Not much of use to first – timers and who have never been to US on any visa and are not from the VWP countries aka India. Thousands like me have to keep looking for visa slots which are not there. disappointed.

    Reply
  35. How would people know that their visa interview has been waived off ? What will happen to people who already have the interview dates? Do people need to call US consulate to know whether the interview is waived off ?

    Reply
    • AK,
      At the moment, there are no details on how they would implement this. Let’s wait for the consulates to update. We will keep you all posted too.

      Reply
    • Shashank,
      They have not mentioned, if it has to be valid. So, you should be able to avail the waiver. So far, we do not have specific on how they will implement. Let’s wait. We will keep you posted.

      Reply
  36. I have valid B1/B2 visa for myself and my wife. My 4 year old son doesnt have. I have applying fro L1 B blanket visa. Is the visa waiver applicable to me.? I have already scheduled the interview in teh month of feb 2022.

    Reply
    • Kautilya,
      Yes, as per annoucement you would be eligible. Regarding your son, he would fall under general dropbox as he is under 14. Wait for consulate on how it would work. You can email them on this to get update. Do update here on how they respond as well for community benefit.

      Reply
  37. If I meet all the requirements as above for L1B, any idea on how to avail the waiver? Do we have to contact CGI in India? Does this apply if I already have a interview appointment scheduled?

    Reply
    • Nupur,
      They have not really given any specific details related to kids. Same rule like adults would apply. Also, in general, if kids are under 14, they are eligible for interview waiver automatically.

      Reply
  38. If I meet all the requirements to be eligible for interview waiver for H1B, how do I apply for this waiver? Do I need to already have an interview appointment scheduled? Are there going to more slots made available for dropbox appointments?

    Reply
    • same question. I have filled application ,still showing no CA available. Do I fill a new application for dropbox? how do we wave this and get only ofc appointment?

      Reply
      • Shreya, Viren,
        We need to wait and see how the US Consulates will implement this. We do not have that details yet. Let’s wait. Stay tuned, we will keep you all posted.

        Reply
    • CGI portal is updated with new details and you should answer questions on step 7 to understand if you will qualify for new IW or not but unfortunately even today I don’t see slots for these IWs dropbox .

      Reply

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