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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Columnist: Acheampong, Emmanuel Opoku

The U.S. nonimmigrant visa interview: Why you must appear for a personal interview

Why you must appear for a personal interview
In general, any person seeking a nonimmigrant visa (NIV) must apply in person and be interviewed by a consular officer. The consular officer will determine your eligibility for a visa by reference to your personal interview and other relevant documentation. The interview also provides you with the chance to present oral or written evidence to establish your eligibility. Though all persons must appear in person to attend an interview the requirement may be waived for persons who fall into any of the following categories:

Waiver for persons below 14 years of age and over 79 years of age.
You may not attend a personal interview if you are under the age of 14 years or more than 79 years of age. However this age classification will not automatically entitle you to an interview waiver. You may attend an interview if the consular officer requires you to provide additional information regarding your eligibility for the visa or if they have concerns that you are from a high-threat or high-fraud area. You may also be randomly selected for an interview in line with consulate procedures.

Waiver for Diplomats and other officials
Generally diplomats and other officials are not required to attend a personal interview. However the consular officer has discretion to call a diplomat or other official to attend an interview if they seek additional clarification on their application for the visa class or have any doubts on the veracity of the application.

Waiver on the basis of national interest or unusual circumstances
You may not attend an interview if the consular officer or other official finds that it is necessary in the national interest to waive your attendance for a personal interview or finds that because of unusual or emergent circumstances national security concerns do not require that you attend an interview. This is rarely exercised and may apply in very limited circumstances.

Waiver for visa renewal
You may not attend a personal interview if you make an application to renew a visa which is still valid or expired less than 12 months ago or expired over 12 to 48 months ago. If your visa is still valid or expired less than 12 months ago, you may apply to renew any NIV. If your visa expired more than 12 to 48 months ago, you may only apply to renew some NIVs including B and F visas.

You may not attend an interview if you are applying for the same visa class as your previous visa, and are applying from your consular district or place of residence and have been subjected to all appropriate biometric visa requirements. For example, you may not be required to attend a personal interview if you were previously issued a B visa which is still valid or has expired for not more than 48 months and you are applying for the same B visa. The situation will be different if you previously applied for a B visa but now seek an F visa to study in the U.S. In such a situation you will not be applying for the same visa class and will therefore be required to attend a personal interview.

General Exceptions
Notwithstanding the issues discussed, you may still be required to attend a personal interview even if you fall within any of the categories of persons discussed.

If your attendance for a personal interview is waived you may still be subjected to appropriate biometric visa requirements. In addition, your attendance for a personal interview will not be waived if you have ever been previously refused a visa, or if the consular officer randomly selects you for an interview in accordance with consulate procedures. This will also be the case if the consular officer finds that you have previously failed to comply with any U.S. immigration law or if they determine for any other reason that your attendance for a personal interview is necessary to establish your eligibility for a visa.

Conclusion
In general you must attend a personal interview to determine your eligibility for a visa. This may be waived if any of the conditions discussed above applies to you. In most cases they may not apply to you. Thus save in very limited circumstances you will be required to attend a visa interview for any nonimmigrant visa. Therefore if someone approached you that they are making an application for a U.S. visa involving a so called government delegation or ministry and that you will be issued a visa without attending a personal interview, you may refute them by reference to this article.

By Emmanuel Opoku Acheampong

Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance on US immigration law. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of the use of this information.

The writer is an immigration law advisor and a practicing law attorney in Ghana. He advises on U.S., UK, and Schengen immigration law. He works part-time as a consultant for Acheampong & Associates Ltd, an immigration law firm in Accra. He may be contacted on acheampongassociatesgh@gmail.com.