Posted: 4:24 am ET
On July 27, the State Department issued a redacted guidance citing changes from ALDAC 17 State 77174 on Interview Waivers. The new guidance reflects the suspension of the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) under Executive Order 13780 (E.O.). The suspension of the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) means that more visa applicants will require personal interviews.
Note that the State Department’s current hiring freeze remains in effect and includes Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary Appointment jobs (also see Out in the Cold: How the Hiring Freeze Hiring Freeze is Affecting Family Member Employment). We are not quite at the end of the summer travel season so we can expect that that the visa wait time will start creeping up again. Visa wait times for USCG Guangzhou is 13 days, US Embassy New Delhi is now 15 days, USCG Chengdu is 6-11 days, US Embassy Manila is 10-19 days, and US Embassy Havana is 21 days. Appointment wait time for visitor visas at US Embassy Caracas is 999 days. Wait times can potentially get even worse next year with State projected to shrink by 2300 personnel, and if the hiring freeze is not lifted until the reorganization is concluded.
9 FAM 403.5 says that “Every alien seeking an NIV must apply in person and be interviewed by a consular officer unless a specific exception allows for waiver of the interview requirement.”
FAM 403.5-2 (U) INTERVIEW REQUIREMENT
b. (U) Every alien seeking an NIV must apply in person and be interviewed by a consular officer unless a specific exception allows for waiver of the interview requirement.
(1) (U) Generally, all applicants who are at least 14 years of age and not more than 79 must be interviewed in person.
(2) (U) The circumstances in which the consular officer may waive an interview for a nonimmigrant applicant are limited to the categories set out in section 222(h)(1)(A) and (B) of the INA. See 9 FAM 403.5-4(A).
(3) (U) If you receive a compelling case that does not qualify for an interview waiver under one of these categories, but where an interview waiver appears warranted, you may forward a recommendation for waiver through your VO/F post liaison.
(4) (U) If admissibility issues or national security concerns arise in the visa application process for applicants for whom the interview requirement has been waived, or for applicants under 14 and over 79, you must conduct a personal interview of the applicant.
d. (U) If none of the grounds in 9 FAM 403.5-4(B) below that mandate an in-person interview apply, any applicant (first-time or renewal) who is:
(1) (U) Under 14 years of age; or
(2) (U) Over 79 years of age
is exempt from the requirement of a visa interview.
The “grounds” and “interview waiver criteria” under 9 FAM 403.5-4(B) only contains the following passage:
Eligibility for interview waiver does not automatically entitle any applicant to a waiver of the interview requirement. You must interview any and all interview waiver-eligible applicants who you believe should be interviewed to more fully assess their eligibility or intentions, or those whom you are concerned may be from high-threat or high-fraud areas. Review all source information and liaise with other agencies at post to remain aware of changing threat information.
9 FAM 403.5-4(A)(1) (U) Interview Waiver Categories
a. (U) Waiver by Consular Officers:
(U) You may waive the interview of any visa applicant who falls under one or more of the following categories in (1)-(3) below and who satisfies the requirements of 9 FAM 403.5-4(B):
(1) (U) Is within a class of nonimmigrants classifiable under the visa symbols A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (except attendants, servants, or personal employees of accredited officials), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, NATO-6, or TECRO E-1 and who is seeking a visa in such classification;
(2) (U) Is an applicant for a diplomatic or official visa as described in 22 CFR 41.26 or 22 CFR 41.27, respectively.
(3) (U) Renewals in the same category within 12 months:
(a) (U) Is applying for the same nonimmigrant visa classification not more than 12 months after the date on which the prior visa expired (i.e., same visa class and same category (principal or derivative)); and
(b) (U) Is applying in the consular district of his or her normal residence, unless otherwise prescribed in regulations that require an applicant to apply for a visa in the country of which such applicant is a national.
(i) (U) For example, a B1/B2, L, or R visa holder who is seeking to renew his/her visa in the same category within 12 months of his/her last visa’s expiration date within the consular district of his/her normal residence qualifies for interview waiver for Renewals;
(ii) (U) 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 all would need to appear for an interview.
(iii) (U) The adjudication may take place outside the 12-month window, as long as the application is made within12 months of the previous visa’s expiration date. The criteria for making an application are defined in 9 FAM 403.2
(c) Special considerations for applications to renew Student and Exchange Visitor visas:
(i) (U) Students (F and M applicants) are eligible for interview waiver , provided the applicant is re-applying to renew the same visa classification not more than 12 months after the date on which the prior visa expired and provided the applicant is renewing his or her visa either to: (a) continue participation in the same major course of study even if at a different institution; or (b) attend the same institution even if in a different major course of study.
(ii) (U) Exchange visitor visas (i.e., J visas) may only be renewed without an interview if the exchange visitor will continue participation in the same exchange visitor program, with the same Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) number from the previously issued visa.
(iii) (U) You must verify that the applicant’s SEVIS record indicates a SEVIS status of “initial” or “active,” and should request an interview if you identify any discrepancies between the current and previous visa applications, or wish to interview the applicant for any other reason.
b. (U) Waiver by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services In unusual or emergent circumstances the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services may waive the interview requirement in individual cases after determining that such a waiver is necessary as a result of unusual or emergent circumstances. If you believe waiver of the interview is necessary due to unusual or emergent circumstances, contact your VO/F post liaison
c. (U) Waiver by the Secretary in individual cases when in the national interest: The Secretary of State may waive the interview requirement in individual cases after determining that such a waiver is in the national interest of the United States. If you believe waiver of the interview would be in the national interest of the United States, but that applicant does not qualify for any other aforementioned waiver categories, contact your VO/F post liaison.
The new guidance also removed the IWP for Brazilian and Argentine applicants.
9 FAM 403.5-4(A)(3) (U) Discontinued Interview Waiver Program Categories
Effective immediately, posts must require an interview for the following categories of individuals that had previously been covered by the IWP (unless the applicant also falls in an interview waiver category described in 9 FAM 403.5-4(A)(1)):
- (1) (U) Any applicant whose visa expired more than 12 months, and not more than 48 months, prior to the date of application;
- (2) (U) Any first-time Brazilian applicant aged 14 or 15 or between 66 and 79;
- (3) (U) Any first-time Argentine applicant aged 14 or 15 or between 66 and 79.