The U.S. Visa Information Service for India (link: http://ustraveldocs.com/in/index.html?firstTime=No) recently changed their website regarding mandatory interview waiver scheduling, commonly referred to as the “dropbox” option. In an effort to reduce turnaround times for visa renewals and to improve customer service for visa applicants in India, beginning September 1st, if you are eligible for an interview waiver or dropbox option you must schedule an appointment in order to drop off your passport and visa application materials at one of India’s 11 drop-off locations (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru, or Kochi). At that time, an officer will review the document checklist before accepting the application for delivery to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Additionally, where processing times in the past had an average of 3 weeks, the updated website now states that an applicant will receive a decision in 7 to 10 business days of submitting all documents.
How do I know if I need to schedule an interview waiver/dropbox appointment?
You may qualify for an interview waiver if you are under age 14 or over age 80. Further, certain individuals renewing their visa may qualify for a waiver if they meet certain conditions, as discussed below.
I am renewing my H-1B stamp. Am I eligible for dropbox appointment?
If you can answer “yes” to all the below questions, you may qualify for an interview waiver/dropbox appointment:
- I have a previous U.S. visa in the same class as the visa for which I wish to apply
- My most recent visa was issued in India
- I received my visa after January 1, 2008
- My prior visa is not annotated “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization”.
- My most recent visa (in the same class for which I am applying) was issued on or after my 14th birthday
- My most recent visa (in the same class for which I am applying) was not lost/stolen or cancelled.
- I have no refusals for a visa in any class after my most recent visa issuance
- If I am applying for an H or L (individual) or R visa, my prior visa in the same class is still valid or expired within the last 12 months.
What documents do I need to take when I drop off my application?
Generally, you should have your valid passport, your current or most recent U.S. visa, two copies of the submission letter, one photograph taken within the last 6 months conforming to DOS guidelines (not the same photograph that appeared on your last visa), and any additional documentation required for your visa type.
If I qualify for a waiver, do I not need to go to the U.S. consulate for an interview?
Generally, you do not need to go to the U.S. Consulate for an interview. However, in certain instances you may still be required to appear for an interview. You will receive further instructions regarding how to appear for your interview via phone, email, or via the visa application center.
I was told I qualify for a waiver. What do I do now?
- Complete the DS-160 form. Once you’ve completed the firm, print and save your confirmation page.
- Register an account on the U.S. Visa Information Service for India website and follow the steps to schedule an interview.
- Pay the visa application fee.
- Select the post that will process your renewal application and the date on which you will submit the application and drop off the documents. Once you do this, you will receive a drop-off letter containing a document checklist. Print 2 copies of this checklist.
- On your scheduled drop-off date, drop off your passport along with the listed documents on the drop-off letter.
- You should receive a decision with 7 to 10 business days of when you submitted your documents.
If you have any questions regarding whether you are eligible for an interview waiver and need to discuss the specific facts of your situation, please contact a qualified immigration attorney.
By: Kristina M. Hernandez
Kristina is an associate attorney at Reddy & Neumann. She was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2011. Her practice includes representing companies and individuals with employment-based visa petitions and applications.