Streamline and immigration are not two words you commonly hear in the same sentence, at least not about visa processing. However, the US consulate in China has launched a new program to expedite the processing of applications for visa renewals by waiving the interview requirements for some visa applicants. First a few facts from the announcement by Gary Locke, US Ambassador to China:
- In 2011, the US consulate in China processed more than one million visas
- This represents an increase of 34% as compared to the number of visas processed in 2010
- Approximately 50 new consular officer positions are being added in China
- The Department of State is also reopening the former Embassy consular facility in Beijing, which will increase interviewing capacity by 50%
Simultaneously, the Department of State is launching a pilot program in Beijing in which certain visa applicants will not have to undergo the visa interview to renew their visa. More specifically, consular officers will be permitted to waive the interviews for some nonimmigrant visa applicants who are renewing their visa within 48 months of the expiration of their previous visa, and who are not changing visa classification. The announcement specifically mentions the B, C1, D, F, J, M, and O classifications as being potentially eligible for the waiver of the interview.
What does this mean?
First, this is a pilot program, which means that they are just trying it out. Therefore, we don’t know a lot yet about how this program will work specifically. Further, just because you have applied for a visa in China before, and are now applying to renew the visa, does not mean that you will be automatically eligible to have the interview waived. This will be in the discretion of the consular officer.
On the positive side, the DOS anticipates that waiving the interviews for some will free up officers to conduct interviews for others, including first-time applicants, must faster. It will also save time and money for those visa renewal applicants who will not have to attend an interview to renew the visa. In sum, the new initiatives are designed to make the visa application process faster and easier, and thus to facilitate travel and international exchange between China and the US. Happy visa applying!
Questions about visa processing, or other immigration matters? Please contact Sumner Immigration Law at firstname.lastname@example.org.