Background: IWP Initiated in March 2012
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) initiated the visa IWP in early 2012. The intention of the pilot program was to facilitate travel to the United States for business and tourism. For Indian applicants, eligibility is based upon either age or visa category. Initially, the program applied to applicants under seven or over 80 years of age, regardless of visa category. For all others, eligibility was limited to the following visa categories: B-1, B-2, J-2, H-4, L-2, C, and D. These applicants continue to be eligible for the IWP.
Expansions and Limitations of IWP
Under the expansion of the IWP announced in late November 2012, qualification has been expanded to:
- Children under 14 years of age, applying in any visa category
- Students, provided they are returning to the same school and program
- H1B workers
- L1A and L1B workers with individual (not blanket) petitions
The IWP continues to be limited to individuals seeking to renew visas in the same categories as their previously issued visas. Applicants must be renewing visas that are still valid or that expired within the last 48 months. An applicant in possession of a visa with the notation clearance received, is not eligible for the IWP.
IWP is Discretionary
The fact that an individual meets the basic requirements for the IWP does not guarantee that the visa will be renewed without an interview. Additionally, it may be necessary to undergo a biometric appointment for fingerprinting and photographing. The IWP waives only the visa interview; it does not waive the requirement to obtain a visa if needed for travel to the United States. Applicants must still submit the appropriate visa application and filing fee. More details are available on the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India WebSite.
The IWP is a step in the right direction, particularly given the volume of visa applications in India. It allows consular resources to be better utilized by allowing for the waiver of an in-person interview in many visa renewal cases.