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Visa Interview Waiver Extended and Expanded to Additional Visa Types

Dec 26, 2023 | Raluca Vais-Ottosen

In December 2023, the U.S. Department of State announced that the U.S. Consulates abroad will continue to waive the visa interview to eligible applicants.  This article discusses eligibility criteria for the visa interview waiver, and the types of visas that benefit from it.

What is a visa interview waiver?

Most foreign nationals need a U.S. visa before they can board a flight to come to the U.S.  Generally, to obtain that visa, the foreign national must attend a visa interview at a U.S. Consulate in their home countries.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Consulates had discretion to waive the visa interview in limited cases. 

When the pandemic started, U.S. Consulates all over the world closed for all in-person visa operations for several months.  This created huge backlogs, as people continued to apply for visas but were not able to complete the process because all interviews were suspended.  Therefore, in order to clear the backlog, the U.S. Department of State began offering more interview waivers to allow more applications to be decided without an interview. 

Who qualifies for a visa interview waiver?

The types of visas and travelers that can benefit from an interview waiver have changed over the past couple of years.  The most recent change took place just last week, on December 21, 2023.  As of the date of this article, the following visa types and non-citizens applicants may qualify:

  • First time H-2A and H-2B visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers);
  • Repeat visa applicants – those who previously had a non-immigrant visa of any type (except B1/B2 visitor visa) that expired less than 48 months (4 years) before the new application; and
  • Renewing visa applicants – those who are renewing the same type of visa they previously had (including B1/B2) that expired less than 48 months (4 years) before the new application.

The biggest change from the prior interview waiver policy is that now it can be applied to first-time H-2A and H-2B visa applicants who never held a U.S. visa before.  As we approach the upcoming agricultural and short-term/seasonal labor periods, which rely heavily on H-2A and H-2B visa workers, allowing interview waivers will minimize the backlogs at the U.S. Consulates abroad.

In addition to having a qualifying type of nonimmigrant visa, the foreign nationals must also meet the following requirements in order to qualify for the visa interview waiver:

  • Applicants must submit their application in their country of nationality or residence.  Applicants submitting their application for third-country processing are not eligible for the interview waiver;
  • Applicants must not have on prior visa refusals or denials; and
  • Applicants must not have any other disqualifying factors, such as prior immigration violations, criminal record, etc.

The Department may still require an in-person interview even if all waiver conditions are met, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

When does the recent policy change take effect and how long will it last?

The most recent policy change will begin on January 1, 2024.  The Department of State has indicated that the policy will be reviewed every year to determine if any modifications are needed.

If you are seeking additional information regarding the visa interview waiver, or if you have any other immigration-related question, contact Attorney Raluca (Luca) Vais-Ottosen at or (608) 252-9291.