Whether or not you may be eligible to waive an interview will largely depend on the eligibility category you selected when applying for a visa as well as on your country of origin. In general, the instructions and requirements to file an application to renew a visa may vary widely based on the guidelines implemented by a particular country’s U.S. embassy or consulate.

For example, there are only six requirements that applicants who are from Indonesia and are renewing a visa will need to meet in order to have their interview requirement waived. On the other hand, applicants who are applying for renewal of a visa through the U.S. embassy in the Philippines, will need to satisfy nine conditions first before they will be found eligible to waive the interview requirement.

Additionally, even if you do qualify for a waiver of the interview requirement, an immigration officer does not necessarily need to abide by those guidelines. If they believe that they are lacking information, then they may request that an applicant attend an interview before they issue a decision about your visa renewal.

Finally, if you need help with renewing your current visa or if you are having trouble figuring out whether you qualify to have your visa interview waived, then you should speak with a local immigration attorney immediately for further advice. An attorney will be able to review your application and can then inform you as to whether you may be eligible for this waiver or not.

Your attorney can also recommend some other immigration options in case you may be able to apply for a separate immigration status. You should also speak to a lawyer about any recent changes that were made to U.S. immigration laws and policies. The current administration is expected to pass a number of important immigration laws that may provide many benefits for both nonimmigrant and immigrant applicants in the United States.

What Does the New Visa Screening Process Entail?

In the interest of saving time, money, and resources of both a visa applicant and the government agency in charge of reviewing their application, new guidelines were released regarding when an applicant could potentially waive the interview process.

Generally speaking, an applicant who is applying for a renewal of their visa may not have to attend an interview a second time. They may also not have to undergo a second round of biometric testing if this is not the first time they are applying for a visa in the United States.

This new rule ensures that applicants not only receive some of the benefits that were just mentioned above, but also may allow for more first round applicants to obtain a U.S. visa because immigration officers will have more time to hold interviews for these candidates as well as the ability to continue processing applicants for certain nonimmigrant visas faster than before.

The new visa screening process was further expanded on March 11, 2021, due to the impact of the global pandemic. So, now, these guidelines not only serve to offer all of the benefits from the previous update to this program, but are also a way to keep applicants and employees healthy as well as safe. This is because immigration officers will be able to reduce the number of applicants that will need to appear for the in-person interview.

Who Is Eligible to Waive the Interview?

The United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) recently expanded some of the requirements for interview waiver eligibility. Specifically, the DHS has issued temporary guidelines regarding the ability of U.S. embassy or consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for persons who apply for a nonimmigrant visa within the same category.

Before this modification, only applicants whose nonimmigrant visas were set to expire within two years remained eligible to waive the interview requirement. Now, however, applicants who have the ability to waive the interview requirement will have up to four years to do so. As of March 2021, this policy will remain in effect until the end of this year (i.e., December 31, 2021). The rule was primarily created to manage the effects of the pandemic.

As previously mentioned, a foreign-born national who is renewing their visa must attend a scheduled interview with an immigration officer unless the USCIS decides to waive the interview requirement. The decision to waive the interview requirement is typically made on a case-by-case basis.

However, there may be some categories of applicants who qualify for the waiver more than others. In which case, an immigration officer may decide to waive the interviews for those applicants.

In general, some categories of visa holders wherein an officer may decide to waive the interview requirement include the following:

  • Individuals who are parents of U.S. citizens;
  • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens who are under the age of 21 years old and have filed a Form I-485 either individually or together with a family member;
  • Unmarried children of lawful permanent residents who are under the age of 14 years old and have filed a Form I-485 either individually or together with a family member;
  • In some instances, the USCIS may allow the spouse of a military petitioner to waive personal appearance of their spouse;
  • Visa applicants or petitioners who are too ill or incapacitated to appear at the interview;
  • U.S. citizen spouse petitioners who are in prison and thus unable to attend the interview. In which case the applicant will need to appear;
  • Applicants whose visas have not expired and are applying for renewal of the same category or type of visa as the one they currently hold; and/or
  • Various other individuals who are seeking renewal of a visa and meet all of the conditions listed under their designated eligibility category.

Lastly, it is important to note that just because an applicant falls within one of the interview waiver categories, it does not mean that an immigration officer will need to waive the interview. An immigration officer can still require that a person schedule and attend an interview if they believe they require more information from an applicant to make a decision on whether or not to renew an applicant’s visa.

Seeking Legal Help

The process to renew a visa can be extremely difficult to navigate without the help of a legal professional. Therefore, if you need assistance with renewing your current visa or if you are not sure whether you are eligible to submit a request to waive the visa interview requirement, then it may be in your best interest to consult with a local immigration attorney as soon as possible. Failure to renew your visa before it expires can get you banned from the U.S.

An experienced immigration attorney will be able to help you submit the documents to renew your visa. Your attorney can also review your application and eligibility criteria to determine whether you qualify for a waiver of the interview requirement. In addition, your lawyer will be able to provide legal advice regarding which rights and protections you hold based on your current immigrant status.

Finally, if you need to appear before an immigration judge for any reason or if there is an issue with your application to renew your visa, your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation. They can make sure that your interests are sufficiently protected as well.