State Department Extends Visa Interview Waiver Authority

December 21, 2023

Earlier this week, the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security extended the visa interview waiver authority for low-risk applicants, which was set to expire on Dec. 31.

The U.S. Travel Association and other travel industry leaders had advocated for extending the authority, which gives consular officers the discretion to waive in-person interviews for low-risk nonimmigrant visa applications. U.S. Travel said failing to extend the waiver authority would have significantly increased wait times for about 40% of visa applicants, costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars in lost visitor spending.

“Visa interview waivers for low-risk travelers are critical to protecting the American economy and reducing the pandemic-era visa backlog that has hindered the growth of international inbound travel to the United States,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman.

According to U.S. Travel, the U.S. today is welcoming 13 million fewer visitors than it did in 2019, just before the COVID pandemic struck. “Much of that decline is the direct result of stubbornly high visa interview wait times – currently averaging more than 400 days in top source markets,” Freeman said. “Extending visa interview waiver authority is a major step in increasing global competitiveness and promoting a more seamless, secure travel experience.”

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