This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants who have a petition approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The 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, the Department of State (DOS) said. In addition, the secretary extended previously approved policies to waive the visa interview for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars and specialists (F, M and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022.
Additionally, the Secretary of State has extended consular officers’ ability to waive the in-person interview through December 31, 2022, for the following other 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).
One change to the previous policy, DOS noted, is that applicants eligible for the waiver authority because they are citizens or nationals of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating country must have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to qualify.
DOS said it encourages 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. Embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and depending on local conditions, the agency noted.