The US Department of State (DOS) announced that consular officers could waive the US visa interview requirement for selected F, M, and academic J visa applicants. A student visa (F or M) is required to study in the US, while exchange visitor (J) visas are non-immigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programmes in the country.
The US visa interview waiver would be applicable to those who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa (unless such refusal was overcome or waived), and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
The US visa interview waiver applies only to non-US citizens who are nationals of eligible countries. “Details about country eligibility and necessary procedures will be available on the website of the relevant embassy or consulate,” said the DOS. “Applicants from non-VWP countries whose prior visa was issued when they were less than 14 years of age, may need to submit biometric fingerprints, but can still be approved for an interview waiver.”
US visa interview waivers applicable to selected applicants
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has previously found F, M, and academic J visa applicants eligible for National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) under Presidential Proclamations that suspend entry of individuals present in one of the 33 countries subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The DOS said students seeking to apply for a new F-1 or M-1 visa should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate. Applicants who are qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel. Students and academics travelling on J-1 visas must contact the nearest embassy or consulate before travelling to receive an NIE, said the DOS.
“Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic and as we address global issues and competing priorities,” it said.
“We encourage applicants to check the website of the relevant US embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview,” advised the DOS.