The State Department has indefinitely extended a program that gives consular offices the discretion to waive in-person interviews for low-risk nonimmigrant visa applicants who are applying within 48 months of their most recent visa’s expiration.
The program had been set to sunset at the end of the year, but will now remain in effect without a sunset date, subject to regular review.
The program will apply to consular offices worldwide. The State Department estimates that under the rules of the updated program, the pool of applicants eligible for an interview waiver will at least double.
“The option to waive in-person interviews for prior good travelers – including for those traveling for tourism – continues to be one of our best tools to reduce interview appointment wait times while continuing to make rigorous national security decisions in every case,” said Julie Stufft, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services. “Last year, 40 percent of the 10.4 million travelers who received their nonimmigrant visas did not require an in-person interview, opening those interview slots for first-time visitors to the United States. “hanks to the Department of State’s coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, on January 1 we began operating under new authorities that are estimated to increase the interview waiver-eligible applicant pool compared to past authorities.”
Visa wait times averaged 130 days during the State Department’s fiscal 2023, which ended in October. That was down from post-pandemic highs but still much longer than the 30-day maximum that was achieved during the Obama administration.