Applicants for H-1B, L-1 and O-1 visas applying from abroad won’t be required to do an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate, typically the final step before a visa is issued. Those categories represent the most common visa types companies use to attract high-skilled talent from abroad.
The State Department is seeking to ease the issuance of several types of visas that have been backlogged during the Covid-19 pandemic
The United States will allow its consular officers to waive in-person interviews for H-1B and other certain non-immigrant visa applicants through next year to help reduce visa wait times, the State Department said on Thursday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the department’s visa processing capacity,” it said in a statement. “As global travel rebounds, we are taking these temporary steps to further our commitment to safely and efficiently reduce visa wait times while maintaining national security as our priority.”
The consular officers will now be temporarily authorized to waive in-person interviews for nearly a dozen visa categories, including Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), visas for students, temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers, student exchange visitors, as well as athletes, artists and entertainers.
The full list of visa categories in which the appointment now could be waived as stated on the US State Department’s website.
Important Announcement on Waivers of the Interview Requirement for Certain Nonimmigrant Visas
Last Updated: December 23, 2021
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers through the end of 2022 to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants who have a petition approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This new authorization applies to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who meet certain conditions, including that they are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. Under this authority, consular officers have discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) .
In addition, the Secretary extended previously approved policies to waive the visa interview for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022. One change to the previous policy is that applicants eligible for the waiver authority because they are citizens or nationals of a VWP participating country must have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA to qualify. Applicants must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. Like the policy for certain individual petition-based visa applicants, consular officers have discretion to waive the interview for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and who have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
The previous authority allowing for waiver of interview of certain H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants has also been extended through the end of 2022. Applicants renewing any visa within 48 months of expiration are also eligible for interview waiver.
Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic and as we address global issues and competing priorities. We encourage applicants to check the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.
State Department also said it has extended indefinitely the authorization to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration.
U.S. State Department in March 2020 had suspended all routine visa services in most countries worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak. While the services have been reinstated with a limited capacity and on a priority basis, months-long wait times for certain visa appointments persist due to a massive backlog.