State Department Authorizes Interview Waivers For Certain F, M, and Academic J Visa Applicant

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has authorized consular officers through the end of 2021 to expand the categories of F, M, and “academic J visa applicants” (students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists) whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview in their consular district of residence, with certain exceptions. Consular officers may waive the visa interview requirement for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were:

1. Previously issued any type of U.S. visa, and who have never been refused a U.S. visa (unless the refusal was overcome or waived), and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or
2. First-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP, also known as ESTA), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.

Applicants from non-VWP countries whose prior visa was issued when they were younger than 14 years of age may need to submit biometric fingerprints but can still be approved for an interview waiver.

For details about country eligibility and necessary procedures, applicants should check the website of the relevant embassy or consulate. Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during the worldwide pandemic.