Visa Interview Waiver Program: “Can I Use the Drop Box Option?”13 Feb 2020
In most circumstances, anyone applying for a nonimmigrant visa must apply in person at a U.S. consulate or embassy and be interviewed by a consular officer. In the context of applying to renew a visa, however, the interview requirement may be waived under the visa interview waiver program (IWP). This program, sometimes referred to as the drop-box option, can make the visa renewal process easier and more convenient.
Eligibility Criteria for Interview Waiver Program
To qualify for the IWP, the applicant typically must meet ALL of the following requirements:
- The applicant must be applying for the same type of visa that was previously issued.
- The prior visa in the same class must still be valid or must have expired within the last 12 months.
- The person must be applying at a consular post located in the country of the applicant’s usual residence.
- The applicant must not have been previously refused a visa, unless such refusal was overcome or a waiver of ineligibility was obtained.
- If the applicant is applying to renew an F-1 or M-1 visa, the student must either be continuing to participate in the same major course of study, even if at a different institution; or the person must be attending the same institution, even if in a different major course of study.
Eligibility Requirements Can Vary By Consular Post
The requirements to qualify for the IWP can vary from one consular post to the next. For instance, in India, a prior visa refusal only prevents an individual from being eligible if the refusal occurred after the applicant’s most recent visa issuance. Meanwhile, the U.S. consulates in China do not allow L-1 visa applicants to use the IWP. Many consular posts also do not grant an interview waiver if the applicant’s prior visa was issued before the applicant’s 14th birthday.
Other Exceptions to Interview Requirement
Apart from the criteria discussed above, there are other categories of visa applicants who may not be required to attend an in-person interview. A visa applicant under the age of 14 or older than 79 generally is exempt from the interview requirement. The interview requirement also may be waived for one who is applying for a diplomatic, NATO, or international organization visa.
Interview Waiver is Discretionary
Even if the applicant meets the basic interview waiver criteria, the particular U.S. consular post abroad still may require an interview. The waiver of the interview remains a discretionary matter. Further, simply meeting the eligibility requirements does not guarantee that the consular post will issue the visa. Therefore, a visa applicant should always be prepared to personally attend a visa interview.
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