Visa-Renewal Waiver Program Made Permanent

By Roy Maurer Jan 22, 2014

The visa-interview waiver program for renewing nonimmigrant visas is now permanent, after the conclusion of a two-year pilot program, according to the State Department.

As a result of recent revisions to the department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, consular officers now have discretion to waive in-person applicants’ interviews for certain H-1B, TN, L and other nonimmigrant visas. 

Specifically, they may waive interviews for applicants seeking to renew any nonimmigrant visa within 12 months of the initial visa’s expiration date if it’s in the same classification with the same employer. For example, an L-visa holder who is seeking to renew her visa in the same category within a year of her last visa’s expiration date qualifies for the waiver. But an H-1B-visa holder applying for an L-1 visa would need to appear for an interview.

With the exception of E, H, L, P and R visas, interview waivers are also available for nonimmigrant visa renewals up to 48 months after the initial visa expires if it’s in the same classification with the same employer.

First started in January 2012, the visa-interview waiver program allowed certain applicants in designated countries to renew U.S. visas without interviews. This is part of an effort to improve the visa process for individuals who have been screened previously, interviewed and approved for certain nonimmigrant visas.

“This should improve the ability of nonimmigrant visa holders to renew visas in a timely fashion, rather than planning on time-consuming trips outside the U.S. to obtain visa renewals,” said Dillon Colucci, an immigration attorney in the Irvine, Calif., office of Greenberg Traurig. “Waiving the visa-interview requirements for these visa classes should free up valuable consular time and decrease the time requirement to complete the overall visa process.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

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