To travel to the U.S. on a temporary work visa, most people must first obtain a travel visa at a U.S. consulate in their home country. This process has become increasingly difficult over the last couple of years because of the ongoing pandemic. Consular offices have had to close or work with limited staffing. As a result, travel visa interview appointments have been very limited. To deal with this backlog, the Department of State has expanded its criteria for those individuals eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement. Now, more applicants are eligible from within the foreign country to mail in or drop off their applications without attending an in-person interview. Who might be able to skip the interview?
F, H-1, H-2, H-3, H-4, J, L, M, O, P, and Q visas: Consular officers may in their discretion waive the interview requirement through the end of 2022. Applicants must meet the following requirements
- Apply in your country of citizenship or residence
- Previously been issued any type of visa. Or, previously traveled to the United States in ESTA status.
- Must not have been previously refused a visa (unless the refusal was overcome or waived)
- There should be no other apparent or potential ineligibility—which is why a thoroughly prepared application package is critical.
Visa renewal: Consular officers may waive the in-person interview for all applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration. This authorization has been extended indefinitely.
What does this mean? Many folks will no longer need to attend an in-person consular interview. However, they will still have to travel to their home country to complete the application process. The application process may be physically dropping off documents or mailing them in to the consulate. Some countries, like India, require an appointment to drop off documents. Even though the drop-off process is more streamlined, drop-off appointments remain limited. Thus, even with this good news, we recommend that applicants start the travel visa process well in advance of their intended to travel.