Visa Interview Waiver Program: Two-Year Pilot
The U.S. consulates and embassies are currently implementing a U.S.
Department of State (DOS) pilot program announced in January 2012. This
program allows individuals who meet certain conditions to avoid interviewing
at U.S. consulates when seeking their visas. This
Visa Interview Waiver Program (IWP)
is part of President Obama's effort to increase U.S. tourism and reduce
travel barriers for individuals who have been screened previously,
interviewed, and approved for certain nonimmigrant visas.
eligibility criteria vary both by country of origin and location of the
consulate. Preliminary information follows, as released by the various
consulates on their criteria.
Overview of the
The pilot visa
IWP allows certain visa applicants in designated countries to apply for
visas without interviews. As stated above, the program is available to those
in a select group of nonimmigrant visa categories, and is only available to
those who already were approved for the same visa category after a prior
visa interview. Those who received visa denials subsequent to their
approvals do not qualify. With the exception of certain Brazilians, the visa
applicant must still have a valid nonimmigrant visa; or, if the visa is
expired, it should have reached expiration within no more than 48 months.
Additional IWP requirements exist and each visa applicant is encouraged to
check the website of the consulate where s/he will apply for the visa, to be
apprised of the latest requirements for eligibility under IWP.
Waiver of Interview Not Guaranteed
The IWP allows a U.S. consular officer to waive the interview requirement
for individuals who are deemed to be lower risk and meet the IWP
requirements. No one is guaranteed a visa approval or that the requirement
for an in-person interview will be waived. The authority and discretion to
waive a visa interview is to be exercised by U.S. consular officers in each
Brazilian Citizens Enjoy Additional Benefits
In addition to those meeting the standard requirements, the IWP allows for a
waiver of the interview and fingerprinting requirements for first-time visa
applicants holding passports from Brazil if they are younger than 16 or over 66
years of age. These provisions for Brazilian citizens are applicable
regardless of the country where these individuals apply.
India, China, Russia, and Others Included
The U.S. Department of State posts in India, China, Russia, Mexico, and
other nations have announced their participation in the IWP. The U.S.
Embassy in New Delhi announced its inclusion in the IWP in a
The Murthy Law Firm's affiliate office in Chennai, India,
Immigration Services, Pvt. Ltd. (MISPL), reported that qualified visa
applicants at the U.S. Embassy in India or consulates there may participate in the IWP, if they previously held and are applying for another B-1/B-2,
C-1/D, J-2, L-2, or H-4 visa. Additional requirements for the IWP were
described in MISPL's article entitled,
Interview Waiver Program (IWP) For Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants in
The U.S. Ambassador to China
announced on February 9, 2012 that China would be included in the IWP.
The visa classes eligible in China are slightly different from those
eligible in India, with Chinese applicants for M and O visas potentially
qualifying for visas without interviews.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a
on March 9, 2012
announcing IWP participation in Russia. Applicants for B-1/B-2 or C-1/D
visas that expired within 47 months prior to the renewal application are
eligible to apply for a renewal of their visa without an interview.
Applicants for any other nonimmigrant visa that expired in the previous
eleven months may qualify without an interview.
Conclusion: Reverting to the Pre-September 11th
While the IWP is a new program, the concept of waiving the visa interview is
not novel. Interviews on visa applications were commonly waived prior to
September 11, 2001. A series of changes in the years since the 9/11
terrorist attacks made visa interviews a requirement for most U.S.
visa applicants. The IWP reflects confidence in the ability of the United
States to protect its security interests without personal interviews of
every visa applicant with every visa renewal. By facilitating visa renewals
for previously screened and interviewed visa holders, the U.S. goal is to
focus resources more appropriately, as well as to encourage tourism to
benefit the U.S. economy. The Murthy Law Firm will continue to monitor
changes to the IWP program and provide helpful updates through
MurthyDotCom and the MurthyBulletin.
This article originally appeared in Murthy Bulletin on www.Murthy.com Reprinted with permission
About The Author
Attorneys from the Murthy Law Firm. Sheela Murthy is the founder of the Murthy Law Firm, which consists of approximately 85 full time attorneys, paralegals, and support staff, who provide excellent service in the area of U.S. Immigration Law to clients worldwide. The Murthy Law Firm handles cases ranging from Fortune 500 companies, mid-sized and small companies, to individuals who are undergoing the U.S. immigration process. A graduate of Harvard Law School with an LL.M degree and herself an immigrant, Attorney Murthy understands the complexities of immigration and empathizes with those faced with its challenges.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.
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