On December 29th, 2020, just before the New Year, Secretary Mike Pompeo, “…in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has temporarily expanded the ability of consular officers [those who are abroad] to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.”
Who this applies to?
This new policy, which is effective until March 31st, 2021, has primarily been established by the U.S. State Department because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The reason behind this policy is to limit the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission to other applicants and consular staff. This policy most applies to non-citizens who are already outside of the United States and seeking entrance to the U.S. i.e. employment-based visa applicants or K-1 applicants.
In addition, this policy, at this time, does therefore not affect the following:
- Domestic U.S. based applicants applying for an I-485 adjustment of status
- Spouses of U.S. citizens who are abroad applying for permanent residence in the U.S. (immigrant category)
- Spouses of U.S. green card holders who are abroad applying for permanent residence in the U.S. (immigrant category)
How the policy affects application processing
During any consular processing route, many applicants bring their sealed envelopes with medical records from their medical exam directly to the interview if they have not already been submitted. Applicants do this so consular officers can verify that an applicant is up to date on their vaccinations and is admissible to the United States. Because the interview has been waived for certain applicants, licensed physicians will need to send medical results directly to consular offices. This may also affect wait times for processing visas.
Before this policy was implemented, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 12 months were eligible for an interview waiver. The Secretary has temporarily extended the expiration period to 24 months.
In order for applicants to seek additional information for their visas and/or applications, they will need to check the direct websites of the consulates/embassy nearest to their location for more personalized information. Please see the following link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/list-of-posts.html