Waivers of In-Person Interviews for Certain Immigrant Visa Applicants03 Jan 2022
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has issued a temporary final rule that provides consular officers discretion to waive the personal appearance and in-person oath requirement of certain repeat immigrant visa applicants who were issued an immigrant visa on or after August 4, 2019. This rule is scheduled to remain in effect through December 13, 2023.
Background of the Immigrant Visa Process
Every foreign national applying for an immigrant visa typically must attend a personal interview at a U.S. consular post and verify the accuracy under oath of the information provided in the application. After the immigrant visa is issued, the individual has six months to enter the United States before the visa expires. If the individual fails to enter the U.S. before the six-month mark, the foreign national normally must appear at another in-person interview at the consulate and again affirm the accuracy of the application.
Under normal circumstances, it is relatively rare for a foreign national to be issued an immigrant visa and then fail to enter the United States before the deadline. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, more than 11,000 people have been issued immigrant visas that have gone unused. This has exacerbated the backlogs at U.S. consulates, which already have had relatively few available appointment slots through much of the pandemic.
Criteria for Flexibility Under the Rule
To qualify for relief under this temporary final rule, the applicant must meet ALL of the following requirements:
- Have been issued a U.S. immigrant visa on or after August 4, 2019
- Seek an immigrant visa in the same classification and pursuant to the same approved petition as the previously issued immigrant visa, or an immigrant visa pursuant to the same approved petition as the previously issued visa but in a different classification because it was automatically converted due to the death or naturalization of the petitioner of the previously issued immigrant visa
- Qualify for an immigrant visa in the same classification or another classification as the result of automatic conversion due to the death or naturalization of the petitioner of the previously issued immigrant visa, and pursuant to the same approved petition as the previously issued immigrant visa
- Have no changed circumstances that could affect the applicant’s eligibility for the visa
Even if the applicant satisfies all of the above criteria, the consular officer has the discretion to require the individual to appear in person. However, the presumption is that most qualifying applicants by far will not be required to attend a second interview at the U.S. consulate to have an immigrant visa reissued.
The temporary final rule should help to ease the backlogs many consulates are currently experiencing. Hopefully, the rule will allow consulates to allocate scarce resources more efficiently based on need and necessity.
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