Last week we saw several noteworthy developments in the immigration arena coming from both the Biden administration and the Department of State. The U.S. Department of State (DOS), in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security (DOH), announced on December 23, 2021, in-person interview requirements are temporarily waived for some nonimmigrant visas through the end of 2022. Referred to as the "Drop Box" process, the temporary rule widens the eligibility criteria. Who Can Have the In-person Interview Requirement Temporarily Waived To qualify for the visa interview waiver, individuals must have been previously issued another type of visa, never been denied a visa (except if the denial was reversed or waived), and do not display any potential ineligibilities. Other applicants who qualify are first-time applicants for H-1, H-4, L, O, P, or Q visas. To be eligible, first-time applicants must meet the following: \tApplying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence \tBe a citizen or national of a country that takes part in the visa waiver program (VWP) \tNever been denied a visa (exceptions are made if the denial was reversed or waived) \tPreviously visited the United States with authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) Applicants renewing any visa within 48 months of its expiration are eligible for the drop box process. Similarly, the Secretary of State has extended a previous policy to waive the visa interview requirement for eligible "students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022." Consular officers have the authority to waive the interview for these applicants who meet the following criteria: \tIssued any visa in the past \tNever been refused a visa (exceptions made if the denial was reversed or waived) \tNo apparent ineligibilities or potential ineligibilities For first time F, M, and academic J visa applicants, the following requirements apply: \tApplying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence \tBe a citizen or national of a country that takes part in the visa waiver program (VWP) \tPreviously visited the United States with authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) Entry Ban on South African Countries Rescinded by Biden Administration The Biden Administration, in response to the WHO's advisory on the Omicron variant of COVID-19, announced on December 28, 2021, that they are effectively revoking Proclamation 10315, banning travel from eight African countries (Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe) to the United States. The original proclamation was introduced on November 26, 2021, and enacted due to the strain's contagious nature. "Since I issued that proclamation, our Nation's health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant," Biden said regarding the travel restrictions. This previous ban did not apply to citizens of the United States and lawful permanent residents. Pre-departure COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travelers now stands at no more than three days before travel to no more than one day is the CDC guideline. Our team will continue to update you with important immigration news. Check back monthly for the newest Visa Bulletin and helpful guides to navigate the immigration process.