IMMIGRATION UPDATE – 12.30.2021
Important Announcement on Waivers of the Interview Requirement for Certain Nonimmigrant Visas
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers through the end of 2022 to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants who have a petition approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This new authorization applies to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who meet certain conditions, including that they are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. Under this authority, consular officers have discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q 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 and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) .
In addition, the Secretary extended previously approved policies to waive the visa interview for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022. One change to the previous policy is that applicants eligible for the waiver authority because they are citizens or nationals of a VWP participating country must have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA to qualify. Applicants must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence. Like the policy for certain individual petition-based visa applicants, consular officers have discretion to waive the interview for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and who have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
The previous authority allowing for waiver of interview of certain H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants has also been extended through the end of 2022. Applicants renewing any visa within 48 months of expiration are also eligible for interview waiver.
Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic and as we address global issues and competing priorities. We encourage applicants to check the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.
The Omicron Presidential Proclamation Revoked as of Dec. 31, 2021, 12:01am EST
On November 26, 2021, the President of the United States signed a Presidential Proclamation entitled: “A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019” due to the emerging COVID-19 Omicron variant. • Effective at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on December 31, 2021, in accordance with this Proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 10315 restricting travel for individuals who had been physically present within South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, is revoked.
This Proclamation supplements, and does not supersede, other recent public health travel requirements, including the recently issued Presidential Proclamation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order requiring travelers arriving in the air environment to test negative for COVID-19 and/or be fully vaccinated prior to boarding a flight to the United States. Full details about air travel requirements can be found on the CDC website.
This update was prepared by partners Fausta M. Albi and Teodora D. Purcell