Expansion of Visa Interview Waiver Program13 Nov 2015
The visa Interview Waiver Program (IWP) allows eligible foreign nationals who are applying to renew a nonimmigrant visa “stamp” to request that the standard requirement of an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy be waived. A recent change to the eligibility criteria will permit more H1B workers to qualify under the IWP. As reported by the Murthy Law Firm’s Indian affiliate, Murthy Immigration Services, Pvt. Ltd. (MurthyIndia), H1B workers who have changed employers may now qualify under the IWP.
Eligibility Criteria for Interview Waivers
The IWP allows a consular officer to waive the interview requirement for a visa renewal applicant who meets all of the following criteria:
- The applicant must be applying for the same type of visa previously issued.
- The most recent visa must have been issued after January 1, 2008.
- For those applying in India, the most recent visa must have been issued by a U.S. consulate in India.
- The prior visa cannot have a “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization” annotation.
- The most recent visa must have been issued on or after the applicant’s 14th birthday.
- There may be no refusals for a visa in any class after the applicant’s most recent visa issuance.
- If the individual is applying for an H1B or L-(individual) visa, the prior visa in the same class still must be valid or must have expired within the last 12 months; OR
- If the applicant is applying for any other class of visa, the prior visa in the same class still must be valid or must have expired within the last 48 months.
Of particular importance to H1B visa holders, the IWP criteria no longer requires that the applicant be applying for a visa through the same employer.
Process to Request a Waiver of the Personal Interview
Applicants eligible for the IWP need to carefully follow the visa application directions on the consular website. Eligible applicants will receive appropriate instructions for the IWP or drop box options. Those utilizing the drop box will receive a drop box submission letter containing a document checklist. The applicant must submit this letter, along with a current passport, the most recent visa, the DS-160 confirmation sheet, one passport-style photograph taken within the last six months, and any additional required supporting documents.
According to the legal team at MurthyIndia, applications filed at the U.S. consulates in India are usually processed in 3 to 6 business days. However, some applications take considerably longer, depending upon the specific facts of the case and other related factors.
Interview Waiver is Discretionary
Even if the applicant meets the basic interview waiver criteria, the consulate still may require an interview. The waiver of the interview remains a discretionary matter. Further, simply meeting the eligibility requirements does not guarantee that a visa will be issued. Therefore, any visa applicant should assume that a personal visa interview could be required.
After the Application Submission
If additional information is needed after the application is submitted to the consulate, the applicant will be informed by eMail. If, however, the visa is approved, the passport and visa will be delivered to a selected document collection center.
The Murthy Law Firm applauds the expansion of the IWP, which will be of great benefit to many H1B workers. MurthyDotCom will continue to monitor developments related to this program and provide updates as appropriate.
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