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U.S. Department Of State Expands Interview Waivers For Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Classifications

December 28, 2021

On December 23, 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced that it will temporarily suspend in-person interviews for some nonimmigrant visa classifications in order to expedite visa issuance as the pandemic heads into its third year. The Department announced that individuals applying for L-1, H-1, H-3, P-1, O-1, and Q visas (and their dependents) will not be required to appear for in-person interviews at U.S. consular posts abroad. This policy is effective until the end of 2022.

Consular officers have the discretion to waive the interview requirement for individuals applying for these visa types who were previously issued any type of visa. Notably, the E visa category is not exempt from interview waivers, whether for first-time applicants or for E visa renewals. The nonimmigrant visa application process and in-person interview are the last steps in a lengthy process after U.S. petitioning companies have secured nonimmigrant petition approvals from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. F-1 student visas and visas for other temporary seasonal workers as well as M and J academic visa applicants have already been exempted from the in-person interview requirement.

Globally, U.S. consulates have been affected with reduced staffing capacity and further, due to varying country conditions have been unable to process most work visas in the volume and speed as they had in pre-pandemic times. This causes stress for U.S. companies seeking to employ foreign talent and for the foreign worker anxious to commence employment here in the U.S. H-1B and L-1 visas, in particular, had reduced incidents of visa issuance due to consular closures and unpredictable processing times. The suspension of the waiver of in-person interviews will be extended to the end of 2022, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Foreign visa applicants must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence and consular officials will have the discretion to waive the in-person requirement for any visa applicant who was previously issued any type of visa, never been refused a visa in the past unless such visa refusal was overcome or waived and who have no other ineligibility or potential ineligibility. The U.S. Department of State has extended the waiver of the in-person interview until the end of 2022.

Eight African Country Travel Ban To Be Suspended On December 31, 2021

On December 24, it was announced that President Biden will remove the travel ban from eight African countries. We first reported the travel ban by Presidential Proclamation here.

It was reported that the President decided to lift the travel ban after the advice of his medical team and based on findings that existing COVID vaccines are effective against the highly contagious Omicron variant. The eight countries that will no longer have travel restrictions for entry to the United States include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Namibia. These countries will now be subject to the standard protocols for entry imposed on all nations. The United States now requires that all foreign nationals entering the United States be fully vaccinated and evidence proof of a negative coronavirus test within one day of their planned entry. 

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