Due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a chronic stockpile in visa issuance at US consulates and embassies around the world, the US Department of State has decided to temporarily waive the interview requisite for nearly 50,000 immigrant visa applicants.
As per a provisional final rule published in the Federal Register, the agency has given its consular officers the authority to waive the personal appearance and in-person oath requirement, also known as a consular interview, for applicants who were endorsed for an immigrant visa in the same categorization.
The waiver will be valid until December 13, 2023. The rule states that it is intended to “address the problem of applicants who are unable to travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic and who must meet specific time-limited criteria.”
Visa holders have up to six months to travel to the United States and apply for enrolment, after receiving an immigrant visa. If a foreigner is admitted by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officer, he or she becomes a lawful permanent resident of the United States. However, former President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in response to the Covid-19 outbreak resulted in several proclamations barring non-citizens from entering the country.
The Department of State also temporarily suspended routine visa services at US embassies around the world, and the commencement of services has been slow due to safety guidelines, resulting in delays.
According to the State Department, the new measure helps “allocate scarce resources to areas where personal appearances by and interviews of visa applicants are relatively more beneficial.”
According to the Department, immigrant visa applicants who meet the following criteria are exempt from appearing in person before a consular officer for an interview, application execution, and an oath:
▪ The immigrant visa was issued on or after August 4, 2019.
▪ The immigrant did not travel to the United States on an immigrant visa.
▪ The applicant seeks and remains qualified for an immigrant visa in the same classification as the expired immigrant visa or in certain automatic category conversions.
▪ There are no changed circumstances that could affect the applicant’s eligibility for the visa.
The Department estimates that approximately 49,000 people were issued immigrant visas between August 4, 2019, and September 30, 2021, but have yet to seek admission into the country. More than 11,000 people had their US visas expire before applying for admission.
The agency stated in an independent news release that those applicants who meet the criteria must contact the consular office that approved their previous visa to request information about their eligibility.
The consular interview allows the officer to ensure the validity of the visa application while also giving the applicant the opportunity to correct any errors. However, the temporary rule states that requiring a recipient of a previously approved immigrant visa to return to the consulate “significantly” strains the consulate’s resources.