Some Visa Interview Waivers Are Extended. Are Yours?

The time it takes to file and process a visa from start to finish is quite lengthy. Some petitioners end up waiting over a year for their paperwork to process and then longer for their interview. The COVID-inflicted backlog took an already time-consuming project and added even more delays. However, those visa petitioners who were placed on hold because of the pandemic are mostly caught up, allowing USCIS officials to catch up on new filers. 

The downside is that this means more visa interview requests, yet some US Embassies and Consulates aren’t quite back to normal. So what happens if your visa expires while you’re waiting for your interview? You might qualify for an interview waiver. We’ll explain what they are and who is eligible to apply for one here.

An Extension of the Extension

The pandemic required unprecedented precautions worldwide, including in the consulates. To adjust for the mandatory shutdown, the US Secretary of State and Department of Homeland Security instituted a visa interview waiver, valid through December 31, 2022.

This waiver gave consular officials the authority to waive in-person interviews for visa applicants that met pre-determined conditions. Provided the applicant was applying for a visa in their home country and they met the specific criteria, they could skip waiting for an in-person appointment to open up and move on with their visa petition process without the interview requirement.

The general assumption was that by the end of 2022, the visa interview schedule would be back to the “new normal.” But we’re not quite there yet. So, since the waiver authority was set to expire on December 31, 2022, it was once again extended, this time to December 31, 2023. 

Do You Meet the Waiver Conditions?

The most important part of visa approval is whether a candidate can meet the security screenings or not. USCIS takes this seriously, and these concerns paved the way for the conditions of an interview waiver. If your petition has any red flags, chances are you won’t qualify for a waiver. However, your immigration attorney can aid you in reviewing the conditions and your case to determine if it’s worth the application.

If you meet these criteria, you may be approved for a visa interview waiver:

●     You’ve never been refused a visa, or, if you have, you objected, and the refusal was waived or overcome.

●     You’ve already been issued a visa of any type in the past.

●     You don’t have any glaring factors on your application that would make you ineligible.

●     You’re applying for an H-2 visa for the first time or as a renewal.

●     Some applicants of H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q petitions.

●     Academic F, M, and J petitions.

Allowing those who meet these categories an interview waiver provides the Embassies and Consulates a little breathing room to catch up with the rest of the necessary in-person interviews.

Other Potential Waiver Candidates

The US partners with certain countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you are a citizen or national of these countries, and you have no apparent reason for ineligibility, you may also be approved for an interview waiver.

If you’ve previously traveled to the US via a visa authorization you received over the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), you will likely qualify. Applicants renewing same-class visas within 48 months of the visa’s expiration can request an interview waiver. Additionally, first-time F, M, and J applicants, and petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants can also apply for the waiver.

What’s Next?

Those who meet the criteria for a visa interview waiver can request to apply, and your immigration attorney can help you through this process.

Keep in mind that meeting the criteria on these lists doesn’t guarantee you will receive an interview waiver. Consular offices have the discretion to choose to require an in-person interview, and some offices aren’t allowing waivers at all.

If you’ve been working on your first H-1B visa or an extension of it, contact Visa2US for answers to your important questions. Our professional experts will review your case with you and guide you through the next steps to a successful H-1B visa approval. Contact us today to get this lengthy process started and finished as quickly and thoroughly as possible!

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