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State Department Expands Eligibility for In-Person Visa Interview Waivers - (01/06/22)

In late December 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced an immediate expansion of its policy permitting U.S. consulates to waive in-person appointments/interviews for visa applications. This waiver allows qualified applicants to apply for their visa by mailing in their passport instead of appearing in-person for an interview, though the DS-160 form and application fee would still be required.

O and P international guest artists (as well as applicants for other classifications, including F and M students) may be eligible to apply for this in-person waiver under the following conditions:

  • The artist has been issued a U.S. visa, in any visa category, at any time in the past.
  • The artist has NOT been approved for a U.S. visa before but is a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and has also traveled to the U.S. at least once before under ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

In addition to the conditions above, applicants must have their visa petition already approved by USCIS by the time they submit their passport to a consulate. Furthermore, applicants must apply in their “country of nationality or residence.” Successful applicants will not have been refused a visa in the past unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and it is assumed that current waiver applicants will not have “apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.”

As always, consulates have a high level of discretion when implementing policies and may place limits based on staff capacity, so it is crucial to check with specific consular websites and read the guidelines for that particular location before proceeding. Please note that consulates are unable to guarantee visa processing times, so artists should consider their international travel schedules when deciding when and how to apply for their visa. For more information, please check the website of the desired U.S. embassy or consulate.