In-person interviews for H-1B, L-1 visas dropped

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The State Department is temporarily dropping an in-person interview requirement for some work-visa categories in 2022 to ease visa issuances, as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches into the third year, the department announced, reports Asian Lite News

Amid growing concerns of Covid-19 surge, the government is temporarily dropping an in-person interview requirement for some work-visa categories – H-1B, L-1 and O-1.

The State Department is temporarily dropping an in-person interview requirement for some work-visa categories in 2022 to ease visa issuances, as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches into the third year, the department announced.

Applicants for H-1B, L-1 and O-1 visas applying from abroad won’t be required to do an in-person interview at a US consulate, typically the final step before a visa is issued. Those categories represent the most common visa types companies use to attract high-skilled talent from abroad.

The consular officers are now temporarily authorised, through December 31, 2022, to waive in-person interviews for certain individual petition-based non-immigrant work visas and their qualifying derivatives in the following categories: Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas), Intracompany Transferees (L visas), Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas), Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas), added US State Department release.

Additionally, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has extended consular officers’ current ability to waive the in-person interview, through December 31, 2022, for the following other categories of non-immigrant visas: Temporary Agricultural and Non-agricultural Workers (H-2 visas), Students (F and M visas), and Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas).

“We recognise the many contributions of international visitors to our communities and campuses. Lastly, the authorisation to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely,” added the release.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in profound reductions in the Department’s visa processing capacity. As global travel rebounds, the US is taking these temporary steps to further commitment to safely and efficiently reduce visa wait times while maintaining national security. The determination was made with the concurrence of Department of Homeland Security partners.

However, embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions.

“We encourage applicants to check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about this development, as well as current operating status and services,” added the release.

Meanwhile, Americans are facing a second Christmas of upended holiday plans, with a surge in Covid-19 infections fueled by the now-dominant Omicron variant forcing some people to cancel their travel and fret about whether it is safe to visit loved ones.

The swift rise in infections from Omicron, first detected last month and now accounting for 73 percent of US cases, has added fresh confusion and concern around holiday travel.

Americans in many cities have faced long lines in trying to secure a coronavirus test head of holiday travel. In large swaths of New York City, people have been waiting more than an hour for a test, and local media outlets have reported similar wait times in Washington, DC and other large cities.

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that vaccinated people should follow precautions but feel comfortable celebrating the holidays with family and travelling as planned, despite the Omicron wave.

Travel companies are betting vaccinated Americans will follow through on their plans and have retained a rosy outlook on this year’s holiday season, riding the momentum from a rebound in US travel during Thanksgiving.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 109 million Americans will hit the road, board a plane or otherwise travel more than 50 miles (80km) between December 23 and January 2, marking a 34 percent increase from 2020, according to a statement from AAA.

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