Since the onset of the pandemic, the wait times for non-immigrant US visas have been as long as the prayers and hopes for eradication of the Novel Coronavirus. Indians who hold a majority of US visas in two main categories – employment and student – have had hard times securing slots for an in-person interview at the US Embassy and consulates in India during the pandemic. Many of them could not travel to the US due to the limited or non-availability of in-person visa interview slots in India.
The US government has already welcomed 2022 with good news for the non-immigrant community of Indians and other foreign nationals. Having anticipated another COVID-19 wave due to the surging cases of Omicron, the Biden administration has decided to waive in-person interviews for US visa applicants in various non-immigrant categories including H1B, H-2, H-3, L1, P1, O1, F1, M1, Q1, J1, and their qualifying derivatives. The US visa interview waiver for certain individual petitions will continue to be effective until December 31, 2022. Whether an individual applying for a non-immigrant visa can avail of the in-person interview waiver, is subject to the discretion exercised by the consular officers.
“This is a piece of welcome news and a big relief to many of our customers in the United States. Some customers cancelled their flights to India for not getting in-person visa stamping dates. We booked cheap last-minute flight tickets to India for some customers who needed to travel in the eleventh hour for in-person visa interviews,” said the chief customer relations officer of IndianEagle.com, a leading travel-booking partner of Indians in America.
Eligibility Criteria for US Visa Interview Waiver:
You’re required to meet certain conditions for the USA’s in-person visa stamping waiver. You must have a petition approved by the USCIS. A US visa was not denied to you earlier. You should apply for visa stamping in your country of nationality or country of residence. You must have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. If you are a first-time applicant for a non-immigrant visa, you must be a citizen or national of the country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program. You are eligible for the recently announced in-person visa interview waiver if you obtained the Visa Waiver Program through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for your visit to the US earlier. The consular officers are authorized to waive the visa interview requirement if you were approved a US visa earlier.
US Visa Dropbox Eligibility is Extended Indefinitely
As part of the commitment to simplifying the visa stamping process for non-immigrants, the United States has extended the Dropbox Visa Stamping eligibility from 24 months to 48 months before the expiry of non-immigrant visas. The Dropbox visa stamping facility allows eligible non-immigrants to get a stamp for visa renewal without an in-person interview. The in-person interview waiver for visa renewal is called Dropbox Visa Stamping. Let’s assume your non-immigrant visa will expire in January 2024. You can avail of the Dropbox Stamping facility for renewal within 48 months before the expiration if you meet the eligibility criteria.
You must submit your documents at a Dropbox location in India at least 7 calendar days before the expiry of your non-immigrant visa. If you are eligible for Dropbox stamping, you cannot go for a regular visa interview. You are required to go for visa renewal through Dropbox.