Amid mounting worries over an increase in Covid-19 infections, the United States has decided that it will exempt the in-person interview criteria for a variety of visa applications, including H-1B employees and students, many of whom are from India, for the entire year in 2022.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits US businesses to hire foreign workers in specialized vocations that demand theoretical or technical knowledge. Every year, technology firms and software companies rely on it to hire tens of thousands of workers from nations such as India and China.
The Department of State said on December 23 that consulate officers are now provisionally authorized to forgo in-person interviews for certain individual petition-based non-immigrant work visas and their eligible derivatives in the following categories:
- Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas),
- Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas),
- Intracompany Transferees (L visas),
- Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas),
- Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and
- Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programmes (Q visas)
Furthermore, the Secretary of State has expanded consular officials’ present ability to waive the in-person interviews through December 31, 2022, for the following nonimmigrant visa categories:
According to the press release, temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers (H-2 visas), students (F and M visas), and student exchange visitors (Academic J visas) are all eligible. On a case-by-case basis and depending on local conditions, embassies and consulates may still demand an in-person interview.
Candidates should visit embassy and consulate websites for further details on this change, as well as existing operational status and services, according to the statement.
“It recognizes the many contributions of international visitors to our communities and campuses and the positive impact of temporary work visa holders on the US economy and is committed to facilitating non-immigrant travel and reducing visa wait times”, the Department of State said.
The State Department also announced that it has extended indefinitely the authorization to forgo the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa. The Department’s visa processing capacity was severely reduced as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
As international travel recovers, the United States is taking these interim steps to demonstrate its continued commitment to safely and effectively shorten visa wait times while keeping national security as our top priority, it added.
Last year, the US closed its borders to international travelers from many nations, including India, due to the coronavirus outbreak. Later, only passengers with particular types of visas were authorized to travel. The US abolished all prohibitions for fully vaccinated overseas passengers, including those from India, on November 8, although they must produce documentation of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a trip to the country.
According to the press release, the new authorization also applies to temporary employees applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who meet certain qualifications, including filing for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.
The Omicron variant is on the rise in the United States, accounting for 73 percent of all Covid-19 cases in the country. In only one week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a roughly six-fold increase in omicron’s share of illnesses.
Researchers in Africa alerted the authorities about Omicron less than a month ago, and the WHO identified it as a variety of concerns on November 26. “The mutant has since appeared in approximately 90 countries, including India.” Much is unknown about the Omicron variation, including whether it produces more or less severe sickness.
According to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins University, the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States is 51,814,812, and 815,423 people have died as a result of the virus.