F1 and J1 Visas – New Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waiver Pilot Program

Some good news to help speed up the process of getting a Student Visa. On January 19, 2012, President Obama announced an initiative to improve and speed up the visa process for certain categories of travelers. One of the cornerstones of this initiative is the Department of State’s Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waiver Pilot Program, under which certain foreign visitors who were interviewed in conjunction with a prior visa application may be able to renew their visas without undergoing another interview.

What are the prevailing interview and fingerprint requirements of the U.S. nonimmigrant visa (NIV) application process?

Generally, all Non Immigrant applicants must make a personal appearance and be interviewed by a consular officer. In addition, visa applicants must provide biometric identifiers for verifying their identity (the biometric identifiers currently required are fingerprints and a photo image).

What are the prevailing rules relating to waivers of in-person NIV interviews?

Generally, all applicants must be interviewed unless they meet one of the following criteria (list not inclusive):
1. The applicant is younger than 14 years of age and older than 79 years of age.

2. The applicant is applying for a diplomatic visa (generally “A” or “G”).

3. The applicant is applying for a visa in the same classification as their prior nonimmigrant visa, not more than 12 months after the previous visa expired, at the post of their normal residence. (This is available only for applicants from whom a ten-print fingerprint scan was collected.)
What are the provisions of the new Pilot Program?

Under the new Pilot Program, consular officers are permitted to waive NIV interviews for certain visa applicants who are renewing their visas more than 12 months but less than 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa.

Does the Pilot Program apply to all nonimmigrant visa classes?

No. The Pilot Program will not apply to applicants renewing certain excepted types of visas. The Department of State has not made this information available to the public at this time. That said, the Department has specified that student and exchange visitor visa (F, J, and M) applicants are eligible for the Pilot Program.

No waiver of the in-person interview requirement may be approved for any applicant who:
1. Was previously refused a visa
2. Is listed in the Consular Lookout and Support System (“CLASS”)
3. Otherwise requires a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO)
4. May have failed to comply with U.S. immigration laws in the past
5. Is a national of a country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Great news for J1 and F1 applicants dreading the slow interview process and more students for US colleges and Universities able to start school on time. To learn more about F1 visas, see the Video below and subscribe to our You Tube Channel for more Videos.