A May 21, 2003 Department of State cable provides field guidance to consular officers that reduces the scope of a consular officer's discretion to waive the personal appearance/interview requirement for nonimmigrant visa applicants. This will result in many more applicants having to be interviewed before a visa is issued. Click on the "More" link for additional commentary. [DOS cable 2003 State 136100 (May 21, 2003)]

Although the cable states that 22 CFR 41.102 (the personal appearance/interview provision) has already been changed, the actual regulatory change had not yet made at the time the cable was issued. The Department of State informed NAFSA that they will likely send out a follow-up cable to clarify that fact for posts, but DOS also said that posts have begun implementing the guidance right now, to varying degrees. The cable states that posts have until August 1, 2003 to fully implement the new guidelines.

Despite the cable's inaccuracy regarding the status of the underlying regulatory change, even the current regulation contains a general requirement that ALL nonimmigrant visa applicants must personally appear and be interviewed, with specific waivers being available at the discretion of the consular officer. Since the decision to waive an interview is already discretionary under the current regulation, this cable serves really as guidance on how the discretion should now be exercised.

Schools and exchange programs should expect, as the cable indicates, that visa processing times may get longer because of the new interview policy. AMDOC#: 200305008