Signaling a possible further relaxation of the strict in-person non-immigrant visa interview requirements, the U.S. Embassy in London has indicated that beginning in December the Visa Reissuance Program may be extended to include key business categories such as “H” and “L” and exchange visitors/students under “J” and “F.”

The U.S. Embassy in London has already put in place such a program for applicants applying to renew their “O” and “P” visas. Visa applicants for those categories can use previously submitted ten fingerprint records and forego the interview process if they are applying to renew the same category of visa that is either still valid or has expired within the last 12 months. The initial application must have been submitted at the U.S. Embassy in London and the applicant must be resident in the United Kingdom (or, previously resident prior to living in the U.S.) There appears to be no requirement that the applicant be a British citizen.

A variety of situations render applicants ineligible for the curtailed application process. Those who have not had all ten fingerprints collected, who are inadmissible to the U.S. without a waiver or who had their previous visa lost or stolen may not take advantage of the Program. Further, applicants who have been unable to overcome an Immigration and Nationality Act Section 214(b) refusal (based on lack of ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay) are ineligible. Finally, those who experienced “additional administrative processing” at the time of their previous application will not be able to benefit from the Program. (“Additional Administrative Processing” includes visa issuance delays due to security and background investigations triggered by application responses or government records regarding health, security, and immigration law violations.)

While this procedure will save some applicants from an in-person consular interview, it does not eliminate the requirement that the applicant be present in the consular district (the United Kingdom) when the application is submitted. Also, applying under this procedure does not ensure visa issuance. Consular Officers reserve the right to request that an applicant appear in person for an interview. In such a case, the documents will be returned to the applicant who will have to schedule an appointment for an in-person interview.

Similar programs exist at U.S. Embassies and Consulates in other countries, including Australia, China and Mexico. Each program has different criteria, including visa types that are eligible and residence/nationality requirements.

It is important to ensure that you qualify for an abbreviated application program before making travel plans and submitting an application. The Haynes and Boone Immigration Team will be available to assist with questions and will keep you informed of changes as they occur.