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State Department Announces Extension and Expansion of the Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waiver Program

The U.S. State Department’s visa interview waiver program has been extended effective January 1, 2024. The program will remain in effect indefinitely and will be reviewed annually. The classes of applicants eligible for the program have been expanded and now cover: (1) eligible first-time H-2 visa applicants; and (2) eligible foreign nationals applying for any nonimmigrant visa category if they were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any category (unless their only prior visa was a B visitor visa) and they are applying within 48 months of the expiration of their most recent visa. The separate interview waiver program for certain applicants renewing a visa in the same category within 48 months of expiration remains in effect on an indefinite basis. U.S. consulates are not required to implement these interview waiver policies but may do so as local conditions and resources allow.

The issue

The State Department, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has announced an extension and expansion of its nonimmigrant visa interview waiver program for certain visa applicants. The extension and expanded eligibility criteria will take effect January 1, 2024 and remain in effect indefinitely, though the agency will review the program annually. The nonimmigrant interview waiver program had previously been extended in one-year increments, with the most recent extension scheduled to expire on December 31, 2023.

In addition, under a separate program that remains in effect until further notice, consular officers remain authorized to waive in-person interviews for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification if the individual’s previous visa expired within the last 48 months.

U.S. consular posts are permitted to adopt interview waiver policies at their discretion; they are not compelled to implement these policies. U.S. consular websites should be consulted to determine whether and to what extent a particular post is implementing an interview waiver program.

A closer look

Under the revised program, U.S. consular officers are authorized to waive the in-person interview requirement for:

  1. First-time H-2 visa applicants; and
  2. Other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who:
    • Were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visitor visa; and
    • Are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

Previously, the program was limited to certain applicants for F, M, and J student and exchange visitor visas, and petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P and Q visas, as well as certain H-2 visas.  It was open to first-time applicants for student, exchange visitor, and certain employment-based nonimmigrant visas who were nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, but this specific category of eligibility is being removed as of January 1, 2024.

To be eligible for an interview waiver, applicants must:

  • Apply in their country of nationality or residence;
  • Have never been refused a visa (unless such refusal was overcome or waived); and
  • Have no apparent or potential ineligibility.

What this means

Because U.S. consulates are not required to implement the interview waiver policies, actual implementation of the program will depend on each local consulate. Applicants are encouraged to review the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate for detailed information on currently available services, as well as eligibility information and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview.

We continue to closely monitor consular and travel-related developments and will issue follow-up posts as appropriate.

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