The US Department of State announced a waiver of US Visa interviews for certain non-immigrants back in Dec 2021 that lasted until December 31st, 2022. Today, they made a significant announcement extending the same until December 31st, 2023. This article will summarize the key points from today’s US Department of State press release.
Background: US Visa Interviews Waiver options until Dec 31st, 2022
In December 2021, the US Department of State announced that they are giving US Visa Interview Waivers for certain non-immigrant visa holders, such as H1B, H4, L1, F1, etc., due to the extensive delays of US Visas processing at US Consulates and Embassies. All of these delays were tied to staff shortages, COVID restrictions, and a host of other logistics issues at the consulates. They gave this waiver of US visa interviews until December 31st, 2022.
US Department of State said that due to the above provision, they issued about 50% of the seven million non-immigrant visas in FY 2022 without an in-person interview. About 3.5 million non-immigrant visa applicants qualified for interview waivers based on the provisions they announced last year. This helped them address the delays in processing US Visas at consulates.
Considering the success of the above interview waiver option, US Dept of State plans to continue the same interview waiver provisions until December 31st, 2023. Let’s look at these details in the next section.
US Visa Interviews Waived for Certain Non-Immigrant Applicants until Dec 31st, 2023
US Department of State said that they recognize the positive impact of travel to the US by international students and work visa holders for the US Economy and want to continue to facilitate travel in 2023 with reduced visa wait times. To accomplish this, they decided to extend the authority for US Consular officers to waive the in-person interviews for certain non-immigrant visa holders, like before, until December 31st, 2023.
US Department of state says that US Consular officers have the authority to waive in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis for either first-time applicants or applicants applying for US Visa renewal for the below-listed categories until December 31st, 2023.
Nonimmigrant US Visa Categories eligible for waiver(only case-by-case)
- H1B (Temporary work Visa holders in Speciality Occupation)
- H2 Visa holders (Temporary agricultural, non-agricultural workers)
- F and M Visa holders(International Students)
- J Visa holders( Academic Exchange Visitors)
- H3 Visa holders(Trainee or special education visitors)
- L1 Visa holders(Intracompany Transfers)
- O1 Visa holders(Extraordinary ability or achievement individuals)
- P Visas( Artists, Athletes, Entertainers)
- Q Visas( International cultural exchange programs participants)
- Qualifying dependents of all the above visa holders like H4, L2, O2, J2, F2, etc. They have not given a complete list of the dependents explicitly, but it is assumed based on their statement of ‘qualifying dependents‘
See below the screenshot of the official news from the US Dept of State website.
If you are looking for US Visa appointments news, updates for India, check out US Consulates and Appointments Situation in India News updates page
48-Month Rule for US Visa Dropbox Renewal in Same Category
The US Department of State said that the 48-month rule for US Visa Dropbox Renewal for applicants applying for US Visa renewal in the same category continues to be in place until further notice. This is in line with the previous announcement in December 2021. There is no expiration date set for this 48-month dropbox stamping rule.
48-Month Dropbox Stamping Rule: As per the 48-month dropbox stamping rule, if you apply for US Visa renewal in the same category within 48 months from your visa expiry date, you will be eligible for Dropbox or interview waiver visa stamping. This applies to most visa types, except a few like ‘Blanket L1’.
For example, if you have a B1/B2 visa and apply for B1/B2 renewal within 48 months of your B1/B2 visa expiry, you will be eligible for dropbox stamping ( interview waiver). As per the announcement, this rule will continue to apply until further notice.
See the below screenshot of the news announcement indicating the 48-month rule extension.
Why US Dept of State continuing interview waiver rule?
As per the US Department of State, they have reduced the wait times for US Visa appointments at many US consulates and embassies across the globe due to the interview waiver provision they authorized for US Consular officers.
They said that almost half of the 7 million nonimmigrant visas issued at US Consulates and Embassies in the fiscal year 2022 were based on the interview waiver option. Their goal is to reduce the US visa appointment wait times and free up in-person appointments for applicants who need them.
The interview waiver option does not apply to everyone as a blanket. It is up to the discretion of the US Consulate/ Consular officer to call someone for an interview.
Additional Details by US Dept of State
The US Department of State released another press release giving more details on the continuation of the interview waiver options. As per their update, they have kept all the previously applicable policy intact and extended them until December 31st, 2023.
As mentioned before US Consular officers have the discretion to waive interviews for certain F, M, and J visa applicants, H2 visa applicants, H1B, H3, H4, L, O, P and Q visa applicants who meet the conditions below
- They must have a US visa of any type issued to them.
- Their previous US Visa should never have been refused. If it was refused, they should have overcome it or waived it.
- Also, they should not have any additional conditions on their visa that make them ineligible.
- The same applies to Visa Waiver Program Applicants as well.
- Check complete details of previous eligibility at US Visa interview Waiver Requirements for Certain Applicants.
Below is the announcement from the US Dept of State on their Travel.State.Gov Website.
What do you think of continuing the interview waiver option by US Dept of State? Share your thoughts in comments section below.
Reference: You can read the Official press release on State.gov