In an effort to clear the mounting global backlog and cut visa wait times, the United States Department of State has extended the waiver on visa interviews across their embassies until the end of this year.
The move comes as a welcome relief to thousands of students and people who have secured school admissions and temporary jobs in the mainland US but oftentimes get discouraged by long wait times for a decision on their Visa application.
The US is now directing applicants to file their documents online and wait for communication on the final decision.
“We are pleased to announce that the Secretary of State has made a determination extending the authority of consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa categories through December 31, 2023,” the US Department of State notes on its website.
“Consular officers are authorized, through December 31, 2023, to continue to waive in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis for certain first-time and/or renewing applicants,” the statement adds.
In July last year, the US Embassy in Nairobi froze appointments for visa interviews until June 2024 citing huge demand and Covid-19 pandemic-induced backlogs.
Kenyans on social media expressed their frustrations calling on the then newly-appointed US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman to intervene and help cut the visa wait time.
The US is a popular destination for thousands of students, workers, and immigrants from across the world.
Those set to benefit from the waiver are applicants seeking temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers (H-2 visas), students (F and M visas), and academic exchange visitors (academic J visas).
Further, applicants under certain beneficiaries of approved individual petitions for nonimmigrant temporary worker visas will also be benefiting from the in-person interview waiver at the embassy.
These categories include 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 programs (Q visas); and qualifying derivatives.
“These waivers are authorized by a determination of the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Department of Homeland Security,” the US Department of State explained.
However, US embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions, the update notes.
“We are successfully lowering visa wait times worldwide, following closures during the pandemic, and making every effort to further reduce those wait times as quickly as possible, including for first-time tourist visa applicants,” US noted.