Earlier this year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to support international students headed to the USA to study, the U.S. Department of State announced the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). With the VWP, select international students could qualify for a student visa interview waiver. Now, the department has announced that the VWP has been extended through 2021. With the decision, consular officers are permitted to exempt qualifying students from requiring a visa interview during their student visa process.
What Does a Visa Interview Waiver Mean?
Students who receive an interview waiver are not required to have an in-person visa interview at their local US embassy or consulate. Usually, an interview is mandatory to obtain a student visa, and a waiver means that eligible students can save a significant amount of time during the visa application process. Additionally, the VWP improves accessibility for students who are not confident in their interviewing skills.
Which Students Qualify for a Visa Interview Waiver?
Students applying for F-1, M-1, and academic J-1 visas (students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists) can qualify for a visa interview waiver. A consular officer determine who receives an interview waiver.
Visa interview waivers may also go to:
First-time applicants for F-1, M-1, and academic J-1 student visa applicants who are eligible nationals of a country participating in the VWP.
Applicants who have previously been issued any other type of visa, as long as they have not been refused a visa and are eligible.
The visa interview waiver is currently offered to students from a limited selection of countries. Only students who are nationals of these countries are eligible to apply for an interview waiver.
Countries Eligible for 2021 VWP/US Visa Interview Waivers
What Are the Next Steps in the Visa Application Process?
While students can skip the visa interview, they are still required to follow the other required steps, including getting accepted by an SEVP accredited US institution, filling out their I-20 form, paying the SEVIS fee, and completing their DS-160 visa application.
Since each US embassy and consulate is currently reviewing this decision and their capacity to grant visa interview waivers, the U.S. Department of State encourages applicants to verify availability and eligibility for a visa interview waiver directly with the consulate. Specific details about country eligibility and the procedures needed to apply for a visa interview waiver will be made available on the website of the relevant embassy or consulate for each country where it is applicable.
The decision to extend visa interview waivers through 2021 means that eligible students are working with greater freedom to apply for the semester of their choice — plus reduces the stress of an in-person interview. Students can work with their Shorelight advisors and learn more about the next steps in applying for their student visa.
Shorelight can help your students with their student visa processes >