Recently, the U.S. Department of State authorized the waiver of consular interviews for certain H-1B, H-4, L-1, H-3, O, P, and Q visa holders. This decision was in response to the long wait times for visa interviews at U.S. consulates across the globe. This new policy went into effect until January 1st, 2022 and is scheduled to remain in place until December 21, 2022. According to this policy, holders of the visas listed above may have their consular interview waived, so long as they meet the following conditions: 1) Issued any visa in the past; 2) Applying in the same country of nationality; and 3) No history of visa refusal. Additionally, interviews may be waived for those first time visa holders who have previously traveled to the U.S. using ETSA as a citizen of country under VWP (Visa Waiver Program). Countries under VWP may be found here: https://www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program-requirements. The policy further states that anyone applying for visa renewal within 48 months of their current’s expiration will qualify for the visa interview waiver.
The Visa Waiver Program varies based on country. For example, U.S. Consulates in India utilize the dropbox option for their in-person interview waiver and plan to open an additional 20,000 slots for Spring 2022. In order to determine the requirements for the country one wishes to attend their consular interview at, simply go to that consulate’s US state department website where you’ll find the requirements and steps for waiving your interview. We also want to mention that while consular officers have the discretion to waive in-person interviews, that are not bound to it and can schedule interviews for those they see fit.
Unfortunately, it seems as though this policy will not apply to first time Visa applicants that have not attended a consular interview to get their visa stamped in their passport previously from countries such as India or China. However, it will allow many of those currently stuck in those countries affected by the long interview wait times, to more expeditiously return to the U.S. I personally have spoken to quite a few individuals currently stuck in India, unable to obtain a consular appointment to receive their visa stamp, so this new policy should definitely help resolve that.