Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, US Consulates throughout Japan have modified their visa renewal procedures by offering and encouraging visa renewal applicants to renew their visas by mail. The move was made to not only protect applicants and officials from the virus, but to expedite the processing of visa renewals. It appears this shift towards a more mail-reliant system for visa renewals is here to stay.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S. Consulate in Osaka strongly encourage applicants for visa renewal to continue to do so through the mail-in process. Eligible applicants are likely to have the in-person interview waived which can streamline the process.
First and foremost, you need to be in Japan when you mail your application to the Embassy. This means you must physically be present in Japan when you send your application – not in the U.S. or another country. Officials will be looking out for people who try to get around this system including a review of your passport to verify the entry stamp for arrival in Japan. Don’t try to get around the system which could put your application at risk.
Secondly, only certain visa holders are eligible to use the mail-in process. Those visas are:
- L (However, Blanket L-1 visa applicants are not eligible to renew by mail)
Blanket L-1 visas are required to renew through the in-person process. L-1 visa holders who are not Blanket L-1 holders are still eligible to renew by mail.
Generally, anyone younger than 14 or older than 80 will also have the in-person interview waived. Further, effective until December 31, 2022, Japanese citizens who are applying for F, M, or Academic J visas may also apply by mail as long as they meet certain eligibility requirements.
You should be prepared for the potential of being asked to do the in-person interview even if you are on the eligibility list above. The Embassy reserves the right to call someone in for an interview while reviewing an application.
The most common cause for an exception would be when officials want to verify that you meet the necessary criteria. Visas last for years, and officials need to confirm the scope of your position at work or that your company still fulfills the original criteria.
If you already know your position or company has changed in a significant manner, you should consider forgoing the mail-in process and instead opt for the in-person interview.
Other exceptions include:
- Anyone who has traveled to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011
- Iranian, Iraqi, North Korean, Sudanese, or Syrian Nationals
- Applications who have been arrested in any country
You can find more information on who is and isn’t eligible and learn more on how to take advantage of the mail-in process here. At Valvo & Associates, we pride ourselves on keeping our clients informed to avoid any issues in the immigration process. Officials won’t allow you to claim that you didn’t know about certain rules and regulations – the expectation is that you will have taken the steps to remain informed. Contact us and our team of experts will protect you and make sure you have all the information and resources you need.