Last week, it was announced that US consular officers will have authority to waive in-person interviews for H-1B and other certain non-immigrant visa applicants through next year, according to the State Department. The move was largely made to help reduce visa wait times, much of which was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused big reductions in the department’s visa processing capacity, and the new initiatives will hopefully reduce visa wait times in 2022.
The consular officers will now be temporarily authorized to waive in-person interviews for nearly a dozen visa categories, including Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), visas for students, temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers, student exchange visitors, as well as athletes, artists and entertainers. The full list of visa categories in which the appointment now could be waived can be found here. State Department also said it has extended indefinitely the authorization to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration.
U.S. State Department in March 2020 had suspended all routine visa services in most countries worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak. While the services have been reinstated with a limited capacity and on a priority basis, months-long wait times for certain visa appointments persist due to a massive backlog.