COVID-19: State Department extends broader interview waiver, impact likely to remain limited

5 Jan 21

UNITED STATES

The U.S. State Department said it will extend until March 31 its policy of granting consular officers greater leeway to waive some interview requirements.

Key Points:

  • Between now and March 31, consular officers will continue to 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. Normally only applicants whose visas expired in the past 12 months are eligible for a waiver.
  • Waivers will be granted at the discretion of the consular officer, 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 24 months ago.
  • 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 because of COVID-19. 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 first implemented its expanded interview waiver policy in August 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 benefits some applicants, the impact will likely continue to 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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