U.S. State Department Eases Visa Requirements

Since the world reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic, many international scientists wanting to present their research at ASCB’s annual meeting, Cell Bio, have run into lengthy delays as they attempt to schedule their mandatory visa interview. In some cases, the waits for interviews can be years long.

This delay is felt particularly by young international investigators. Presenting science at respected scientific meetings, including Cell Bio meetings, is critical to the progression of scientific careers.

The ASCB has been concerned about the impact of these delays. In early 2023, ASCB sent a letter to President Biden outlining the difficulties international scientists experienced in trying to obtain visas in order to attend Cell Bio 2022. In the letter, ASCB’s CEO Rebecca Alvania pointed out the harmful impact these delays have on the scientific careers of young international scientists but also the impact they have on American science.  

The U.S. State Department, the federal agency responsible for issuing visas, has recently announced that it is implementing a new policy that will allow for waivers of nonimmigrant visa interviews. Under the new policy, consular officers have the discretion to waive in-person interviews. Those eligible for the waiver include those who have been issued nonimmigrant visas, other than B visas, in the past, and those who have a visa that expired within the last four years). Those eligible for a waiver must apply for the waiver in their home country and have never been denied a visa in the past.

This new policy will not completely eliminate the difficulty international scientists wishing to travel to the U.S. have experienced but it does indicate that the State Department is aware of the problem and taking steps to reduce the delays.

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: kwilson@ascb.org