Visa Interview Waiver Program Made Permanent

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently made permanent a visa interview waiver program that was initiated as a temporary, pilot program in January 2012. This program allows some individuals seeking renewals of previously issued visas to have their applications adjudicated without having to attend visa interviews at U.S. consulates.

Background: IWP Goal to Increase Tourism to United States

The Interview Waiver Program (IWP) is part of President Obama’s efforts to increase tourism to the United States. The IWP seeks to reduce barriers to travel for individuals who have previously been screened, interviewed, and issued nonimmigrant visas. The program was made permanent when the DOS updated the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) on January 13, 2014.

General Eligibility Requirements to Request Interview Waiver

The now-permanent IWP allows a consular officer to waive the interview requirement for a visa renewal applicant who meets certain criteria. The general requirements to be eligible for the IWP are fairly straightforward. First of all, the individual must be applying for the same type of visa previously obtained. This existing visa must either still be valid, or have expired within the past 48 months (unless the visa is in the E, H, L, P, or R classification, in which case, the existing visa cannot have expired more than a year prior to the interview waiver request.) Also, the visa application must be filed in the consular district of the applicant’s normal residence.

Many Exceptions to General Requirements

Although these basic rules are quite simple, there are a great many exceptions to these standard requirements, and the interview waiver requests are discretionary. Further, consulates are obligated to conduct interviews with a small number of randomly selected applicants who would normally be granted waiver requests. Therefore, no foreign national should automatically assume that an interview will not be required. Rather, the individual should check with the appropriate consulate to verify eligibility and then follow that particular consulate’s instructions for applying. A good place to start is the website of the consulate, which likely provides detailed visa application instructions.

Additional Benefits for Certain First-Time Brazilian Applicants

While the IWP described applies only to visa renewal applicants, first-time visa applicants from Brazil (who meet certain requirements, of course) can also request a visa interview waiver. To qualify, the Brazilian national must either be under the age of 16 or at least 66 years of age. The application must be filed in the consular district where the applicant normally resides. And, the individual cannot be applying for any of the following visa classifications: E, H, L, P, or R.


By expanding the availability of visa interview waivers, the DOS has helped to streamline the visa application process, while still protecting U.S. security interests. The Murthy Law Firm will continue to monitor changes to the IWP and provide updates through MurthyDotCom as new information becomes available.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.