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April 24, 2014

U.S. Mission to India Expands Interview Waiver Program

Program to include H-1B and individual L-1 visas; eligible visa holders no longer required to have in-person interviews with U.S. consular officers.

On November 19, the U.S. Mission to India announced that it has expanded its Interview Waiver Program (IWP), which was originally launched in early 2012. Eligible H-1B and L-1A/L-1B individual (non-blanket) visa holders applying to renew their visas are no longer required to have personal interviews with U.S. consular officers.

The Original IWP

In March 2012, the U.S. Mission to India introduced the IWP, which allows eligible individuals to apply for renewal of certain visas through a streamlined process. This process permits an applicant to bypass the requirement of appearing before a U.S. consular officer for an in-person interview. The original program applied to holders of B-1, B-2, J-2, H-4, C, and D visas. The original program also included children applying before their seventh birthday in any visa category and seniors applying on or after their 80th birthday in any visa category.

Expansion of the IWP

As a result of the IWP's success and in a continued effort to meet the increased demand for visas at U.S. consular posts in India, the U.S. Mission to India expanded the program. Under the expanded IWP, the following visa applicants may also be considered for the streamlined process:

  • H-1B temporary workers seeking to continue working for the same petitioner in the same classification
  • L-1A and L-1B individual (non-blanket) workers seeking to continue working for the same petitioner in the same classification
  • F-1 students seeking to continue in the same school and program
  • Children applying before their 14th birthday in any visa class

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for the IWP, a visa renewal application must be for the same visa category as the previously issued visa, which must have been issued in India after August 1, 2004. In addition, the previously issued visa must not be annotated with the phrase "clearance received" and must not have been lost or stolen. In the case of B, C, F, and J visas, the previously issued visa must still be valid or have expired within the last 48 months. In the case of H or L visas, the previously issued visa must still be valid or have expired within the last 12 months.

Please note that visa applicants will still need to make biometric appointments for fingerprint and photograph collection, as well as submit the required fees and DS-160 application form. Furthermore, please note that not all applications filed under the IWP will be accepted for streamlined processing, particularly incomplete and/or inaccurate applications.

For a complete list of eligibility requirements and application instructions, please go here.

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Eleanor Pelta is a partner in Morgan Lewis's Labor and Employment Practice. With her practice focused on immigration and nationality law, Ms. Pelta assists corporate clients in various industries with the international transfer of key personnel. She is particularly knowledgeable about managing high-volume employee transfers, as her background includes assisting employers in gaining temporary and permanent visas for all types of business, scientific and executive personnel. Additionally, she advises clients on strategic issues involving movement of staff...

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