Interview Waiver For F1 Visa Applicants

The Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources has announced that certain eligible F, M and J visa applicants can get a 60-month visa without an in-person visa interview. The Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of F, M, and academic J visa applicants to adjudicate their applications without an in-person interview in their consular district of residence, with certain exceptions. This interview waiver is available through the end of 2021 and applicable to students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, and/or specialists.

Conditions To Waive F1 Visa Interview

Consular officers can on good judgement and pursuant to local conditions, can now waive the visa interview requirement for F, M, and academic J visa applicants. 

The following criteria applies in order to qualify for an interview waiver – 

  • Those F1, J and M visa holders who were previously issued any type of visa;
  • For those who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived;
  • Interview waiver for those who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; 
  • First-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Non- Eligibility Criteria

For details about who is eligible and nationals of which country will qualify to be a part of the VWP, please access information available on the website of the local US embassy or consulate. Those who do not qualify for an interview waiver are – 

  • US student visa applicants should have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility;
  • Interview waiver is not applicable to US citizens;  
  • Applicants from non VWP 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.

Good To Know: Which Countries qualify for Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

F1 Student Visa Applicants From India

The two semesters international students come into the US are Fall and Spring semesters. For the oncoming Spring semester in January 2022, students should schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the local US Embassy or Consulate. 

Related Article: COMPLETE Guide To F1 Visa Process

Important: If you had a previous U.S. visa (issued at post in India) and you are trying to apply for the same class of visa (or) if you are a minor applicant under the age of 14 years (or) someone who is over 80 years, please visit the U.S. Travel Docs website to understand the qualifying criteria to waive your interview.

Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, US consulates are operating on fewer resources and reduced hours. 

New Students – Student (F and M) visas for new students can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start date for a course of study.  However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States on your student visa more than 30 days before the start date.

Continuing Students – Student (F and M) visas for continuing students may be issued at any time, as long as the student is currently enrolled at a SEVP-approved school or institution and in SEVIS.  Continuing students may enter the United States at any time before classes start.

Attend Your Visa Interview

Once approved for a visa interview, F1 student applicants should head to the designated consulate and hour of the interview.  A consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are qualified to receive a student visa. It is up to the student to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.

Additionally, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans are taken as part of the application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

If the interview went well, the student visa will be approved and you may need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable), and make arrangements for the return of the passport and visa to you.  

If the visa had some hiccups, the consular officer may determine that your application requires further administrative processing.  The consular officer will inform you if this is required. Administrative processing is their way of letting you know that there is further investigation required of your application. This will delay the issuance of your F1, M or J visa. It is up to you to provide all the missing links to ensure every requirement is met.