Visa Crunch

International students to the US may be eligible for a visa interview waiver, says US Department of State

Consular officers ‘may’ choose to waive the visa interview requirement, The US Department of State (DOS) has announced, for F, M, and J visa applicants, according to the US Department of State. An F-1 visa is provided to international students pursuing a degree program, whereas an M-1 visa is issued to those studying a vocational program. J visas are granted to persons participating in an exchange program, which includes academics, research researchers, short-term scholars, and specialists. However, this waiver would only apply if the applicants had previously been granted any form of visa and had not been denied one (unless the denial was overturned or waived) and had no evident ineligibility or probable ineligibility.

Thus, if a student now intending to fly to the United States has previously traveled or had a tourist visa, the interview could be waived,” adds a US-based attorney.

First-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens of a country that participates in the ‘Visa Waiver Program’ are also eligible for the waiver (VWP). India, on the other hand, is not included in this scheme.

Applicants from non-VWP nations whose previous visa was issued when they were under the age of 14 may be required to provide biometric fingerprints, but they may still be allowed for an interview waiver, according to a DOS announcement.

International students play an important part in the announcement, which emphasizes that “international students are now and have always been among the DOS’ highest priorities.”

In the end, how this is implemented will be determined by the local consular offices in India. The DOS release adds, “We urge applicants to consult the website of the relevant US embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently available and to obtain recommendations for applying for a visa without an interview.” So far, Indian consulates have been conducting interviews and processing student visas.

Whereas the pandemic-related travel ban remains in effect, students have been issued an automatic national interest waiver and are free to travel. The US mission in India has stated that in 2021, its embassy and consulates in India will approve more student visa applicants than ever before. “As a result of these efforts, over 55,000 students and exchange visitors have boarded planes to study in the United States, and more are being authorized every day. The US Mission anticipates another successful student season as it enables study for spring semester students in the coming months,” it stated.

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