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February 24, 2012


IMMIGRATION AND POLICY: VISA WAITING TIMES: Posted by Norka M. Schell, Esq. The State Department has provided detail on a pilot program that will waive interviews for some nonimmi...


Posted by Norka M. Schell, Esq.

The State Department has provided detail on a pilot program that will waive interviews for some nonimmigrants visa applicants. Under the pilot program, which is expected to run through January 19, 2012, consular officers can waive nonimmigrant visa interviews for certain applicants who are renewing a visa more than 12 months but less than 48 months after the expiration of their visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa.

In the past, the standard procedure was for the visa applicant to make a personal appearance at the consulate, submit the application to a consular representative, and await issuance of the visa. The applicant usually waited in line at that office to submit the papers to a consular representative who made a preliminary review of the papers for completeness. After a wait, during which the papers were reviewed by a consular officer, the applicant would be called to a front counter, window, or desk to be questioned on the application by a consular officer. If the consular officer was satisfied that the visa should be issued, the visa applicant waited while the visa was affixed to his or her passport.

In most cases, the MRV fee and the application fee (if any) must be paid in advance of the interview appointment and evidence of such payment must be as part of the visa application.  On the date of the interview, the applicant must carry the necessary documents, including the appointment notice, visa application form confirmation page, proof of payment of the MRV fee, his or her passport, photos, and supporting documents establishing eligibility for the particular nonimmigrant visa sought.

Immediately preceding the interview with the consular official, the applicant will have his or her fingerprints scanned. This process enables consular offices to deny visas to persons on any watch list and to identify this applicant for purposes of future applications. Applicants will also be required to certify under penalty of perjury, before the interview, that they have read and understood the questions on the visa application and that all statements made on the application are true and correct. The purpose of the requirement is to counter any attempts by visa applicants to repudiate misstatements on their visa applications by claiming that someone else prepared their application and/or changed information on the application between the time of submission and time of the interview. During the interview the applicant will be asked questions addressing his or her eligibility for the visa classification sought and any inadmissibility issues that may apply. The applicant will also be asked to pay the reciprocity fee (if applicable) and any other fees (such as the anti-fraud fee in L-1 blanket petition cases).

Posts no longer provide same-day visa issuance. Issuance of the visa within a few days of the interview is common--the post will typically return the applicant’s passport with the visa using a pre-paid mailer provided by the applicant.

Significant visa issuance delays are possible particularly if there are issues with regard to any security checks that require further “administrative processing.”  Most issues are resolved within 60 days of application.

Information extracted from 2012 Thomson Reuters and U.S. Department of State