U.S. Consulates Authorized to Waive Some In-Person Interviews for Nonimmigrant Visas Through 2022

U.S. Department of State authorizes consular officers to waive (lift) the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary nonimmigrant visa applicants, in light of COVID delays.

By , J.D.


In order to deal with ongoing closures of the visa sections of U.S. consulates owing to COVID-19 outbreaks and concerns, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has announced an easing of the interview requirements. It is authorizing U.S. consular officers to waive (lift) the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary nonimmigrant visa applicants. This waiver possibility will last through the end of 2022.

You will, however, need to actually apply for this waiver. In other words, the consulate will not review your eligibility for an interview waiver or cancel your interview without action on your part. This update will discuss whether and how you can request an interview waiver.

Who Newly Qualifies to Ask for a Waiver of the Consular Interview Requirement

You can apply for an interview waiver if you are either:

  • applying for an F, H-1, H-3, H-4, academic J, L, M, O, P, or Q visas; and you were either previously issued any type of U.S. visa or you are from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and have previously traveled to the U.S. under ESTA authorization, or
  • are applying for an H-2 visa (for temporary agricultural and non- agricultural workers).

In addition, you must be applying at the U.S. consular post in your country of usual residence, and have never been previously refused any sort of U.S. visa, unless you managed to later overcome the refusal or get a waiver of the ground upon which you were found inadmissible.

Extension of Existing Waiver Opportunity for Applicants Renewing Same Type of Visa

The DOS also announced an indefinite extension of a policy allowing interview waivers for nonimmigrant visa applicants with particularly straightforward cases. You chances look good if:

  • you already possess a U.S. visa in the same category as the one you're now seeking, and that visa expired within the last four years or is still valid
  • your prior visa does not contain the annotation "Clearance Received" or "Department Authorization"
  • you received your most recent visa when you were 14 or older
  • your most recent visa was not lost, stolen, or canceled
  • the U.S. has not previously refused to grant you any sort of visa (with exceptions), and
  • you are applying at your usual U.S. consulate, probably near to where you live.

Don't Assume You'll Receive an Interview Waiver

Check in with your local U.S. consulate regarding its procedures for considering your request for an interview waiver.

The consulate can always refuse to grant the waiver, however, and call you in for an in-person interview. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem, but it could certainly delay your travel plans if you haven't taken that possibility into account.

Effective Date: December 23, 2021