Extension of Interview Waiver Option/ Dropbox for Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants through 2022
The U.S. Department of State recently extended their interview waiver policy, also referred to as the “dropbox” option, which grants consular officers the authority to waive in-person visa interviews for certain nonimmigrant employment-based and academic-based visa applicants. (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-waivers-of-the-interview-requirement-for-certain-nonimmigrant-visas.html ).
For nonimmigrant visa applicants who wish to renew a visa that has expired within the last 48 months in the same category, the interview waiver policy has been extended indefinitely.
In addition, a new interview waiver policy has been created that will last through December 31, 2022.
Who is eligible under the new interview waiver policy extension?
Consular officers will have the authority granted by the Department of State to waive in-person interview requirements for the following nonimmigrant visa applicants:
- Temporary workers with an approved petition applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P and Q nonimmigrant visas
- Certain H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants
- Students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists applying for F, M, and academic J nonimmigrant visas
What are the eligibility requirements for the new interview waiver policy for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, Q, F, M, and academic J visa applicants?
To be eligible, the qualifying visa applicants must:
- Be applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence; AND
- Have been issued any type of visa previously; have never been had a visa refused unless the visa refusal has since been overcome or waived; and have no apparent or potential ineligibility;
- Be a first-time H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, Q, F, M, and academic J visa applicant who is a citizen or national of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP); have no apparent or potential ineligibility; and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
What are the eligibility requirements for certain H-2 visa applicants?
H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants who were previously eligible for the interview waiver/dropbox option through December 2021 will continue to be eligible for the interview waiver/dropbox option through December 31, 2022. Eligible H-2 visa applicants include:
- First-time H-2 applicants with no associated derogatory information and no apparent or potential ineligibility requiring an interview;
- H-2 renewal applicants whose H-2 visa has expired within the last 48 months; and
- H-2 renewal applicants who are no longer ineligible for having been unlawfully present in the U.S.
Please note that any nonimmigrant visa applicant who wishes to renew their nonimmigrant visa that has expired within the last 48 months is also eligible for an interview waiver. Information about how to schedule an appointment at a participating consulate and the required visa application materials can be found in this earlier Reddy & Neumann article.
Lastly, due to the varying consular resources and local government restrictions within VWP participating countries, it is important for applicants to continue checking the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.
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: Jeanetly Garcia, Associate Attorney
Jeanetly Garcia advises employers and individuals through all phases of the non-immigrant visa process. As an attorney in the Nonimmigrant Visa Department at Reddy & Neumann P.C. she is experienced in filing nonimmigrant petitions and applications for immigrant benefits, as well as, responding to USCIS issued requests for evidence concerning an array of legal issues. Jeanetly joined the firm as a law clerk in 2018, and has since collaborated with attorneys from each of the firm’s departments on assignments ranging from drafting successful requests for evidence and appeals to conducting legal research on immigration matters.