US | State Department Expands Interview Waiver Authority

On December 23, 2021, the State Department announced it has authorized consulates, through the end of 2022, to waive the in-person interview appointment for certain nonimmigrant (NIV) applicants.

Under the new policy, consulates may waive the personal appearance of H-1, H-3, H-4, L-1, O, P, and Q applicants who are the beneficiaries of individual petitions approved by USCIS and who meet other conditions. Note that the policy does not apply to Blanket L visa holders as the Blanket petition is not an individual petition approved by USCIS.

  • The other conditions are that:
    • the individual has never been refused a visa unless that refusal was subsequently overcome or a waiver of ineligibility granted, and
    • there is no indication of potential visa misuse or ineligibility, and
    • the individual has applied in his country of citizenship or residence.
  • On January 4, 2022, the Department implemented the new authority through a change transmittal to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) accompanied by a worldwide cable to posts.
  • Posts such as Chennai have already implemented the new policy and are now qualifying those who meet the criteria above for interview waiver/dropbox.
  • At the same time, US Mission India and US Mission UK have changed their appointment policy such that all Blanket L applicants, whether renewals or not, will need an in-person interview. EIG expects that other consulates will follow suit.
  • Overall, the policy change is expected to reduce the processing time for H-1s and individual Ls going to the consulates.
  • Consulates are still facing a worldwide backlog of millions of cases (when counting both IVs and NIVs). While the new IW policy is expected to reduce the backlog over time, the effect will not be immediate. Blanket Ls, in particular, may face difficulties getting appointments timely.
Erickson Insights

Erickson Immigration Group will continue to share updates as more news is available. If you have questions about anything we’re reporting above or case-specific questions, please contact your EIG attorney.