Two years ago, the Department of State created a pilot-program to speed up the visa process for certain visa categories. The pilot-program would waive the visa interview process for certain non-immigrants who are applying for a visa renewal within one year of expiration and 12 to 48 months after expiration. This program has now been made permanent and published in the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual.

By way of example, a B1/B2, L or R visa holder who is seeking to renew his or her visa in the same category within one year of the expiration of that visa will not have to attend a visa interview. However, an individual who holds an H-1B visa who is now applying for an L-1 visa will not be allowed to waive the visa interview requirement.

Additionally, holders of a visa class other than E, H, L, P, or R may be able to waive the visa interview if he or she is seeking renewal of a visa in the same non-immigrant visa classification (e.g. F, J, B) between 12 and 48 months after the prior visa’s expiration date, he or she is applying in the consular district of his or her normal residence and he or she has been subject to the appropriate biometric visa requirements.

This should improve the ability of non-immigrant visa holders to renew visas in a timely fashion, rather than planning on time-consuming trips outside the U.S. to obtain visa renewals. Additionally, waiving the visa interview requirements for these visa classes should free up valuable consular time and decrease the time requirement to complete the overall visa process.