The US Department of State noted in a statement that “the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in substantial cutbacks in the Department’s visa processing capabilities.”
The US has temporarily waived in-person interviews for H-1B and other types of non-immigrant visas through December 31 in order to facilitate non-immigrant travel and minimize visa wait periods. The Department of State said in a statement that it “recognizes the positive impact of temporary work visa holders on the US economy” and will no longer conduct in-person interviews for certain petition-based non immigrant work visas and their qualified derivatives.
The US Department of State noted that “the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in severe cutbacks in the Department’s visa processing capability.” “As global travel picks up, we’re taking these temporary steps to continue our commitment to securely and efficiently minimize visa wait times while protecting national security as our top concern,” the statement continued. “This decision was reached with the support of our Department of Homeland Security partners.”
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 (P visas) are all affected by the rule (Q visas). It also applies to certain other nonimmigrant visa categories, such as H-2 visas for temporary agricultural and nonagricultural workers, F and M visas for students, and Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas).
Blinken allows consular personnel to forego visa interviews
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has extended consular officers’ discretion to waive interviews, recognizing the “many contributions” of international visitors to the US, according to the State Department. In addition, 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 prior visa has been extended indefinitely. On a case-by-case basis, however, US embassies and consulates may still request a face-to-face interview.
“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity,” the State Department explained.
“As global travel rebounds, we are taking these temporary steps to further our commitment to safely and efficiently reduce visa wait times while maintaining national security as our priority,” it added. “We made this determination with the concurrence of our Department of Homeland Security partners.”
For the benefit of the thousands of immigrants in the United States, the Biden administration decided last month to offer automatic work authorization licenses to spouses of H-1B visa holders. In a class-action lawsuit, the US Department of State negotiated a deal that will make it easier for immigrant spouses without a visa to work in the United States without having to reapply for work authorization. “This (H-4 visa holders) is a category that has always passed the regulation standard for automatic extension of EADs (employment authorization documents), but the government previously barred them from receiving that benefit and forced them to wait for reauthorization,” according to AILA’s Jon Wasden.
“People were suffering. They were losing their high-paying jobs for absolutely no legitimate reason causing harm to them and US businesses,” he continued. However, as per the new regulation, the L-2 spouses were granted automatic work authorization by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which means they will no longer need to apply for a separate work permit before arriving in the United States.