Nearly all visa application processes to the US end with a personal interview. If the application is submitted outside of the US, usually the interview takes place in the US embassy or consulate in the country in which the petitioner resides.
The date of the personal interview is received only after completing the relevant application. For non-immigrant visas, the interview generally comes after completing the DS-160 form, which is the Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application Form. After the petitioner completes the form he is redirected to a payment page and to schedule the interview date.
The interview itself is not something most people are used to. It can be stressful, sometimes very stressful. It is generally quite fast and dynamic and can sometimes be unpredictable. The Consul has complete discretion of when to start the interview and when to end it, whether to allow the applicant to speak or respond or to silence, whether to allow the applicant to present documents or other information or not to allow him to show anything.
For this reason, getting an exemption from a personal interview makes the entire visa procedure less stressful. There are several situations in which a visa applicant will be exempted from an interview. The exemption is not obtained through a special submitted request, by an arbitrary decision, or by a personal plea. It is obtained through an orderly procedure and known in advance.
These exemptions are sometimes obtained when applying to renew a visa, these applications are viewed differently than first time visa applications. The logic behind this procedure of exempting renewals from interviews is that the applicant has already been checked, delivered his documents and answered questions during his interview by a consul only a few years previously (usually not more than 10 years earlier). Therefore, there is no need in most cases to examine the petitioner again.
When applying to renew a visa, before setting the interview appointment the system will check if the applicant is eligible for an exemption from an interview. There are a number of criteria that must be met to get an exemption. It is given only if the current visa application is the same type of visa as the previous visa, if it’s on the same passport and with the same citizenship, the previous application will also have to have been submitted after the 31st of December 2017, and on the condition that the current visa is valid or expired less than 12 months ago and is subject to the other conditions.
According to the US embassy in Israel, these types of visas should be processed within 3 weeks.
Of course, even if someone meets all the exemption conditions, it is at the discretion of the consul to summon the applicant for a personal interview.
It should also be noted there is another possible interview exemption, it is given to children under the age of 14, and adults over the age of 80. This exemption is given regardless of whether it’s a first application or a renewal.
All said and explained in this article does not constitute a legal opinion and does not replace legal advice. Responsibility for using the wordings and opinions conveyed in this article relies solely and entirely on the reader.
This article was written by Dotan Cohen Law Offices, working in the field of immigration law in the United States, Canada and Australia.