The United States has exempted Pakistani visa applicants aged 60 and above from appearing in interview for renewal of their visas, besides extending validity of the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) payment until September 30, 2023 to allow all applicants who were unable to schedule a visa appointment as a result of the suspension of routine consular operations an opportunity to schedule and/or attend a visa appointment with the already paid fee.
Eaton Heather, spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad, confirmed to Business Recorder about the interview waiver programme for the senior citizens, saying: “We waived interviews for applicants age 60 and above who are renewing a full validity visa that expires in the last 48 months.” “So, only some people,” she added.
The US Embassy recently resumed limited immigrant and non-immigrant visa interviews while the Consulate General in Karachi resumed limited processing of non-immigrant visas, which were earlier suspended due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The Consular Section, the US Embassy/Consulate, Pakistan, has informed the applicants through emails about the new interview waiver. “You are receiving this message because you have scheduled a non-immigrant B1/B2 visa appointment at the Embassy or Consulate for a future date. We are glad to inform you that Pakistani applicants who are 60 years of age or older from the date of submission of the application, AND have a valid B1/B2 visa or are applying within 48 months of the previous B1/B2 visa’s expiration date, may be exempt from the non-immigrant visa interview,” the consular section of the Embassy informed an applicant through an email.
The applicants have been advised to create a profile, proceed with their application, and print two copies of the interview-waiver confirmation letter to submit to one of the 10 Document Delivery centres, if they meet the qualifications as applicable.
“These applicants should apply for the renewal of US visa from the same embassy or consulate (Islamabad or Karachi) from which the last visa was issued. All other rules, requirements, and fees remain the same,” according to a message posted on the website of the Embassy affiliated web page dedicated for information about the process of US visa.
Through a message, posted on its website, the US Embassy has also informed those intend to visit the United States on an urgent matter to follow the guidance provided to them by the embassy. “If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided to request an emergency appointment,” the message reads.
It further stated: “The US Mission to Pakistan understands that many visa applicants have paid the visa application processing fee and are still waiting to schedule a visa appointment. We are working diligently to restore all routine visa operations as quickly and safely as possible. In the meantime, rest assured that the US Mission will extend the validity of your payment (known as the MRV fee) until September 30, 2023, to allow all applicants who were unable to schedule a visa appointment as a result of the suspension of routine consular operations an opportunity to schedule and/or attend a visa appointment with the already paid fee.”
On December 23, 2021, the State Department announced the consular officers are now temporarily authorised, through December 31, 2022, to waive in-person interviews for certain individual petition-based non-immigrant work visas and their qualifying derivatives in the following categories: Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas), Intracompany Transferees (L visas), Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas), Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas).
Additionally, the Secretary of State has extended consular officers’ current ability to waive the in-person interview, through December 31, 2022, for the following other categories of non-immigrant visas: Temporary Agricultural and Non-agricultural Workers (H-2 visas), Students (F and M visas), and Student Exchange Visitors (Academic J visas).
“We recognize the many contributions of international visitors to our communities and campuses. Lastly, the authorization to waive the in-person interview for applicants renewing a visa in the same visa class within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration has been extended indefinitely,” said the State Department spokesperson in a December 23, 2021 statement.
It further stated that the US embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions. “We encourage applicants to check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about this development, as well as current operating status and services,” it added.
This report was first published in Business Recorder on Feb 3, 2022.