As part of President Obama’s initiative to reduce travel restrictions and increase tourism, early this year, the U.S. Department of State has initiated a two-year pilot program called Visa Interview Waiver Program (IWP). Under this program, a select group of nonimmigrant visa categories applicants may be eligible to renew their visas without undergoing another interview at the consular posts. This program is implemented by US missions and consulates situated worldwide including US Embassy and Consular Offices located in India with slight variations. Generally, the following categories of applicants are covered under the IWP when applying at US Consulates in Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad:
- Adults 80 Years or Older;
- Children Under 14 Years Old including B1/B2, H4 and L2 visa categories;
- Returning Students; and
- H-1B and Individual L-1A and L-1B Visa Holders.
The US Embassy New Delhi on their website has mentioned that consular officers may waive interviews for B1/B2 visa holders, who are renewing their visas within 48 months of the expiration, and within the same classification as the previous visa. Whereas, the US Consulate Mumbai website states that consular officers may waive interviews for qualified nonimmigrant applicants worldwide who are renewing their visa within 48 months of the expiration of their previously held visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa.
However, the program further clarifies that the applicants must complete other visa formalities including paying the visa application fees, completing the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form, and scheduling their appointment at an OFC for fingerprinting and submission of photo. It should be noted that even if someone meets the IWP guidelines it does not guarantee waiver from personal appearance. The consular officers will retain the authority to interview any applicant who they determine requires a personal appearance.