The US Department of State (DOS) has announced that consular officers ‘may’ choose to waive the visa interview requirement for F, M, and academic J visa applicants.
International students pursuing a degree course are issue an F-1 visa, whereas those undertaking a vocational course of study are issued an M-1 visa. J visas are issued to those on an exchange programme, it includes not just students but also professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, and specialists.
However, this waiver would apply only if such applicants were earlier issued any type of visa and who were not refused such a visa (unless the refusal was overcome or waived) and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
“Thus, if a student now seeking to fly to the US has travelled earlier or a tourist visa, it would be possible for the interview to be waived,’ explains a US based attorney.
The waiver also applies to first-time F, M and academics J visa applicants who are citizens of a country that participates in the ‘Visa Waiver Program’ (VMP). However, India is not covered under this program.
Applicants from non-VMP countries whose prior visa was issued when they were less than 14 years of age, may need to submit biometric fingerprints, but can still be approved for an interview waiver, adds a release from the DOS.
The release acknowledges the role played by international students and stresses that “International students are now and always have been among the DOS’ highest priorities.”
Ultimately, how this rolls out, will depend on the local consulate offices in India. “We encourage applicants to check the website of the relevant US embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview,” adds the DOS release.
Consulate offices in India, so far, have been granting interviews and processing student visas. While the pandemic related travel ban exists, students have been automatically granted a national interest waiver and have been allowed to travel.
Recently, the US Mission in India had announced that its embassy and consulates approved more student visa applicants in 2021 than ever before. “Through these efforts, more than 55,0000 students and exchange visitors are boarding planes to study in the United States, and more students are being approved every day. The US Mission looks forward to another great student season as it facilitates study for spring semester students over the coming few months, ” it had said.