US waives in-person interviews for H-1B, student visas through 2022

Move in recognition of visitors’ positive impact on US economy and many contributions to communities and campuses

The United States will continue waiving in-person interviews for H-1B, student and certain other nonimmigrant work visas through the end of next year to mitigate effects on the US economy and reduce visa wait times.

The decision has been taken in recognition of “the positive impact of temporary work visa holders on the US economy, the State Department announced Thursday.

“We recognize the many contributions of international visitors to our communities and campuses,” it said in a press release adding it’s “committed to facilitating nonimmigrant travel and reducing visa wait times.”

Among the categories eligible to waive in-person interviews are H-1B visas designed for “Persons in Specialty Occupations.” These are extensively used by US companies for foreign employees.

Read: US withdraws Trump’s wage based H-1B selection rule (December 22, 2021)

Indian professionals get about 70% of 85,000 H-1B visas issued every year. Another eligible category is students (F and M visas). India sends the second highest number of students to the US after China.

The move extends the policy originally announced in March 2020 in an attempt to ease wait times during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are pleased to announce that consular officers are now temporarily authorized, through December 31, 2022, to waive in-person interviews for certain individual petition-based nonimmigrant work visas,” the press release said.

Additionally, the authorization to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely.

“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity,” the release said.  “As global travel rebounds, we are taking these temporary steps to further our commitment to safely and efficiently reduce visa wait times while maintaining national security as our priority.”

Embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions, the release said encouraging applicants to check websites of local missions for current operating status and services.

Read: US waives in-person interviews for H-1B, student visas through 2022 (December 24, 2021)

In-person interviews have been waived in following categories: Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas), Intracompany Transferees (L visas), Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas), Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas).

Additionally, consular officers may waive in-person interviews through Dec 31, 2022 for the following other categories of nonimmigrant visas: Temporary Agricultural and Non-agricultural Workers (H-2 visas), Students (F and M visas), and Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas).

For more information, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-waivers-of-the-interview-requirement-for-certain-nonimmigrant-visas.html.

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