DOS Extends Interview Waiver Flexibilities for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants

On December 21, 2023, the Department of State (DOS) announced that, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Secretary of State has determined that beginning January 1, 2024, certain categories of interview waivers are in the national interest. As a result, consular officers will continue to have the authority and discretion to waive an in-person interview for certain categories of nonimmigrant visa cases, with some changes made by DOS.

According to DOS, the authority will be reviewed annually, and is in place until further notice. This is welcome news as in previous years the agency has set a deadline of December 31st of the following year. 

Who is Covered?

According to the announcement, the interview waiver authorities now cover:

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

Note:  This is both an expansion and restriction from last year’s authority.  The authority has now been expanded to all nonimmigrant categories, but an individual is no longer eligible if their only prior visa issuance was a B visa.

Finally, in the announcement, DOS reminds stakeholders that applicants renewing a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date continue to be eligible for interview waiver until further notice.

Additional Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for an interview waiver, applicants must also meet certain legal requirements, including:

  • Applying in their country of nationality or residence
  • Never having been refused a visa (unless the refusal was overcome or waived)
  • Having no apparent or potential ineligibility

DOS reminds stakeholders that consular officers continue to have the authority and discretion to require in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis or in light of local conditions.

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