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U.S. Department of State Announces Interview Waivers for Some Nonimmigrant Visa Categories

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Last week, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that the visa interview requirement could be waived for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who are the beneficiaries of petitions approved by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) in the H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q categories. The interview waiver authorization is valid through December 31, 2022. U.S. consular officers are authorized to waive interviews for individuals applying for visas in their respective countries of nationality or residence based on H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q petitions approved by USCIS. Applicants who were previously issued any type of U.S. visa are eligible to participate in this new interview waiver program, but an interview waiver is not available to applicants who have previously had a visa application denied (unless the denial was overcome or waived) or who are otherwise ineligible for a visa. Additionally, waivers are possible for first-time visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and who have previously traveled to the United States under an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The DOS also announced that it was extending existing visa interview waiver policies for the F, M, and academic J visa categories through December 31, 2022. Like the waiver policy for the petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q categories, applicants must apply for a visa in their respective countries of nationality or residence. Also like the petition-based categories, F, M, and J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa are eligible for the waiver unless they’ve had a previous visa application denied. First-time applicants with nationality or citizenship of a VWP-eligible country are also eligible for a waiver if they have previously traveled to the United States under an approved ESTA. Finally, the DOS announced an extension of the current policy allowing for interview waivers for certain H-2 visa applicants through December 31, 2022. As it is anticipated that U.S. consular posts around the world will implement the new interview waiver program pursuant to their local resource availability, policies, and local pandemic-related conditions, all visa applicants are strongly encouraged to check the specific consulate post’s website to confirm availability, requirements, and processes.





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