COVID-19: State Department broadens interview waiver, but impact likely limited

31 Aug 20

UNITED STATES

The U.S. State Department announced last week that it will temporarily expand the pool of visa applicants who are eligible to have their interview waived.

  • Between now and Dec. 31, 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 24 months. Previously, only applicants whose visas expired in the past 12 months were eligible for a waiver.
  • Waivers will be granted at the discretion of the consular officer, meaning even some who meet the criteria listed above 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 24 months ago.
  • The State Department began a “phased resumption” of routine visa services at U.S. consulates in July. Some consulates remain closed, however, and others are offering limited 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: The State Department implemented the change in effort to limit the number of in-person visits and limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

BAL Analysis: While the expansion of the interview waiver will benefit some applicants, the impact will be limited both because consular officers retain discretion to require an interview and because of limited visa services due to 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.

Copyright © 2020 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@balglobal.com.