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Visa Issuance Rules

On August 1st 2003, new visa issuance rules go into effect that will increase the class of nonimmigrant visa applicants required to appear at consulates for personal interviews. Foreign nationals should expect to make personal appearances in conjunction with their nonimmigrant visa applications. The Department of State expects that many visa issuing posts will face processing backlogs for the indefinite future.

For students and scholars already on F and J visa's it is important to note that they may be exempt from the interview, however a visa officer can decide at any time to require an interview. Visa officers may exempt nonimmigrant visa holders if:

Applicants who are seeking reissuance of nonimmigrant visas in the same classification, if sought within 12 months of the expiration of the previously-issued visa, at the post of their usual residence, and provided
that the consular officer has no evidence of visa ineligibility or noncompliance with U.S. immigration laws.

Other categories of visa applications that a visa officer may exempt from the interview:
1) Children age 16 or younger;

2) Persons age 60 or older;

3) Most applicants within the class of non-immigrants eligible for certain A, C, G, or NATO visas, with the exception of attendants, servants and personal employees;

4) Applicants for certain diplomatic or official visas, such as heads of
state and other senior foreign officials, as well as certain family members
and support personnel;

Remember that the interview exceptions enumerated above are not mandatory; consular officers may require a personal appearance of any non-immigrant visa applicant. In addition, interviews are required where an applicant:
(1) does not reside in the consular district where he or she is making the application;

(2) was previously refused a visa, unless the refusal was overcome;

(3) requires a security advisory opinion or other State Department clearance, or was the subject of a positive match in the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS); or

(4) is identified by the consular post as belonging to a group or sector of its visa clientele that has been deemed to be a high fraud risk, have a high visa refusal rate, or present security risks.

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