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US Visa Interview Waiver Options extended until Dec 31st, 2023

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.

Interview Waiver for Certain Applicants of US Visa Stamping Waived until December 31st, 2023
Interview Waiver for Certain Applicants of US Visa Stamping Waived until December 31st, 2023

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.

48-month Dropbox Eligibility rule extended until further notice
48-month Dropbox Eligibility rule extended until further notice

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.

US Department of State Press Release - Interview Waiver requirements
US Department of State Press Release – Interview Waiver requirements

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

   

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28 Comments

  1. Hi, I am applying for L1B visa. My visa expired 3 years back. The circular says renewing any visa type is qualified for interview waiver. Any one can pls clarify whether L1B is qualified for interview waiver ?

    Reply
  2. I have submitted my renewal of b1/b2 on February 15 via drop box bengaluru ..it’s been 15 days and the status shows application received still …any explanation as to when will my visa be stamped and i get my passport back. The VFS executive mentioned it will be back by 3 weeks. It’s 2 weeks already i am concerned.

    Reply
    • Hi Anu,
      I have applied for renewal of my b1/b2 visa yesterday and got appointment at Chennai. Will they contact me in the due course since I am eligible for Interview waiver?
      Kindly help to provide the details on how you got Drop Box facility in Bangalore?

      Regards,
      Chetan B S

      Reply
  3. Hi,

    My son last H4 visa stamp expired on 10th Aug 2019 and my stamping expired in 2022. I booked the dropbox appointment using my credentials and now have a doubt about whether my son will qualify for dropbox. He will be under 14 on the day of the appointment which is in May 2023. Based on the 48-month rule, I assume he will be qualified for dropbox. Can someone please clarify? Thanks for your help in advance

    Reply
  4. Does anyone know how long biometrics stay in the system? I last gave my fingerprints in 2014 for a B1/B2 visa.

    I will be applying for a H1 visa stamp soon and will be eligible for drop box. Based on information from https://travel.state.gov/…/visa…/wait-times.html it looks like I can get a drop box appointment in ~ 50 days or an interview appointment in ~ 70 days.
    If I will need to give by fingerprints again, I’m guessing the interview appointment route will be faster.

    I will be working for a US based manufacturing company.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Hi, It would be immensely valuable to know how many gaulti folks got deported for abusing the H1B program. Could someone please share some stats?

    Reply
  6. Thanks Kumar for the update. My son turned 14 now and we got the L2 visa stamp before he was 14 (10 years ago). Can you please confirm if he is eligible for interview waiver? or he needs to go in-person? Also, the other thing is that we will be doing H4 visa this time and not L2. Me & my wife are eligible for dropbox

    I tried to search multiple multiple forums etc. and I am getting mixed messages. Some say he is eligible, some say he is not. Appreciate if anyone can clarify.

    Reply
  7. Hi,

    My H1B stamped visa expired on November 2018 so i passed 48 months on November 2022. While booking visa slot , i answered all questions and system allowed me to book drop box slot only on May 2023. Please tell me if i am qualified for drop box on May 2023. I am very worried as i am not finding valid sources.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Hi i am on H1 visa my spouse is on h4 visa we never went to india. so for first time after h4 visa my spouse want to visit india. what is the process and how to apply. please guide

    Reply
  9. My wife, kid and I need the fresh visa stamped for H1/H4. Wife and I have previous H1 stamped on 2015. But kid who is 1 year old never had a visa. Do we qualify for dropbox if booked together (since I and wife are eligible and kid is under 14 years, but I read somewhere that kid is only eligible for dropbox if parents have stamped visa)?

    Reply
    • JJ,
      You both should have dropbox stamping done to avoid issues. The best option is to get your visa stamping done and then apply for your kid’s stamping using dropbox,

      Reply
      • Thanks, we booked in person for all 3 together to be safe. And wait times for dropbox appointment twice back to back also seemed to be similar.

        Reply
  10. Does this mean that the H1-B indefinite drop box eligibility was taken out and reduced to 48 months now. Example, let’s say a stamped H1-B expired in June, 2019 and I am traveling to India with a valid I-797. My 48 month ends in June, 2023? Or will I still be eligible for dropbox past June, 2023?

    Reply
    • Vikram,
      No, it is not taken out. The H1B dropbox requirement that exists now is still valid. The current requirement is that if you have any previous US Visa stamping that you had in the past, you would qualify for dropbox, there is no 48 month rule that comes into picture. The 48 month dropbx rule stays as it is like now, mainly for B1/B2 and other visa types.

      Reply

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