I recently received acceptance from the university I had applied to and had to change my visa status from F2 (dependent visa) to F1 (student visa). While researching online, I found out that there is a provision that allows in-person interview waiver for certain non-immigrant visa holders to apply for a new type of visa or renew the existing one. In case you are looking to understand how you can change your visa from an F2 visa to F1 visa utilizing the interview waiver program, you are on the right page!
Disclaimer: All the details I have written in this post are solely based on my experience and research, and they might not be applicable to all individuals. Please analyze your own circumstances and research well before you make your decision.
First, let’s understand the provision of the interview waiver:
US Secretary of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized US Embassies and consular offices through the end of 2022 to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants. Embassies and consular officers have the discretion to waive the interview for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa. Certain criteria must be met by an individual to be eligible for the waiver.
These criteria include:
- Applicants must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.
- Applicants must have previously traveled to the United States.
- Applicants should have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility.
Here’s how it worked for me:
I received the offer from my university in mid-April and received my I-20 sometime during the third week of April 2022. However, as my program was supposed to begin in June 2022, I only had a month to get my visa approved. The processing time to change the status through USCIS (staying in the US), as I heard, would take about 8-13 months, which was not an option for me. Thus, I decided to take a chance of flying back to my home country in the first week of May and look into the interview-waiver program or try my best to schedule an interview as soon as possible if I was not eligible for the dropbox facility. I emailed the Embassies in Costa Rica, Canada, India, and Nepal but never heard back from them. I still decided to take a chance of flying to my home country – Nepal.
I consulted with a few people who had changed their status from F1 to H1B, and some who had renewed their F1 visa through the interview waiver program. However, I did not see, hear, or find anybody who had changed their status from F2 to F1. Yet, I thought why not give it a try since the provision was already there. I filled out my DS-160 form trying to see how things will work for me.
Once I completed and submitted the DS160 form, I opened the CGI Federal portal where we get to receive the CGI Confirmation Number that is used to pay the visa application/interview fee. Upon filling out the details on the CGI Federal portal and paying the visa fee, I was prompted to a new screen with a few generic questions which determined my eligibility for the interview waiver. Finally, I was approved for the interview waiver. Some of those questions that I can remember were (wording might be different but they asked the same thing):
- Did you or do you hold a US visa of any kind?
- Were you ever refused or rejected a US visa?
- Are you applying for a visa from your home country or country of permanent residence?
- Has your passport ever been lost or stolen?
Based on your answer to these questions, if you meet all the requirements, you receive a visa interview waiver confirmation letter/page which will be used in the next stage of your application.
The interview waiver confirmation letter did specify the documents I was required to submit at the dropbox center. However, as they seemed very generic and inadequate, I myself prepared a list of documents that thought to submit together with the required ones if I was allowed to submit any additional documents. I went to the NIBL drop-box counter at Durbarmarg (in Nepal) and asked what all documents needed to be submitted. Surprisingly, the person at the counter said that all the documents I had prepared were relevant for the application. Except for the passport and my 2″X2″ photograph, all the documents I had submitted were photocopies of the originals. He took them all and said it would take about three weeks to get the visa if approved. He also told me that in case they feel that I required an interview or needed more documents or clarifications as a part of my application, I would either receive an email or get a call. I was doubtful about getting the visa without an interview since I was applying for an F1 visa, that too I had not received a full scholarship.
Documents I submitted:
- Bank payment/deposit receipt (NIBL)
- Interview waiver confirmation letter (2 printed copies)
- DS160 Confirmation Letter
- Photocopy of the current or latest US via
- Photograph for the visa 2″ X 2″
- SEVIS I-901 Payment Confirmation
- Photocopy of my current I-20
- Marks card and Transcript of the Undergrad and Graduate degrees (Photocopies)
- Bank Balance Certificate (Photocopy) showing enough funds for the program
- Document proving relationship with a sponsor who was sponsoring my tuition and fees
- A letter addressing the visa officer explaining why I opted for this program, and what we (me and my wife) plan to do after graduation.
May 10, 2022: Submitted the documents and the passport at the dropbox center
May 11, 2022: Status saying the documents are with US Embassy showed up on the CGI portal
May 17, 2022 (late night): Received an email stating the passport is ready for pickup
May 18, 2022: Picked up the passport and the returned documents which were submitted
On the day when I went for passport pickup, I realized I was lucky. This is because I had received my visa within a week after submitting the documents while it was usually taking about 3-4 weeks. As told by the staff at the pickup counter, all the visas had come after almost two months. It just happened that I received it sooner. Since a lot of visas had arrived at the pickup desk, there was a big crowd of people and I had to wait over 2.5 hours to get my passport and the submitted documents back.
I don’t know what exactly the visa officer looks into while approving or rejecting the visa application. However, I feel that it is important for you to think from the perspective of the visa officer and submit the documents accordingly. In my case, I felt that the officer would want to know why I opted for the specific program and how I would manage my finances. Therefore, I had submitted a letter explaining these specifics and the bank balance certificate ensuring I had enough to pay for my studies.
One thing that held my confidence was that I knew what I was doing and why I was studying. I had gotten into a really good program and at a good deal (which was explained in the letter too). Another thing was that I was going to the same university that my wife went to. This, I think made sense explaining why I opted for this program.
I believe in the power of positivity and the good (lagom). Just keep good intentions in life and keep working towards achieving your goal – one step at a time. You will surely make it!