On December 23, 2021 the US Department of State in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security announced the extension of in-person interview waiver until the end of 2022 for some visa applicants. The policy originally announced on September 14, 2021 authorizes consular officers to waive, in their discretion, the in-person interview requirement for the following individuals:
- “Students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants)… who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or”
- “First-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and who have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.”
Applicants must be applying for a visa at a U.S. consular office “in their country of nationality or residence.” The December 23, 2021 announcement notes that: “Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic and as we address global issues and competing priorities. We encourage applicants to check the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.”
22 CFR 102(b)(3) allows consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying to renew a visa in the same visa classification and category if not more than 12 months have passed since the prior visa expired. Until December 31, 2022, the policy described in the December 23, 2021 announcement also allows such waivers for renewals of any visa other than the listed categories if the prior visa has not expired more than 48 months ago.