The global pandemic now stretches into its third year. In light of the ongoing risks of infection and staffing at embassies and consulates worldwide, the U.S. Department of State announced on December 23 that it is waiving in-person interviews required of nonimmigrant work visa applicants. This temporary rule will continue until December 31, 2022. It applies to H-1B, H-3, L visas, O-1, P visas, and Q visas.
The applicants must meet the following conditions:
- They must still apply in their country of nationality or residence.
- The U.S. previously issued them some type of visa.
- They must not have been refused a visa unless the refusal was waived or overcome.
- They must have no apparent ineligibility for the visa they seek.
Different rules for first-time applicants:
- The applicant must be a citizen of or national of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
- There are no apparent grounds for ineligibility.
- The applicant must have used Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) when previously traveling to the U.S.
Extension for academics
The State Department also extended previous waivers for academics until December 31. It applies to professors, students, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists who qualify for F, M, and academic J visas. One change to the extension is that applicants from a VWP country must have obtained their visa via ESTA. The applicants must also have no obvious red flags regarding eligibility. Those whose visas expired within the 48 of the new application will also not need to interview when it is the same visa classification.
Applicants should expect uncertainty
The wheels of government bureaucracy often turn very slowly, but changes still occur, sometimes quickly due to necessity. So, visa applicants should not be surprised if the conditions for getting a visa change or the U.S. extends temporary rules.