Earlier this year, the U.S. Mission in India launched its Interview Waiver Program (IWP), which allows certain qualified individuals to apply for certain nonimmigrant visas without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. The U.S. Mission is now expanding its IWP, and the list of applicants who can renew or reapply for their visas without scheduling a personal interview includes: (1) children applying before their 14th birthday traveling on any visa class (previously available only to children before their seventh birthday); (2) students returning to attend the same school and same program; (3) H-1B visa and individual L-1A and L-1B visa renewal applicants; (4) dependents of H-1s, L-1s, and J-1s; (5) business/tourism (B-1 and/or B-2); (6) C and D transit and crew; and (7) applicants 80 years of age or older traveling on any visa class.
As previously required, the renewal application must be within the same classification as the previous visa and must be renewing a visa that is still valid or expired within the past 48 months. The Mission also advises that if the previous visa is annotated with the words “clearance received,” the applicant is not eligible for a waiver of a personal interview.
Not all applications will be accepted for streamlined processing, and consular officers may require an interview for any visa applicant in any category. Applicants who are renewing their visas may still need to make an appointment for biometrics (fingerprint and photograph) collection, and all applicants must submit all required fees and supporting documentation, and the DS-160 application form.
India processes more L visa applicants than any other post and thus the expansion of the IWP to include individual L-1 visa applicants surely will have a positive impact on NIV processing in India for this reason alone. In 2011, India processed nearly 700,000 nonimmigrant visa applications, an increase of more than 11 percent from 2010.
Clients who need to renew their visas should seek advice from their immigration lawyer on whether these new rules apply to them.