The US Department of State made a significant announcement in late December 2021 that eased many 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.
On December 23rd, 2022, they announced that they are extending the interview waiver option until December 31st, 2023, and also continuing the 48-month dropbox eligibility rule. 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. The situation of visa slot availability is still very tight with long wait times, even as of December 2022 in many countries.
Some of the reasons in 2020, 2021, and 2022 for delays:
- US Consulates could not open appointments for in-person visa stamping for many applicants due to the social distancing requirements for applicants due to COVID.
- US Consulates said that their offices are not set up for social distancing, so they could not open more slots or increase capacity by adding more officers.
- US consulates staff were not fully available due to the pandemic situation with travel restrictions.
- The local conditions in many countries are unpredictable with lockdowns and restrictions with the new variants of COVID
- Even though the situation of COVID has changed in 2022, the shortage of staff is still causing long delays at US Consulates across the globe.
Considering all the above and 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. They originally announced this until December 31st, 2022, but later extended it until December 31st, 2023.
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
The 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 an in-person interview waiver, if they meet the 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.
- 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.
- You need to be applying for Visa Stamping in your country of Nationality or Residence. For example, if you are an Indian citizen, you can only apply in India or alternatively, if you are an Indian citizen, but live in Germany due to your job with a proper work visa, then you can apply in Germany as it is your place of residence.
- 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.
- 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.
- You must be a citizen of VWP designated country as per the US Dept of State
- You must have previously traveled to the US using Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before.
- There are no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility aspects on the application ( This is not clearly defined by them)
How long is the above interview waiver eligible for Work Visa holders?
The above interview waiver for the temporary work visa holder is until December 31st, 2023. It was originally given until December 31st, 2022, and later extended for a year until Dec 31st, 2023.
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:
- They must be applying for the US visa in their consular district of residence. Basically where they live.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- You must be a citizen of the VWP designated country as per the US Dept of State.
- You need to apply for a US visa in your country of residence or nationality ( VWP country)
- You must have previously traveled to the US using Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before. This is the new change that is added.
- There are no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility 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.
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.
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. The below screen is the latest with the option to book an emergency appointment if needed. This was updated in October 2022.
Below is the original old Dropbox appointment confirmation that used to appear from January 2022 until October 2022. This screen changed and looks like in above screenshot.
US Visa Renewals using Dropbox – 48 Months Rule
The US Dept of State has indefinitely extended the 48-month US Visa Renewal rule using the Dropbox option. On December 23rd, 2022, they announced their plans to continue this 48-month dropbox rule, until further notice. This was originally supposed to end on December 31, 2021. See the below screenshot confirming the same.
You can read complete details on how the 48-month rule works at the article: Guide to 48 Month Dropbox Stamping Rule. You may also check Step by Step Guide to H1B Dropbox Stamping
Also, US Consulates have extended the H2 Visa (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) interview waiver rule until the end of 2023 ( December 31st, 2023)
Latest News Updates: New Interview Waiver Implementation, Slots
December 23rd, 2022 : US Department of State announced that they are continuing the interview waiver for Non-immigrant visa holders until December 31st, 2023. All the above mentioned clauses from previous year continue to be in place for another one more year. See the below screenshot of the official press release
January through November 2022: The US Consulates continue to provide interview waiver options for certain visa holders as listed above. There are no issues reported as such by our user community from the beginning of the year until November 2022.
As of November 2022, we do not know, if the above option of interview waiver would be extended beyond the end of December 2022, we need to wait and see. We will keep this page updated as more info is released by the US Dept of State.
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 interviews for many who meet the requirements as mentioned in the 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.
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 , Dec 2022 News – US Dept of State
I currently have a B2 visa and need to travel to the US with my kids below 14years for a program. Is it possible to use the drop box to apply for a visa for my kids to be able to travel with them? If yes, what documents will I need and how do I go about it.
Received today my Daughter’s and Son H4 visas both, but in the petition number section, it’s specified wrong in number(instead of xxx356 specified as xxx256), and the same has been printed with different petitioner names. Earlier I requested the travel docs to change the petition number in DS-160 and a case was opened and closed. They said it had been done but now I see an old wrong petition number. What should I do now?
Can it be possible now to change and correct the visa, what are the possibilites. can i travel with the same?
The consulate responded to retry the whole process to correct the issue.
My H1b was picked in 2017 and got I747 approval notice on Oct 2017. I went for stamping in 2018. I got stamping till 2021. I did not travel and got expired. I did not get extention yet. Can anyone suggest how long my H1b is valid to transfer or extend or I can use my H1b. Thanks.
Hello, I have a stamped H4 visa previously in 2018 which was valid until Feb 2019. After that I transferred to H1B in 2020 and since then got another extension on H1B which is valid until Feb. 2025. I have a dropbox appointment on Feb.14th 2023 but now I am confused whether it should have been a dropbox or an interview appointment since I have clearly crossed the 48 months timelines since the last stamped H4 visa. Please can you confirm if I should try for an interview appointment or just travel to India for dropbox and let the consulate decide if they want to call me for an interview. I am direct employee of the USA company and never had any visa rejected previously. Thanks for your input.
is “New Rule of Interview Waiver for Other Temporary Work Visa” applicable at the time of actual dropbox appointment or at the time of scheduling the appointment ?
I have same question
i have a query: i have b1/b2 visa in 2018. And later L1 visa rejected in 2019 at consulate. Now this year 2022 my H1b is petition approved. now there is a dropbox eligible question as below while filling:
” Did your most recent application result in you being issued the visa”
what does this means and if y select YES what is means and if NO means waht?
“Did your most recent application result in you being issued the visa” what this means in visa waver program?
What is the exact answer you gave for this because I also got stuck into this same question
hi, kumar I was h4 visa and my primary applicant on h1b had 221g refusal in 2018. now I am h1b holder so, am I eligible for dropbox ? plz answer thanks.
The eligibility is for you as individual, your spouse status does not matter. Try the questionnaire and answer, it will suggest.
Hi kumar I am eligible for visa waiver as I got h1b as.COS w.e.f
march22 from F1 visa. I am getting slots in September 23 only..I understood that the waiver to other categories is upto 31st.dec22..If I book a slot for sep23 in waiver program will it holds good ..please advice so that I will try to get an early appointment in 2023
Well, it is hard to predict at this point. You may have to change based on what the US dept of state tells later in the year. Technically as of today, the waiver is valid until end of this year, we don’t know at this point, if they would extend or not. Depending on how it goes, you may have to change later.
I have a valid B1/B2 VISA from Year-2019 to 2029 and now in 2022 my H1B petition has been approved. Now I have added all my dependents(they do not have any US Valid Visa) However when i move further based on my B1/B2 Valid visa it is showing Interview Waiver even for First time H1B Stamping. So my question is it is waiver for my-self and my dependents too. I am little worried whether i can opt the drop box with entire family or not. Also not sure how i can book the H4 appointment for them since my H1B stamping is not yet done.
Has anyone recently transitioned from F1 visa to H1-B visa, and was able to get an interview waiver for their first time H1-B stamping.
I was refused F1 visa at first under 214b, but was given visa on my second attempt of applying it. Will it impact my interview waiver for H1-B visa?
Thanks in advance!!
It should not impact. Worst case, they will call for an interview, that’s it.
I had a H1B Visa work permit until Sep 2023. I had a valid BI Visa Until Jan 2025 and previous US Visit on B1. I also had a previous B1 rejection issues 214(b) in 2011. Should i eligible for in person Inviewer Viewer and drop box facility. Please do reply ASAP.
When you answer the questions, it will ask about the most recent visa issuance. if it was successful, you would be eligible. Try the questionnaire, you will get clarity.
Were you able to find answer for this question?
I have same question , My B1 Got Rejected in 2018 & i have valid H1B from 2019
I am eligible for drop box ? if answer yes to “Have you ever been refused a U.S. visa before?” question .. what will be the next question
Since the dropbox appointments for H1B/H4 are scarce, I could only get appointment for May 2023. My son turns 14 in March 2023. I read the interview waiver should apply at the time of document submission but in my son’s case, it would not be because of him turning 14. I paid for me and my son together and have one receipt number only.
I have two options. I can goto the dropbox appointment as scheduled. Or I cancel and get an interview for us. The problem is with scheduling since when I answer waiver questions, we are given dropbox option only. I do not know how this needs to be handled. Please help.
This is a unique situation, please write to consulate.
Dear Deepti Ji
We have similar query as our daughter has turned 14 years now but her last us visa was stamped when she she was 13. We want to travel to India now for Visa stamping extension -will my daughter qualify for interview waiver or she has to attend in person interview & biometrics.
Need an urgent reply .. we are filing for H4 Visa for my wife for the first time but She also holds B1 visa. Which means She is eligible for waiver according to the new rule. But, In the list of documents of Dropbox how do we establish direct relationship with my partner like marriage certificate , photo album etc .. should we carry those documents directly. What are the chances that they might reject it if at all no interview is taken ?
I am on H1B and for VISA renewal I created separate account for each person due to limited slots hence my Son who is under 14 years of age got appointment for the interview though he has previous VISA which will be expired in Sept , 2022 . So my Q is , my son got interview prior to my VISA slot for DROPBOX. So will there be any issue or raise any Qs for my son at the interview?
Appreciate your advice.
I also have the same situation. we got the appointment for drop box on March 8 2023, so we are travelling in Mar. to India. My kids are 15 and 18 years old Like mentioned above we got the dop box appointment but I am worried will my kids qualify for that so I wrote to the help desk and they replied to proceed with the scheduled appointment. I am really worried about whether we can get the visa stamped and get back to school before their spring break. I have a question about fingerprint the dependents of me have taken biometrics in US for the H4 visa do they accept that as biometrics.
Please help me to answer this question ASAP –
I am in USA but my family (wife & kid) travelled to India and they got appointment there but individually.
My kid is under 14. Is it required that both parents stamping should be done before kids stamping ?
In general, yes it is needed. But, as you are in the US, you can send a copy of your expired US Visa stamp and valid I-94 that should work.
Can I choose to not get the interview waiver? More slots are open without the waiver
S, No, you cannot. If you do answer something wrong, you are misrepresenting your info and that is considered fraud.
I was on L1B visa (5years in US) and returned to India March2021. my company is willing to re-apply L1B , Am eligible for waiver?
If the last expired visa has CWOP stamp on it does that make us ineligible for dropbox appointment for the new visa? Lately people have been reporting that the CBP officer is stamping CWOP on the expired visa while boarding the flight to India and this has made them ineligible for dropbox appointment as the previous visa has this annotation.
I have my current H1b valid till August 2022. I got my H1b visa extended till August 2023. If I go for stamping now will I get extended till August 2022 or August 2023? In my DS160 I have mentioned my H1b details which is valid till 2022.
I have got a dropbox appointment slot for Sep’22 back in Feb’22 however post that for last 4 weeks CGI website has been showing no appointments available status when I am trying to reschedule in hopes I may get early appointment slot. Is anyone facing the same issue? Is my understanding correct that one still needs to wait and go to the VAC for dropping he passport from stamping only on the appointment date even if one has secure the Visa Interview Waiver?
Appreciate the help.
As of March 25, 2022 – Is it true that 80% of the H1B change of status Dropbox appointments at US Consulates in India for first time H1B stamping, being called for in-person interviews(for 3rd party worksite location under EVC Model)? Are there 221g’s issued? Since I have my travel plans to India from the United States towards the end of April, 2022 and have a return ticket to USA booked towards the end of May, 2022 – Is it likely that an in-person interview may be needed after the Dropbox appointment(Dropbox appointment is scheduled for end of April, 2022) which may likely delay my currently planned return date of May 27, 2022?
Any guidance is appreciated. Thank you!
Need an urgent reply….i am staying in USA and applying for H4 visa for my wife and kid. Is it mandatory to attend the interview in person or they are eligible under new waiver program. PLEASE HELP….
If this the first time your wife and kid are going for US visa (any type), then most likely they are NOT qualified for interview waiver. I suggest answering the questions for scheduling interview and should have a firm/accurate answer.
I have H1b visa appointment with consulate on 4th April and 8th April. I got this date before the interview waiver guideline. Hence, no question was asked to me.
I wanted to know if i would be provided a waiver for my 8th April interview? If not, what’s the way to become eligible for this? Thanks for all the help.
No, you will not be. If you cancel, you may or may not get slot. The consulate said to not cancel and attend, so that you can have a slot. it is your discretion.
Thankyou kumar for the prompt reply.
Hello, am I eligible for dropbox when changing status from H4 to F1? I do meet all the conditions.
If system says, you are eligible, you are then…
You H1B visa stamping in passport should be issued after your 14th birthday – Is this question still relevant for dropbox in 2022?
I’m applying a New tourist visa for my 1.5 years old toddler. Since the embassy is not opened yet.
Is she eligible for interview waiver? Should we book Appointment for interview waiver?
Or should I visit the embassy with her documents and photographs of her ?
Me and my husband already have a tourist visa.
Please someone assist
I am planning for my first time stamping appointment. I previously had F1 visa. In Oct 2021, I had the F1 to H1B Change of Status. Does this mean I am eligible for the waiver or not?
Thanks in advance!
FirstTime, You should be eligible for dropbox, if you meet all other conditions. Try the questionnaire, it will tell you.
Thanks for the response, but did my F1 get cancelled when I switched to H1B? That is one of the questions
Usually no, unless there was fraud. If you had it approved and it expired, that is not an issue.
I am planning for my first time stamping appointment. I previously had F1 visa. In Oct 2021, I had the F1 to H1B Change of Status. Does this mean I am eligible for the waiver or not?
Thanks in advance!
I got selected in 1st lottery and my Petition was filed on 27-jun-2021 (form I-129 , California).
However still status is “My Case Was Received”.
Can anyone advise how long it will take to change the status.
Do i need to be in India if i have an interview waiver? Can i send my documents from US and then get my documents mailed back once stamped? What is the risk?
Can you please help me on the below question. I previously applied for B1/B2 in 2018 and it was refused and after 3 months, I again applied B1/B2 and it was approved and I travelled to USA. Later I filed H1B in 2019 and it is aprpoved till May 2022. My question is, will i be eligible for h1b dropbox now, since I didn’t have h1b refusal or since i have B1/B2 refusal, I won;t be eligible ?
I have received NOIR for my previous petition where as current petition is fully approved and valid till next year. We have replied to the NOIR and waiting for the response. In the meantime can I go for Drop box. My expired visa petition had no issues.
If your underlying petition gets revoked for some reason and that was cap-subject petition, your current one also does not stand valid. So, it is a tricky situation. Check with your attorney, before you proceed.
Thanks Kumar for the reply.
I have got a new offer from another employer. can I transfer now? what will be the impact if my NOIR petition get revoked after I join new employer.
If your underlying petition is revoked, your transfer and entire H1B will become invalid. Talk to an attorney.
If a F-1 visa is denied first time but got it on second try, does it count as “who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived”?
Will i be eligible for interview waiver?
i am applying for H4 visa.
I need one clarification. My last H1b petition was denied with 221g in 2017. Last year my new petition got picked up, my question is, as my only H1b denied earlier(5 years back), In LCA do employer need to mention this or Only in DS160 place enough.
I had a valid approved visa 12 years back, do I get eligible for an interview waiver?
Is client letter mandatory for H1B visa stamping ? My client has been telling me it’s not required as we are working remotely.
Also, what all documents we should carry apart from passport, visa, I-797??