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Interview Waiver Expansion for Certain F, M, & J Visa Applicants

  • October 4, 2021
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In March 2021, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony J Blinken, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), had temporarily expanded the ability of consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a non-immigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the expiry of the prior visa. This information is available here

On September 14, 2021, the U.S. Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (under the authority delegated to him by the U.S. Secretary of State) in consultation with DHS, has authorized consular officers to waive personal interviews for F, M, and “academic J visa applicants” (students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists) if certain conditions are satisfied. This gives consular officers discretion to adjudicate visa applications with no personal or in-person interviews in their respective consular district(s), with certain exceptions. This is a temporary relaxation and will be in place until December 31, 2021. 

Effectively, consular officers, based on prevailing local conditions as well as their own discretion, may waive the visa interview requirement for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who satisfy all of the conditions below:

  • Were previously issued any type of visa, and 
  • Have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and 
  • Who have no apparent (or potential) ineligibility. 

This is also applicable to first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.

Once issued, F-1 or M-1 visa holders are (automatically) considered as satisfying the National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for travel to the United States. Students and academics traveling on J-1 visas must contact the nearest embassy or consulate prior to travel to receive an NIE. This update is available here.