Updated on 11.01.2022

Simplified consular application procedure enacted

As of the end of 2021, the U.S. State Department has enacted that certain visa applications that otherwise required an interview appointment at the US consulate can now be applied for by mail instead.
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Simplified application procedure for visa applications enacted

Decree on simplified visa application without interview appointment

In a late December 2021 announcement by the U.S. Department of State, all U.S. consulates were authorized to waive the otherwise required in-person interviews with applicants of work visas provided that they meet certain requirements. This regulation applies specifically to applicants for temporary work visas in the following categories H-1,H-3, H-4, L, O, P and Q. The new regulation is intended to ease the consular appointment situation and is initially valid until December 31, 2022.

Generally, all visa applicants between the ages of 14-79 are required to appear in person at the US consulate. The new rule now allows certain work visas to be issued without a personal interview. These applications can be submitted by mail.

Who qualifies for the submission process without an interview?

Requirements for applicants for H, L, O, P and Q visas

regardless of nationality:

  • Person must have already received a US visa (regardless of category) once through the consular process (ESTA does not count)
  • Person applies in country of own citizenship (i.e. German citizens at the US consulate in Germany, for example) and is in the country at the time of visa application
  • Person has never been denied a US visa before
  • There are no obvious or potential visa exclusion reasons for the person (e.g. criminal record etc.)

one onVisa Waiver Programparticipating country (e.g. Germany, Austria, Switzerland):

  • Person has already successfully entered the U.S. once under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) using ESTA (ESTA approval alone is not sufficient).orHas already received a U.S. visa once through the consular process (regardless of category)
  • Person applies in country of own citizenship (i.e. German citizens at the U.S. consulate in Germany, for example) and is in the country at the time of visa application
  • Person has not yet had an ESTA or visa application denied
  • There are no obvious or potential visa exclusion reasons for the person (e.g. criminal record etc.)

Extension of the interview waiver period for F, M and certain J visas

Also, the existing provision for the possibility of applying by mail (without interview) for students in categories F and M, as well as certain J-1 visas (Secondary and University Students, Professors, Research or Short-term Scholars, and Specialists) has been extended until the end of 2022.

The previous entry requirements continue to exist and apply analogously to the provisions for US work visas discussed above.
What is new in this context is that F, M, J Academics Applicant of a Visa Waiver Program country must have already successfully entered the US once with ESTA in order to bypass the in-person appointment. Until the end of the year, a present ESTA authorization (without entry).

As part of this, the existing interview exemption for certain visa applicants in categories H-2A and H-2B was also extended through the end of the year.

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General simplified visa renewal procedure without interview

In addition, the general and now extended interview waiver regulation continues to apply to all other applicants who wish to renew a U.S. visa and whose old visa has not yet expired for more than 48 months. This regulation has now been extended until further notice.

I.e., here persons applying for the same visa category may also qualify for the postal submission procedure under certain conditions. Theoretically, this exemption applies to all visa categories (except for L-Blanket and E visas), however, there are differences depending on the responsible US consulate.

For those who currently qualify for an interview exemption at the German US consulates in connection with a visa renewal and thus for the postal procedure, please see here.

Delays in making appointments and issuing visas

Due to the pandemic-related closures, reduced appointment capacity and staff restrictions at the U.S. consulates, there have been repeated waiting times for visa appointments over the past 2 years, sometimes lasting weeks. Even at the end of 2021, the available interview appointments at the U.S. consulates in Germany were booked up for weeks, so that many applicants had to postpone their planned trips to the United States.

Theschedule availabilitiesare also very different in 2022 and change almost daily. In principle, the extended regulations for postal submission are a positive sign and will hopefully contribute to easing the interview deadline situation.

Currently, visa application procedures by mail in the German US consulates require about 2-3 weeks until the receipt of the passport including visa. However, it cannot be ruled out that processing times will increase due to higher access rates to this simplified procedure. Applicants can still make a regular interview appointment (subject to availability) if desired. The postal procedure is only an option and does not have to be used.

Notice: Please note that persons who use the postal procedure may also be subsequently invited for an interview by the US Consulate. In addition, the mailing procedure does not, of course, automatically guarantee receipt of the US visa. Please inform yourself on the website of the respectiveU.S. Embassy or the U.S. consulate about the appointment offer and the guidelines to their visa application.

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Updated on 11.01.2022