In general, you need to apply for Biometrics & US Visa Interview appointments, if you need get US visa stamping in your passport. Since Sep 2019, US Consulates in India introduced appointments for US Visa stampings using Interview Waiver option, popularly called as Dropbox. In this article, we will look at US Visa dropbox or Interview Waiver process in India, what it means to anyone going for US Visa stamping and FAQs on the same.
US Visa Stamping with Renewal, aka Dropbox – Appointments
Starting September 1st, 2019, if you are eligible for US Visa Interview Waiver, aka Dropbox option, you must schedule an appointment date to drop off your passport and all the supporting US visa application documents. This is applicable for all drop box option/ interview waiver applicants filing for their US Visa renewal or stamping in India. The biggest changes are three :
- In the past, you had an option to go for drop box, but it was not mandatory, and you had a choice. Since Sep 1st, 2019, it is mandatory for you to go for drop box option, if you qualify for interview waiver.
- In the past, no appointment was required with Visa Application Center, but now you must schedule an appointment beforehand to drop off your documents.
- In the past, the average processing times for interview waiver or dropbox was average of 3 weeks and there was no SLA. Now, from September 1st, the dropbox applicant will get a decision on their case within 7 to 10 business days from the day they submitted their documents.
Official Guidance – USTravelDocs Website
As per the official guidance from USTravelDocs.com India website for renew visa, they clearly says that “starting September 1st, eligible applicants MUST schedule an appointment in order to drop off their passports…”
Dropbox Eligibility Requirements
The criteria for US visa interview waiver or dropbox option has not changed with the introduction of appointment booking. All the The documents required has not changed, you are still required to submit all the required documents.
In general, to apply for dropbox, your visa has to be valid or expired within the last 12 months. But, due to COVID-19, US Dept of State has increased the 12 months from expiry to 24 months from expiry. It is valid until March 31st, 2021. You can read more at US Visa Dropbox Changed to 24 Months – FAQs
Process for Dropbox appointment Booking India
In general, you need to go to CGI Federal’s website to register for an account and schedule general US visa interview appointment. It is no different for booking Dropbox Appointment as well. You need to follow the same process. Below are the steps
- Step 1 – Register Account : You need to register an account at CGI Federal – US Travel Docs India
- Step 2 – Complete Questionnaire Wizard : The CGI Federal appointment booking system will give you a step by step wizard asking a set of questions. Based on the answers you provide, your dropbox eligibility is determined.
- Step 3 – Confirmation for Dropbox Appointment : If you are eligible based on the answers you provide, the system will automatically give you a confirmation saying you qualify for interview waiver or dropbox. below is a screenshot on how it looks.
- Step 4 – Book Appointment : After the confirmation screen, you will be prompted to put in the MRV fee payment receipt details and then prompt you to book the appointment date to drop off documents.
Schedule OFC Appointment for Dropbox ? Required ?
In general, there is no requirement for giving Biometrics at OFC or VAC, when you book US Visa stamping appointment using the Dropbox or Interview waiver option. But, when you try to book the appointment, the online system shows “Schedule OFC Appointment“.
The text of “Schedule OFC appointment” at the appointment booking screen can be confusing, but they have a reason. Technically, OFC Stands for Offsite Facilitation Center and the Visa appointment system is asking you to book an appointment to drop off your US Visa documents at an Offsite Facilitation Center.
Now, one way to identify, if you are booking a Dropbox or Interview Waiver Appointment vs. Biometrics appointment is by checking what you see at the end of the Consulate or Embassy name in the dropdown next to “Select interview location“. If you see IW, which means Interview Waiver at the end of the Consulate name like “Kolkata IW” as in below screenshot, then you are booking a Dropbox Appointment.
But, if you see VAC at the end of the consulate name, then you are booking a biometrics appointment. VAC Stands for Visa Application Center and when you see that you are booking an appointment for giving Biometrics at the VAC office before your in-person visa interview. See below screenshot for your reference.
US Visa types Eligible for Dropbox Appointment – H4, H1B, Others
The appointment requirement for US Visa Dropbox applications applies to all of the US visa types that are currently eligible for interview waiver or dropbox. Below are the some of the most common visa types that are relevant for our readers.
- H4 Visa : If you are H4 Visa holder waiting for approval with Biometrics and traveled out for stamping, then it applies to you.
- H1B, L1 Visa : If you are a H1B or L1 visa holder applying for visa renewal, then it applies to you.
- F1 Visa : F1 visa holder going for visa renewal, who are studying in same school for which visa was issued in the past
- B1/B2 Visa : It applies to B1/B2 visa renewals done using Dropbox option.
- In addition to above, there are many other visa types that are eligible for interview waiver or dropbox as well. Check US Travel Docs website for the same.
Below are some of the Dropbox Visa Stamping Experiences.
- H4 Dropbox Experience using Dropbox Appointment Process
- H1B Dropbox Appointment Stamping – 221g Green Slip Experience Mumbai
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions(FAQs) like when can I book appointment, can someone else drop documents, can I do it from US, where all can I go, etc.
Yes, you can schedule the appointment from US or anywhere in the world, before you arrive in India to drop off your documents, if you are eligible for interview waiver or dropbox option.
You will very likely get a decision on your visa stamping within 7 to 10 business days from the day you dropped off your documents.
Yes, you can ask someone else like your friend, spouse or travel agent to submit your visa application documents on your behalf. You need to ensure, all the documents as per checklist are in there. Also, submitting parties may need to provide their identity documents as well
Yes, you can reschedule the appointment. They will mark your receipt as unused after 24 hours and then you can re-schedule to new date and print new confirmation letter for drop off of the documents.
You select the location of drop off and the date for the appointment. No time slot is given, you are free to submit documents anytime from 10 AM to 4 PM on that day. See below.
Yes, both of you can technically select the same date and drop off documents together. As the there are no time slots, you can visit together between 10 am and 4 pm on that day and drop off documents together. See above screenshot on the timing.
No, you can only submit your visa stamping documents at the specified dropbox location on your drop off documents confirmation letter. This would be selected, when you book the appointment for drop off of your documents.
No, the applicant need to be physically present in India to submit the visa stamping documents. Only the appointment scheduling can be done, when you are in US.
It is suggested to select dropbox location to drop off documents at the below centers based on where you plan to give visa interview. If you were to be called for interview, you will be called in the respective consulate that is tied to the relevant drop off location. So, choose this carefully, if you prefer a choice.
Applicants for Delhi Consulate : Drop off at New Delhi, Chandigarh or Jalandhar centers
Applicants for Mumbai Consulate : Drop off at Mumbai, Ahmedabad or Pune centers.
Applicants for Chennai Consulate : Drop off at Chennai, Kochi or Bangalore.
Applicants for Hyderabad Consulate : Drop off at Hyderabad Center.
Applicants for Kolkata Consulate : Drop off at Kolkata Center
No, you cannot change the US Visa interview location. You must attend the visa interview at the location you were asked to attend. It is important to choose your preferred drop off location tied to the consulate as listed above, when you book the appointment.
No, you must appear for the interview. You cannot skip, if you were asked to attend the visa interview.
Yes, it is mandatory. You will need to select the appointment date, location to drop off your documents. It is not optional anymore.
You will be allowed to get the missing documents and submit on the same day. If you cannot submit as per checklist, then you cannot submit on that day, you will need to re-schedule your dropbox appointment.
You can check out at Sample US Visa Dropbox Appointment letter
You may also read some of previous 6 H1B Dropbox Experiences in India and recent H4 Dropbox Experience in 2019 to get idea of how they were processed until Aug 30th, 2019. Below is the document that was released by US Consulates when they introduced Dropbox Stamping with Appointments.
What do you all think of the new change ? Is it going to be good ? Your thoughts ?
References : USTravelDocs.com – Visa Waiver official Page