In January 2012, the Department of State (DOS) introduced a two-year pilot program which temporarily waived visa interviews for certain categories of travelers to the U.S. to improve and speed up the visa process. DOS has now made this program permanent pursuant to modifications made to the 9 FAM 41.102 Notes.
Visa Renewals within One Year of Visa Expiration
The interview may be waived for applicants seeking to renew any nonimmigrant visa within one year of expiration of the initial visa in the same classification in the consular district of normal residence, and are not subject to any ground of ineligibilities.
For example, a B1/B2, L, or H visa holder who is seeking to renew her visa in the same category within a year of her last visa’s expiration date in the same consular district qualifies for interview waiver. On the other hand, an H-1B visa holder applying for an L-1 visa, an E-2 spouse applying for a visa as an E-2 principal, or an F-2 visa holder applying for an F-1 visa would need to appear for an interview.
Renewals 12-48 Months after Expiration of Previously Issued Visa
The interview may be waived for applicants seeking renewal in any visa class other than E, H, L, P, or R if applying in the same nonimmigrant visa classification between 12 and 48 months after the prior visa’s expiration date in the consular district of normal residence, and are not subject to any ground of ineligibilities.
For example, a B1/B2, or O visa holder who is seeking to renew her visa in the same category between 12 and 48 months after the prior’s visa expiration date in her consular district qualifies for interview waiver. On the other hand, an E, H, L, P, or R visa applicant would need to appear for an interview.
F and M students are eligible for interview waiver if renewing visa to either (a) continue participation in the same program even if at a different institution; or (b) attend the same institution even if in a different program.
J exchange visitors may only be renewed if the SEVIS number has not changed at the time of issuance from the previously issued visa.
Based on Age
A consular officer may waive the interview of any applicant (first-time or renewal) who is under 14 or over 79 years of age.
In addition, first time Brazilian visa applicants in a visa class other than E, H, L, P, or R, who are younger than 16 years or 66 years older are eligible for interview waiver.
Cases in Which Person Appearance May Not be Waived
▪ Eligibility for interview waiver under any of the interview waiver programs does not automatically entitle any applicant to a waiver of personal appearance. Consular officers must interview any and all interview waiver-eligible applicants who they believe should be interviewed, have been randomly selected for interview, or those that they are concerned may be from high-threat or high-fraud areas.
▪ A person of concern includes any applicant, regardless of age or eligibility for any of the interview waiver programs, who the consular officers decide should be interviewed prior to final adjudication.
▪ No waiver of the requirement to appear for an in-person interview may be approved for any applicant who:
(1) Was previously refused a visa in the same visa class that the applicant is now applying for (unless the refusal was subsequently overcome);
(2) Has an apparent or potential ineligibility in name checking system;
(3) Otherwise requires a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO);
(4) Has any other indication of ineligibility or noncompliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations;
(5) Is a national of a country designated by the Secretary of State as a state sponsor of terrorism, regardless of age, unless the applicant is also a national of a country that is not designated as a state sponsor of terrorism;
(6) Is a member of a group or sector that the Secretary determines to (a) pose a substantial risk of submitting inaccurate information to obtain a visa; (b) have historically had visa applications denied at a rate that is higher than the average rate of such denials; or (c) pose a security threat to the U.S.
(7) Any other case in which the consular officer believes for any reason that an interview is necessary to establish the applicant's eligibility.