The U.S. Department of State recently announced that it would waive in-person visa interviews in some cases to help alleviate building backlogs of visa applications.
The Department of State just released guidance stating that certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will not have to attend an in-person interview in 2022. This is in an attempt to reduce visa wait times for temporary work visa holders.
Last year there was a backlog of 2.6 million visa applications for the United States, and many of those were people who were documentarily qualified - meaning all they were waiting for was a visa interview. However, due to the pandemic many U.S. consulates around the world were not scheduling the via interviews.
Under the new guidance, consular officers at the U.S. embassy are authorized to exercise their discretion to waive the normally required in-person interview for applicants with petitions approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In addition, the applicant must have been previously issued any type of visa, have never been refused a visa, and are otherwise eligible for the visa they are seeking. Citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries can be first time visa applicants and do not have to have a visa previously issued as long as they have traveled to the U.S. previously on ESTA.
Time will tell how much this change will help the backlog, but for now, read below to find out what types of visa interviews are waived through the end of 2022:
- The following Petition-based Nonimmigrant Work Visas and Their Qualifying Derivatives:
- Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas);
- Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas);
- Intracompany Transferees (L visas);
- Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas);
- Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas); and
- Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas)
- Additional Categories of Nonimmigrant Visas:
- Temporary Agricultural and Non-agricultural Workers (H-2 visas);
- Students (F and M visas); and
- Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas)
Additionally, applicants renewing a previously issued visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa's expiration have had in-person interviews waived indefinitely. This is fairly broad and can be read to also include B1-B2 visitor visas.
As always, pay attention to the U.S. Department of State page for your country and specific visa type for updates, as well as directions from your immigration attorney. Immigration policies are constantly changing, and this announcement by the State Department does not prevent them from making any changes later in the year.
If you have questions about a pending visa application or need assistance with a visa application, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.