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U.S. extends interview waiver program for select visa applicants

Don Tagala | TFC News New York

Posted at Feb 25 2022 10:23 AM

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The US State Department has extended and expanded its visa interview waiver program for qualified applicants.

The agency's move comes as its capacity to process visa applications remains limited due to the pandemic.

This means that US consular offices including Washington's embassy in Manila may waive the in-person interview for repeat travelers with certain US visas.

But immigration lawyer Michael Gurfinkel said first time applicants would still need to schedule a personal appearance for their visa interview  

"Remember, the embassy is still working under Covid-19," said Gurfinkel. "You know, reduce staffing for limited hours."

He added: "Sometimes there are lockdown shutdowns. So if people are able to get their visas renewed without having to schedule an appointment, so much the better."

To qualify, the repeat traveler must have:

  • A previous B1 / B2 visitors visa valid for ten years
  • A prior visa that is still valid or has just expired within the last 48 months
  • A passport with a previous visa from the same category being applied for
  • The last visa applied for was approved
  • The applicant has not requested an extension or change of status through USCIS

"Just make sure, number one, that you have been confirmed by the national visa center," Gurfinkel added. "The most important thing for people is make sure your email, your mailing address, all that is current, you are in communication with the NVC. You will not even be queued up for an interview unless you are complete [with documents]."

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the expanded authority to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants also applies to H1, H3, H4, L, O, P and Q applicants, provided the applicants meet certain conditions.

Those approved to bypass the US visa interview will receive a waiver confirmation letter containing a checklist. 

Applicants will then have to drop off their passport along with the documents mentioned in the confirmation letter at any LBC courier outlet.  

Failure to include all requested items – including a new photo and DS-160 application - will result in the return of application documents via courier.

If the applicant is found not eligible for the interview waiver service, the application will be returned via courier, and that applicant will be required to schedule an in-person visa interview.  

But if the visa application is approved, the applicant’s passport and visa will be delivered to the address the applicant provided.