Wednesday, November 28, 2012

U.S. Consulates in India Expand Waiver of Nonimmigrant Visa Interviews

From, 11/27/2012

Qualifying H-1B, individual L-1, F and J visa holders are now eligible for a waiver of the nonimmigrant visa interview if applying to renew their visa at a U.S. consulate in India. Applicants selected for the interview waiver will benefit from streamlined visa renewal procedures, though will still be required to appear for a biometrics appointment. 

Previously, interview waivers in India were available only to foreign nationals applying to renew a B-1/B-2, H-4 or L-2 visa at the discretion of a consular officer. 

Who Qualifies for an NIV Interview Waiver? 

The interview waiver is available to foreign nationals applying to renew a B-1/B-2, C1/D, F, H, J or individual L visa, as long as the renewal is in the same classification as the applicant’s most recent visa and that visa was issued in India. Applicants for L-1 visas under an employer’s blanket petition are not eligible for the waiver.

The applicant’s most recent visa must have been issued after August 1, 2004 (or after November 1, 2008 for drop-box application services). The prior visa cannot have been annotated “clearance received” or have been lost or stolen. The applicant must have had no visa refusals in any category since his or her most recent visa issuance. 

If applying for an H or L renewal, the applicant’s most recent visa must still be valid or have expired within the previous 12 months. If applying for a B-1/B-2, C1/D, F, or J visa renewal, the applicant’s most recent visa must still be valid or have expired within the previous 48 months. 

Children under 14 are eligible for the interview waiver if their current visa is in the same category as that of a parent applying for renewal. Applicants age 80 or older are also eligible.

Applying for the Waiver

To obtain the waiver, the visa renewal applicant must pay all relevant visa application and reciprocity fees according to the consulate’s payment procedures. Next, the applicant must complete Form DS-160, the online nonimmigrant visa application, and print the filing confirmation page.

Once the application is filed, the applicant must create an account at, the U.S. consulates’ visa application website, and follow the steps to schedule an interview. The applicant will be asked a series of questions to determine whether he or she is eligible for an interview waiver and drop-box application services. Note that consular officers have the discretion to require an interview even if the applicant is otherwise eligible for a waiver.

If the applicant meets the waiver requirements, he or she must schedule a biometrics appointment at an Offsite Facilitation Center. The applicant must bring a valid passport, most recent visa, and supporting documentation to the appointment. Children under 14 must also bring a photocopy of their parents’ visas. Applicants who qualify for drop-box service must submit these materials to a drop-off location, along with a drop-box confirmation letter and a recent passport-size photograph. If the consulate needs additional documents or information, the applicant will be notified by email.

If the visa application is approved, the passport and new visa will be delivered for pickup at a Document Collection center selected by the applicant.

In the early stages of the expanded waiver program, several processing issues have been identified that could cause delays or other problems for applicants. The consulates have indicated that they are working on addressing these issues.