News report | | 17/12/2021 | ±3 minutes reading time

Applying for an American visa is temporarily getting easier. The US government has temporarily changed the rules for applying for non-immigrant visas to make up for the backlog caused by the coronavirus.

Large backlog due to the coronavirus

Due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus, the US government decided to temporarily suspend all regular visa services at its embassies and consulates on 20 March 2020. As of 15 July 2020, embassies and consulates were allowed to provide visa services again. However, due to corona, this was accompanied by considerable delays. For example, regional lockdowns prevented people from travelling to the embassy or consulate. The corona rules also meant that far fewer people could be in a building at the same time, which meant that appointments had to be rescheduled.

As a result of all these circumstances, there is a large backlog of visa applications. People often have to wait for months before it is their turn.

Interview temporarily not mandatory anymore

To overcome this problem, the US government has decided that the interview at the embassy or consulate is no longer mandatory. Normally, every visa application requires an in-person interview. During this interview, an embassy employee determines whether the visa application is credible. If not, the application is rejected. The applicant also has the opportunity during the interview to correct any errors, or to provide further explanation of certain fields in the application form.

It is these interviews that are largely responsible for the long waiting times, which is also the reason the US government is looking for a solution to the backlog here. From now on, embassy employees can decide for themselves whether an interview is necessary. The change has been in force since 13 December 2021 and is valid for 24 months.

New regulation does not apply to everyone

The governmentʼs decision to no longer require the interview applies to a specific group of applicants, namely those who have already been granted a non-immigrant visa to America. To qualify for the new scheme, the following conditions apply:

  • The person must have been granted a non-immigrant visa to America on or after 4 August 2019.
  • The person is applying for the same type of visa.
  • The personʼs personal circumstances have not changed such that he or she is no longer eligible for the visa.

According to the US government, the new regulation has several advantages. For example, there is now less chance of spreading corona because there are fewer personal encounters. People applying for non-immigrant visas now incur fewer costs because they no longer have to travel to the embassy or consulate. It also significantly reduces the workload of embassy staff.

Visa usually not required for European travellers

Dutch and Belgian travellers do not usually have to worry about visas when they want to travel to America. They can apply foran ESTAinstead. ESTA is an alternative to the visa and much easier to apply for. For example, no interview is necessary for an ESTA application. The entire procedure takes place online, which means that the application will be reviewed much faster, typically within one day. After approval, the ESTA will be linked to the passport electronically, so there is no need to visit the embassy or consulate. The ESTA is valid for two years and one can stay in America for 90 days per visit.