Articles Posted in Interview Waivers

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas break with your families.

In this blog post, we share a new update from the State Department regarding the continuation of its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa types.

In a new announcement, the Secretary of State has revealed that it is extending its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa types until December 31, 2023, allowing Consular officers to continue to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain classes of immigrants.


What is the extension all about?


As you might recall back in December of last year, the State Department first announced its interview waiver policy for temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas in their country of nationality or residence, following USCIS approval of their petitions.

The State Department has now confirmed it will continue its interview waiver policy until at least the end of 2023.


Who qualifies?


Interview Waiver Policy for H, L, O, P, Q visas


Pursuant to the interview waiver policy, Consular officers have the 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 that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past 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 that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

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We kick off the Thanksgiving week with some exciting news.

Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) met with representatives from the Department of State to address some issues of concern relating to several different immigration topics.

We provide a summary of the questions asked and responses from the Department of State down below that was part of a recent roundtable with representatives from Consular Affairs.


Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applications from Third Country Nationals


Representatives reminded nonimmigrant visa applicants, including students, that they can apply for their visas at any embassy or consulate where they are physically present and obtain a visa appointment.

Additionally, immigrant visa applicants can request to transfer their case to another embassy or consulate if they are unable to travel to the post where their case is assigned.

As to the possibility for virtual visa interviews, the State Department has said immigrant visa applicants are required to appear in person before a consular officer to provide fingerprints, therefore video interviews would be of limited utility.


Interview Waivers


AILA informed the State Department that it appears that some appointment scheduling systems incorrectly identify applicants that are clearly not eligible for interview waivers as eligible and invite them to send in their passports for visa issuance.

In these instances, once the passport is submitted to the post, it is determined that the applicant is not eligible for an interview waiver, the applicant has to be contacted, their passport has to be returned, and they have to then schedule an in-person interview appointment.

The State Department has said it is not aware of this issue happening at posts and recommended that those experiencing issues with applications submitted via interview waiver processes should contact the relevant post for information.


E-2 Treaty Investor Visas  


Question: 9 FAM 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) informs officers that one of the determinations in evaluating E-2 Treaty Investor applications is that the: “Enterprise is a real and operating commercial enterprise,” and is then referred to 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) for further discussion.

The first sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) states: “The enterprise must be a real and active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking, producing some service or commodity.” The third sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) continues the description of the enterprise to state, “It cannot be a paper organization or an idle speculative investment…”Especially in the context of start-up businesses, defining these terms will provide greater clarity and guidance to E-2 visa applicants.

Please confirm: Are the words “operating” at 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) and “active” at 402.9-6(C) used interchangeably?

Answer: Almost. The term “active” at 402.9-6(C) was used to ensure that new enterprises that had not yet begun producing services or commodities, but which were actively taking steps to become operational, could also provide a basis for E visa issuance.

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Our readers will be happy to know that the Department of State has released a new update in the month of October on the status of worldwide consular visa operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a period of uncertainty and created tremendous backlogs at the Consular level. As most of you will remember, Consular missions around the world suspended routine visa services in March of 2020 to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. Later, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, however some Consulates and Embassies resumed services faster than others. Since then, things have slowly but surely started to turn around.

To help improve visa processing, the State Department has said that worldwide visa operations are now recovering faster than expected. More U.S. foreign service personnel have been hired to reduce visa interview wait times at Consular posts worldwide. It is expected that this year, the Department of State will reach pre-pandemic processing levels. This is amazing news for immigrants that have been waiting for visa interview appointments for months, or even years.


How did COVID-19 impact Worldwide Visa Operations?


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agency’s ability to process visa applications in two major ways.

First, restrictions on travel to the United States, social distancing, and local quarantine restrictions made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people inside Consular facilities, such as waiting rooms. This of course reduced the number of people that could be scheduled for in-person visa appointments dramatically, causing a reduction in the number of visa applications that could be processed.

Secondly, due to the suspension of visa services worldwide, the State Department experienced a substantial decrease in funding which led to a declining workforce in 2020 and 2021. This dramatically impacted the number of applications that could be processed.

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In this blog post, we cover the release of the October Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of October.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart October 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for October 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for October 2022.

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In this blog post, we share with you some new updates regarding the employment-based numerical limits for immigrant visas in fiscal year 2022.

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of visa services at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide, approximately 140,000 family-sponsored visa numbers went unused during fiscal year 2021.

This was due to the pent-up demand for in-person visa interviews that could not be accommodated. Fortunately, these visa numbers have trickled down to the employment-based categories, expanding the number of visa numbers available in fiscal year 2022 to nearly double the usual amount.

Sadly, fiscal year 2022 is nearly coming to a close. To provide the public with more transparency regarding the usage of employment-based visa numbers, the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its frequently asked questions for employment-based adjustment of status. We breakdown the questions and answers down below.

How many employment-based visas did USCIS and DOS use in FY 2021? How many employment-based visas went unused in FY 2021?


A: The annual limit for employment-based visa use in FY 2021 was 262,288, nearly double the typical annual total. The Department of State (DOS) publishes the official figures for visa use in their Report of the Visa Office.

Overall, the two agencies combined to use 195,507 employment-based immigrant visas in FY 2021.

  • DOS issued 19,779 employment-based immigrant visas, and USCIS used 175,728 employment-based immigrant visas through adjustment of status, more than 52% higher than the average before the pandemic.
  • Despite our best efforts, 66,781 visas went unused at the end of FY 2021.

UPDATED: Can you estimate how many family-sponsored or employment-based immigrant visas USCIS and DOS will use during FY 2022?


A:  DOS has determined that the FY 2022 employment-based annual limit is 281,507 – (slightly more than double the typical annual total) – due to unused family-based visa numbers from FY 2021 being allocated to the current fiscal year’s available employment-based visas.

  • Through July 31, 2022, the two agencies have combined to use 210,593 employment-based immigrant visas (FY2022 data is preliminary and subject to change).
  • USCIS alone approved more than 10,000 employment-based adjustment of status applications in the week ending August 14, 2022, and DOS continues its high rate of visa issuance, as well. USCIS states that it will maximize our use of all available visas by the end of the fiscal year and are well-positioned to use the remaining visas.

NEW: Will my case be processed faster if I file a second Form I-485?


A: Submitting a new adjustment of status application typically does not result in faster adjudication and may have the opposite effect by adding extra burden to the USCIS workload.

  • USCIS is identifying and prioritizing all employment-based adjustment of status applications with available visas and approved underlying petitions, including those received prior to this fiscal year. This includes applications where noncitizens have submitted a transfer of underlying basis requests.

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couple-g86465ecab_1920USCIS Updates Policy Guidance Highlighting Discretionary Power to Waive In-Person Interviews for I-751 Applicants


On April 7, 2022, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual on the interview waiver criteria for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove the conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions.

Under the law, those who attained their permanent resident status (green card) based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card, also known as “conditional permanent residency.”

This conditional green card is issued for a 2-year period. Prior to the expiration of the 2-year green card, the applicant must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions on permanent residence within the 90-day window before it expires.

The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that a conditional permanent resident must appear for an in-person interview as part of the I-751 Removal of Conditions adjudication process, so that the immigration officer can verify the accuracy of the information included in the petition and determine whether the conditions on permanent residence should be removed.

The Act also carves out discretionary powers that allow USCIS officers to authorize waiver of the in-person interview.

The April 2022 updated Policy Guidance clarifies that USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require an interview.

The Guidance also eliminates automatic referrals in cases where a conditional permanent resident obtained status by way of Consular processing.

The language of the pertinent section indicates the following:

Volume 6: Immigrants, Part I, Family-Based Conditional Permanent Residents, Chapter 3, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence [6 USCIS-PM I.3]


CPRs who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview at a USCIS field office, unless USCIS waives the interview requirement. USCIS officers may consider waiving the interview in cases where:

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