COVID-19: State Department broadens interview waiver again

17 Mar 21

UNITED STATES

The U.S. State Department has expanded a policy that grants consular officers greater leeway to waive in-person interviews.

Key Points:

  • Between now and Dec. 31, 2021, consular officers will have the authority to waive interviews for nonimmigrant visa applicants who are applying in the same visa classification and whose previous visas expired within the past 48 months.
  • Waivers will be granted at the discretion of consular officers, meaning even some who meet the criteria may be required to complete an interview. Waivers are not available to applicants who never had a U.S. visa, who had a valid visa but for another classification, or whose visas expired more than 48 months ago.
  • Visa services remain limited because of COVID-19. The State Department began a “phased resumption” of routine visa services at U.S. consulates in July. Some consulates remain closed to all but emergency appointments, however, and others are offering reduced services.
  • The State Department encouraged applicants to review the websites of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on what services are available and for instructions, if applicable, on how to apply for a visa without doing an interview.

Background: Normally only applicants whose visas expired in the past 12 months are eligible for an interview waiver. Under a policy implemented in August, applicants whose visa expired in the last 24 months were eligible. The State Department announced on March 11 that it would expand waiver eligibility again, this time to 48 months.

BAL Analysis: While the expansion of the interview waiver benefits some applicants, the impact may be limited both because consular officers retain discretion to require an interview and because of limited visa services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. BAL continues to monitor the administration’s response to the pandemic and will provide updates as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@balglobal.com.

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