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US Visa Interview Waivers?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing visa interview waivers so this is for the United States Immigration process. We are talking about Visa interviews occurring at the US Embassy here in Bangkok. Again this information may be somewhat useful for folks in other jurisdictions; we primarily operate out of Thailand so we are going to be doing this from the standpoint of looking at the US Embassy in Thailand here. I thought of making this video after reading a recent article from, the article is titled: Update on Worldwide Visa Operations. Improved efficiency through interview waivers.

Now as a preface, understand we are not talking about what is called an I-601 waiver, an I-212 waiver, I have done other videos on this channel about the I-601 and the I-212, not what we are talking about here. The I-601 is a waiver of inadmissibility so somebody has been denied a Visa at an interview, usually an Immigrant Visa case, denied a Visa at the Embassy and then you have to deal with the waiver process in order to possibly overcome that denial. Meanwhile, I-212 waivers oftentimes occur as a result of somebody being put through what is called expedited removal from the United States. Basically they were removed, they were deported, but it is in an expedited truncated proceeding and they are shipped back out of the country and they want to come back in. In order to deal with that you need to deal with an I-212. Not what we are talking about here, not that kind of waiver. We are talking about a waiver of the actual physical interview requirement.

So in the past, virtually every visa case I ever saw because I came into the business if you will of dealing with US Immigration after 9/11. Prior to 9/11, they didn't do a ton of in person interviews, they did some but not a ton and then post 9/11 that kind of fell by the wayside. Up until the pandemic, they were doing pretty much everything in an interview format; they wanted to have an interview and then that changed when the pandemic came in. Let me go ahead and quote directly from again. Update on worldwide Visa operations. Improved efficiency through interview waivers. Quoting directly: "During the pandemic, the Department of State coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security to waive in-person interviews for several key visa categories, including for many students and temporary workers integral to supply chains." Quoting further: "In addition, applicants renewing Non-Immigrant visas in the same classification within 48 months of their prior visa’s expiration are now eligible to apply without an in-person interview in their country of nationality or residence. This has already reduced the wait time for an interview appointment at many Embassies and Consulates. We estimate 30% of worldwide Non-Immigrant Visa applicants may be eligible for an interview waiver, freeing up in person interview appointments for those applicants who still require an in-person interview."

So a couple of things to unpack here. I definitely think in terms of striving for efficiency, I am happy to see Department of State doing that. I think there could be some unforeseen downsides to not having interviews in person in the future, a number of them. Most notably, Consular Officers when you are in an in-person setting, they can make findings based on exigent circumstances. You have at least a chance to tell your side of the story. Now under section 214b of the Immigration and Nationality Act, that kind of gets mitigated a lot if not to the point of being almost stamped completely out depending on the circumstances but at least you are dealing with somebody in person and I can see where doing it digitally online whatever you want to call it, could have some implications with respect to case processing, the ultimate decisions in cases, I can see denial rates go up quite honestly just because the person that is doing the interview isn't seeing them in person and it kind of been impersonalizes it and it could make folks more apt to deny. I am not saying there is any bias involved, I just think when you are not looking somebody in the eye, it's a very different experience. 

Meanwhile, the thing that should be taken away from this video for those who are looking at for example a K-1 Fiancé Visa or an Immigrant Spouse Visa, is this does not apply to the Immigrant Visa unit, at least as of the time of this video. This is only being rolled out with respect to Non-Immigrant Visas, things like as they noted, Student Visas. It wouldn't shock me to see this being rolled out for Tourist Visas sometime soon, if they are not already doing it, and other types of Non-Immigrant categories, even Non-Immigrant working visas. Things like the H1 category, I could see there being or the L1 or something and maybe even an E Visa, I can see a set of circumstances where they might say, "Yeah we're just going to do those online". Again I think it is going to depend on the post, it is going to depend on a depend on a variety of factors but one thing that I will say is yeah, on the one side it does make things more efficient. You may be looking at more appointments, but on the downside you are not going to be dealing with somebody in person and there are negative consequences to that kind of scenario.