The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced several updates to its visa processing procedures. These updates are aimed at reducing wait times and streamlining the application process for various visa categories. Two of the most notable updates include faster processing and interview waivers for US visas.
These updates include faster processing and interview waivers for certain visa categories, such as Visit visas for Indian citizens and various non-immigrant visa categories. However, there are certain eligibility requirements and restrictions for each of these updates that applicants should be aware of before applying.
In this article, we will delve into the details of these USCIS visa updates and what they mean for those seeking to travel to the United States for work, study, or tourism purposes.
Expanding the Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) of the United States has been expanded to allow certain applicants to bypass the traditional visa application process and apply for entry into the country through the VWP. Applicants who have previously obtained a US visa and have a “clearance received” or “department authorization” status may be eligible to use the VWP.
This waiver is valid for F, H-1, H-3, H-4, non-blanket L, M, O, P, Q, and academic J visa applicants. If more information is required, consular officers may still request an in-person interview.
Also Read: US Consulate Issues Update On Schedule for Student Visa Appointments
Shortening the Wait Time for Visit Visas
The US has also planned to shorten the wait times for Visit visas for Indian citizens by waiving the interview process. Applicants with a previous US visa and a “clearance received” or “department authorization” status may apply for a new visa using the interview waiver process.
This waiver is only available to applicants who are renewing any visa in the same category with expiration within 48 months. This means that those who have not previously held a US visa or whose visa expired more than 48 months ago must still attend an in-person interview.
Visas Eligible for In-person Interview Waivers
The Department of State has authorised consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for several visa categories, in addition to the VWP and Visit visa updates. F, H-1, H-3, H-4, non-blanket L, M, O, P, Q, and academic J visas are among these categories.
Certain applicants, however, are ineligible for this waiver, including those who have previously been refused a visa and have not received a waiver or have overcome the refusal. Additionally, consular officers may still request an in-person interview if more information is required.
Also Read: US: Biden Administration Calls For Modernizing Broken Immigration System
Applying for the Waiver
Applicants who are eligible for the interview waiver process must allow three weeks from the time they accept their passport at the Visa Application Center until they receive their passport back. It is important to note that the interview waiver process is not automatic, and each applicant’s eligibility will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Current Visa Wait Times
The appointment wait times for various nonimmigrant visa categories vary across the different consulates in India.
For interview required categories, the wait time ranges from 1 day to 478 days depending on the visa category and consulate. For interview waiver categories, the wait time is significantly shorter, ranging from 1 day to 165 days.
The most recent wait times for US Visas in India as of May 08, 2023, are listed below; however, applicants should check the wait times for their specific visa category and consulate before applying.
|Nonimmigrant Visa Type||Appointment Wait Time|
|Interview Required Students/ Exchange Visitors (F, M, J)||31 Calendar Days||31 Calendar Days||31 Calendar Days||31 Calendar Days||31 Calendar Days|
|Interview Required Petition-Based Temporary Workers (H, L, O, P, Q)||1 Calendar Day||72 Calendar Days||156 Calendar Days||2 Calendar Days||135 Calendar Days|
|Interview Required Crew and Transit (C, D, C1/D)||46 Calendar Days||79 Calendar Days||2 Calendar Days||478 Calendar Days||Same Day|
|Interview Required Visitors (B1 visa, B2 visa)||366 Calendar Days||450 Calendar Days||323 Calendar Days||478 Calendar Days||343 Calendar Days|
|Interview Waiver Students/ Exchange Visitors (F, M, J)||1 Calendar Days||1 Calendar Days||1 Calendar Day||1 Calendar Day||10 Calendar Days|
|Interview Waiver Petition-Based Temporary Workers (H, L, O, P, Q)||1 Calendar Day||1 Calendar Days||1 Calendar Days||128 Calendar Days||9 Calendar Days|
|Interview Waiver Crew and Transit (C, D, C1/D)||37 Calendar Days||7 Calendar Days||3 Calendar Days||165 Calendar Days||Same Day|
|Interview Waiver Visitors (B1 visa, B2 visa)||2 Calendar Days||11 Calendar Days||4 Calendar Day||165 Calendar Days||14 Calendar Days|
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