Updated: Jan 31, 2022
US Visa interview waiver is a term used for drop box facility. It basically means that you can get a US Visa stamp without appearing for an in-person interview.
There are basically 2 things that have happened in the past 2 weeks.
1) Dropbox Stamping Requirement Extended to 48 months from Expiry
2) Interview Waiver for other Temporary Work Visas
When you read everything online, you might feel that these are one and the same. But they are different. It is because the Interview Waiver for Temporary work visa is in effect only until the end of this year, i.e. Dec 2022.
Having cleared this, let's move on and understand:
What is a Dropbox & difference between Dropbox and In-Person Interview
General Dropbox Eligibility
Stamping Requirement Extended to 48 months from Expiry
Interview Waiver for Other Temporary Work Visas
Documents Required for a Dropbox appointment
Process to Apply for an Appointment
Before we dive into the latest news on Interview Waiver, let us first understand what is the dropbox facility & what is its eligibility.
US Visa Stamping – In-Person Interview vs. Dropbox
Generally, while applying for a new US Visa, as part of the process you would give biometrics and then attend in-person visa interview.
But, for renewing your existing US Visa, if you meet certain criteria, then you do not have to appear for an in-person interview. You can submit your visa related documents at Visa Application Center and your US visa maybe issued without interview. It is called as Visa Interview Waiver or Dropbox Visa Stamping.
Now, who is eligible for it?
Original Dropbox Eligibility
You need to have Visa renewal in same category. Meaning, let’s say you have renewal for H1B, your previous visa in passport should be H1B as well.
Visa was received after Jan 1, 2008
Your visa should not have annotations like “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization”
You visa should be issued after 14th birthday
Your US visa was not lost, stolen or cancelled.
There were no US visa refusals in any other visa class, since your recent visa issuance
If applying for H, L or R visa, it should be valid or expired within last 12 months. Also, if it is other classes of visa renewal, it is still same 12 months requirements (should be valid or expired in last 12 months). Note this one. We'll come back to this in a bit.
Requirements for other Visa Categories
Blanket L1 holder do not qualify for Dropbox or interview waiver. Only Blanket L2 Spouses are eligible
If you are applying for F visa, you should be at same school for which your previous visa was issued.
If applying for J visa, your DS-2019 is also issued by same institution as it is on previous visa.
Children under 14 years of age are eligible for dropbox
Adults over 80 years of age are eligible for drop box, if their recent visa application was not refused.
It’s essential to know that Dropbox does not refer to an actual box. It is merely the facility where you submit your documents.
There are several documents that are eligible for DropBox. You should make sure that you gather all of them before the day you have to submit them.
New Flexibility: Dropbox Stamping Requirement Extended to 48 months from Expiry
Now, coming back to the point in bold above - your visa should have expired within last 12 months.
This is one of the rules that have been changed. Or should we say made a bit flexible.
During the peak of COVID-19, this limit was changed from 12 to 24 months. Then earlier this year, it was increased from 24 to 48 months. And the 48 month time period was about to end on Dec 31, 2021. But has now been extended indefinitely.
Long story short, if you qualify for a dropbox (based on all the above eligibility criteria) and your visa expired within the last 4 years, then you are eligible for a dropbox facility, as of now.
New Rule of Interview Waiver for Other Temporary Work Visa
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is temporarily making it much easier for many nonimmigrant visa applicants to qualify for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement. Commonly referred to as the “drop box” process, the rule expanding eligibility is scheduled to remain in effect through the end of 2022.
New Eligibility Criteria for Dropbox Option
Under this temporary rule, a consular officer can waive the in-person interview requirement if the foreign national is applying for an H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, or Q visa and meets all of the following conditions:
Is applying for a visa in the applicant’s own country of nationality or residence
Has ever previously been issued any type of visa
Has never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived
Has no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility
Documents Required for a Dropbox Appointment
Your current passport
A copy of the submission letter which you can obtain after submitting form DS-160
Your most recent visa
A recent photograph
Your recent pay stubs
Bank statements for the last 12 months
Tax forms such as W-2 and 1040 which you must have submitted while working in the U.S.
Contact information of your managers at your current office in the U.S.
If you are a child applying for an interview waiver, you will need to submit photocopies of your parents’ valid visas(s)
Based on your Visa type you'll also have to carry documents related to it
Process to apply for a Dropbox appointment
If you satisfy all the eligibility criteria mentioned above, you qualify for the visa interview waiver program. Therefore, you do not need to make an appointment at a Visa Application Center, instead, you can proceed to log in, create your profile, submit your application, and a print a copy of the submission letter. Submit this letter to the nearest service center and you are done.
Here are the steps that you need to follow in more detail:
Complete form DS-160, also called the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application. Submit this form and print the confirmation page.
Register yourself here. Follow the self-explanatory steps to schedule your interview and answer the questions that are asked.
Pay the required visa application fee. If you qualify for the waiver, you will receive a submission letter containing the document checklist.
Assemble all the documents and deliver them to any of the 11 service centers. Keep a second copy of the documents with you. A CGI officer will review your documents before forwarding your application to the proper U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
The entire processing time could take as much as three weeks, but the actual time might vary depending on your circumstances. If you need to provide any additional documents for further processing, it will be communicated to you via email. If your application is approved you can pick up your passport and visa from your selected Document Collection center.
Some FAQs related to Dropbox
If I was last stamped in Mexico or Canada, am I eligible for Dropbox?
If you were last stamped in Canada or Mexico, you are not eligible for DropBox in India. People with F1, H4, and H1B visas manage to obtain their U.S. visa stamps in nearby countries, but this doesn’t allow them to avoid the interview in the U.S. Indian embassy.
Can I get USCIS Form 221g after Dropbox?
Even if you qualify for DropBox, you can still get a 221g form or receive a call regarding an in-person interview. It’s important to make sure you book a plane ticket back to the States at least three weeks from the document submission date.
Do I need an appointment for Dropbox?
Yes, in order to submit documents through DropBox, you need to make an appointment.
What is the Dropbox visa stamping time?
It can take between 3 and 21 days to have your visa processed through DropBox.
Is H1B extension denial the same as visa denial?
H1B visa denial and extension denial are not the same. Usually, H1B amendments, transfers, and extensions are referred to as “petition” and you file them with USCIS. They are completely different from H1B visa denial.
While this is a welcome step for many visa applicants, like most new rules they've made this one too very confusing.
Therefore, if you still have any doubts, it is advisable to talk to an attorney to figure out your course of action.
Another big issue is the availability of Dropbox appointments. While the interviews were waived to reduce the pressure and time it took to process applications, the lack of available appointments for Dropbox is something they should've foreseen considering the amount of backlog there is.
Having said all of this, it is still a step in the right direction.
We hope you are able to get your Visa Stamped without much hassle.