US Visa Interview Waiver for O-1 visa. Who is eligible and how to apply?

December 28, 2021 by Piotr Messerszmidt

What does an interview waiver mean?

The US has decided to waive for selected visa categories (including O-1) the in-person interview which is the last step in the US visa application process. Usually, after an I-129 petition is approved by the USCIS, the applicant needs to visit a US Consulate at some point for an interview with a consular officer. According to the statement issued last Thursday, the consular officers have now been given the right to waive-off in-person interviews for people seeking to apply for a non-immigrant work visa. The new measure will accelerate the issuance of US visas in face of a chronic backlog in the US consulates around the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The authority allowing for waiver of an interview is valid through the end of 2022. Applicants renewing any visa within 48 months of expiration are eligible for an interview waiver indefinitely.

Which work visa categories are eligible?

The announcement extended the possibility for interview waiver to include the following visa categories:

  • O Visas (O1, O2, O3)
  • H Visas (H1, H4, and H3)
  • L Visas (L1A, L1B, L2) 
  • P Visas (P1, P1S, P2, P2S, P3, P3S) 
  • Q Visas (Q1)

Additionally, the Secretary of State has extended the current ability to waive the in-person interview, through December 31, 2022, for the following other categories of nonimmigrant visas: 

  • H-2 visas,
  • F and M visas, and 
  • Academic J visas.

What are the requirements?

The new authorization applies only to temporary workers who have a petition approved by the USCIS and were previously issued any type of US visa. The eligibility requirements are as follows:

  1. You have a petition approved by USCIS (for example, an I-129 petition for O-1A classification).
  2. You are applying for visa stamping in your country of nationality or current country of residence.
  3. You have some category of US visa approved in the past such as B1, F1, or H1B. 
  4. You have never been refused a US visa at the US Consulate.

If you do not meet any of the above requirements, you will need to attend a regular, in-person visa interview in the US Embassy. 

How to apply for an interview waiver?

Each US consulate has a different capacity to adjudicate visa applications and the applications procedures may vary depending on their internal resources and local restrictions.  

As the decision to waive the interview requirements was announced just before Christmas, the consulates have still not published specific guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.

It appears that a visa stamp will now be issued through a mail-in or dropbox system, depending on the system selected by the specific consulate. 

You will still have to complete the DS-160 visa application form, upload a photo and pay the visa fee. But you will be able to potentially skip the in-person interview at the US consulate, which is usually the most challenging part of the process. Most likely, you will need to print out a confirmation letter and drop off required documents at the drop-off location. You will be informed when you can pick up your passport with a visa stamp. 

We encourage you to check the website of the U.S. embassy in your country to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.

Conclusion: 

Due to the pandemic, the wait time to get an in-person interview for the visa has significantly increased. The recent decision temporarily suspended the in-person interview process for some particular types of work visas. This means that you will be able to get a visa and enter the United States without hours of logging into the computer checking for visa slots. However, the waiver process is on a case-to-case basis and specific procedures depending on the country.

Do you have more questions regarding the US visa interview waiver? Our immigration specialist will be happy to help you. Please send an email to [email protected] and we will see how we can help. 

FAQs

  • USCIS has just approved my I-129 petition. How can I apply for a visa now?

    After the approval of your O-1 petition from the USCIS, you are just one step before working and living in the United States. In order to enter the country as a temporary worker. The interview waiver makes this process much easier. To be clear, you still need to have a valid travel visa stamped into your passport to enter the US and present yourself for admission. But you will potentially be able to avoid going to the US consulate. You will need to complete your DS-160 form, upload a photo and pay the visa fee. After that, please check if you meet all eligibility requirements for an interview waiver. If yes, please review the specific procedures in your country of nationality or current country of residence. Most likely, you will need to print out a form and drop off required documents at the Drop-off Location. You will be informed when you can pick up your passport with a visa stamp.
  • Do I need to apply in my home country?

    To be eligible for an interview waiver, you need to apply in your country of nationality or current country of residence. The consular officer may refuse the waiver if you apply in another country.
  • Do I still need to complete DS-160 and pay the visa fee?

    Yes, you will still need to complete your DS-160 form, upload a photo and pay the visa fee. Please provide accurate and honest answers to all questions. It is important because your US visa result would be completely based on what you have entered in your DS-160 form. If any piece of information does not match, you may be requested to attend an in-person interview.
  • How long does it take until I receive my visa?

    The processing time strictly depends on the country and local restrictions. Depending on the consulate you have selected and their workload, you will be able to pick up your passport with a visa stamp in anywhere from a few days to even one month.