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U.S. State Department Announces Relaxation of Non-Immigrant Visa Processing for Temporary Workers and Students

Kauff McGuire & Margolis LLP
New York, NY
December 27, 2021

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In a welcome development the State Department announced on Saturday that consulates are now authorized to waive in-person interviews for certain non-immigrant visa applicants whose employment-based petitions have been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The new authorization applies to temporary workers in the H, L, O, P and Q categories who meet the following conditions: the application is being made in the individual’s country of nationality or foreign residence while the individual is present in that country; the applicant has been previously issued any type of visa and has never been refused a visa (or has overcome a prior refusal and is not ineligible to receive a visa); or is a first-time visa applicant in one of the designated categories and has either previously traveled to the U.S. on ESTA, or comes from a visa waiver country and is eligible for ESTA. Certain other requirements apply and in-person interviews may still be required in select cases.

In another welcome move, the State Department extended the interview waiver for certain F, J and M students, professors, research scholars and specialists. Eligibility is similar to those of  the employment-based categories above, including for those applicants previously issued other visas and/or for first-time applicants who have previously used ESTA to travel to the U.S. and are not otherwise ineligible for visa issuance.

While providing relief to many applicants who have been unable to process their visas during the pandemic, or who have confronted endless delays because of office closures and staffing shortages at the consulates, these new policies (which are effective through the end of 2022) will still require the consulates to mobilize their available resources and address competing priorities. All applicants are advised to check the websites of their U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm the new visa waiver procedures and timing.

We are available to answer any questions you may have and to assist with the processing of your applications.

The complete text of the announcement can be found here.