I am a Singaporean U.S. immigration attorney based in Los Angeles specializing in H-1B1 visas for Singaporeans. My California State Bar record can be found here and my law firm website can be found here. Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin.
In this blog post I will provide suggestions on how to get an earlier H-1B1 visa interview appointment date at the US Embassy in Singapore and explain how the "Interview Waiver" process in Singapore works for eligible Singaporeans.
How to Get an Earlier H-1B1 Visa Interview Appointment Date in Singapore
When booking your H-1B1 visa interview appointment, you might initially obtain a later appointment date than desired. There are 2 ways to address this (the 2nd way is recommended in most situations):
1. Request an expedited appointment. To do this, you have to first book a normal appointment at the usual CGI Federal website here before the system will allow you to request an expedited appointment. The qualifying criteria are quite narrow, as can be shown on the US Embassy in Singapore's website here, and results are hit-or-miss as they are under the discretion of the consular officer. Thus, the 2nd way of obtaining an earlier H-1B1 visa appointment described below has been generally more effective for Singaporeans.
2. Logging in daily to check for earlier interview appointment slots (Recommended in most situations). After booking a normal appointment slot at the usual CGI Federal website here, even for a later-than-desired date, you can then log into the CGI Federal website on a daily basis to see if earlier appointment slots open up. You have 4 "free tries" to re-schedule your appointment. From my experience and from other Singaporeans' experiences, checking in daily for earlier appointments have been generally more effective than asking for an expedited interview in Singapore.
Having said that, some Singaporeans may be eligible for the "Interview Waiver" process these days (see below).
The "Interview Waiver" process in Singapore
Since 2021, the US Embassy in Singapore has been allowing eligible Singaporeans to go through the "Interview Waiver" process (also known as the "Drop-Box" service) when applying for an H-1B1 visa.
This process involves dropping off your visa application documents at the Aramex office located near Chinatown MRT station without having to attend an in-person interview at the Embassy. If successful, you will be notified to return to the Aramex office to collect your passport.
You may be deemed eligible for an Interview Waiver in Singapore for your H-1B1 visa application based on one of the following grounds:
- Ground (a) If you have a previous visa of the same visa type that you wish to renew, and your prior visa is still valid or has expired within the last 4 years*; this is typical for Singaporeans seeking a renewal of an H-1B1 visa, or
[*This does not apply if your prior visa of the same type was granted when you had a different nationality]
- Ground (b) If you are seeking a visa type for the first time and you have previously traveled to the US using ESTA or any US visa before (Note: this is an expanded interview waiver ground for a limited time that will expire at the end of 2023)**
[**This does not apply if your prior visa or prior ESTA, as the case may be, for your previous travel to the US, was granted when you had a different nationality]
After you have paid your visa application fee and logged into the CGI Federal website, if you are deemed by the system to be eligible for the Interview Waiver process, there will be a notification to this effect that will appear on your computer screen.***
[***The system is not intelligent enough to distinguish between you (the principal H-1B1 applicant) and your H-4 dependent spouse or child (if applicable). For instance, if you as the principal H-1B1 applicant have been deemed eligible for an Interview Waiver, but if your H-4 dependent spouse or child did not previously hold a US visa in their passport(s) as a Singapore citizen, they will likely be required by the Embassy to book an in-person interview for themselves eventually.]
The Interview Waiver process generally takes about 4-11 days to complete (counting from the date that you drop off your documents at the Aramex office) on average.
Finally, the Interview Waiver process is a discretionary procedure. In other words, there may come a time in the future when this procedure will become unavailable, even for the Singaporeans who have been deemed eligible for it now. (For example, this process was unavailable during the previous Trump Administration).
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.