Since January 2018, our firm has seen a sharp increase in administrative processing for U.S. visa applications at consulates in India and China. This has caused significant delays in visas being approved and has resulted in foreign nationals spending an additional three weeks to two months in the country of the visa interview, as opposed to the typical two weeks.
According to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), administrative processing “should be used to refer to clearance procedures or the submission of a case to the Department.”[i] There are three possible scenarios that could lead to a visa application undergoing administrative processing. These include national security, the Technology Alert List, and further consultation.
Administrative Processing for National Security Reasons
Prior to the visa appointment, each visa applicant will have her biographical data scanned in various national security databases. The results from these scans are available to the consular officer at the time of the visa interview. If the consular officer notices a “hit” on one of the databases, indicating that there is potentially adverse information about the visa applicant on a watchlist, then the consular officer “must “clear” the hit by seeking confirmation that the person applying for the visa is not the same person on the watchlist.”[ii] Once the hit has been cleared, the consular officer should approve the visa and change the administrative processing report on the Department of State’s online visa portal to say “visa approved”.
Administrative Processing for Technology Alert List Reasons
Visa applicants, especially those engaged in STEM professions, may also have their visa applications subject to administrative processing because their professional activities triggered concerns about the Department of State’s Technology Alert List.[iii]
“Technology Alert List: Administrative processing can be the outcome of certain visa applications…where the applicant’s intended commercial or academic activity triggers concerns about the possible illegal transfer of technology as defined in the Technology Alert List (TAL)….When a consul encounters an applicant who intends to pursue activities in one of the areas included on the TAL, the consul must submit an inquiry on the matter to DOS for a determination of whether the risk is significant enough to require visa denial.”
Once the consular officer has received the determination from the Department of State and the determination indicates that the visa applicant does not warrant risk significant enough to issue visa denial, the consular officer should approve the visa and change the administrative processing report on the Department of State’s online visa portal to say “visa approved”.
Administrative Processing for Further Consultation Reasons
The Department of State may also initiate administrative processing on a visa application because it requires “further consultation”. This provides a “catch all” explanation for why the consular officer has delayed the visa application and offers the consular officer a wide discretionary berth in the visa application process.
“Further Consultation: A consular officer can advise an applicant that further “administrative processing” is required in his or her case if the consul believes that there are circumstances that require further internal consultation within the mission or with DOS. In such cases, it is not the existence of a lookout hit that triggers the decision, but other circumstances that either have arisen during the interview or are based on information in the record that makes it impossible to render the decision at the completion of the interview.”[iv]
In these situations, sometimes the consular officer asks for additional information from the visa applicant about her job, education, or plans in the U.S. The information should be provided promptly and thoroughly. Once the information has been received and reviewed by the consular officer, the consular officer should approve the visa and change the administrative processing report on the Department of State’s online visa portal to say “visa approved”.
Wait Times for Administrative Processing
When a visa application enters administrative processing, it means that the visa applicant will be delayed in the foreign country. The length of the delay depends on the type of administrative processing, the work volume of the consulate, and the readiness with which the visa applicant provided requested additional information (if applicable). According to the Department of State, most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview.[v] Our firm has seen administrative processing take between three weeks and 60 days, with the longest waits in India. Visa applicants, especially those applying in India and China, should be prepared for administrative processing to delay their case.
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This blog is made available by the The Immigration Group, PC for educational purposes only in order to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. For legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.
[i] See 9 FAM 601.7-4, Content of Written Correspondence, available at https://fam.state.gov/FAM/09FAM/09FAM060107.html.
[ii] Pattison, Stephen R. and Andrew T. Simkin, “Consular Processing in India,” The Consular Practice Handbook, 2012 Ed., AILA, June 2012. http://agora.aila.org/Product/Detail/37.
[iii] See Technology Alert List, available at http://www.bu.edu/isso/files/pdf/tal.pdf.
[iv] Pattison, Stephen R. and Andrew T. Simkin, “Consular Processing in India,” The Consular Practice Handbook, 2012 Ed., AILA, June 2012. http://agora.aila.org/Product/Detail/37.
[v] Administrative Processing Information, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/administrative-processing-information.html.
Victoria Gentry is an associate attorney with The Immigration Group, P.C. practicing exclusively in the areas of work visas and employment-based green cards. She first became interested in immigration law when her stepfather emigrated from El Salvador to the United States. Now she enjoys assisting corporate clients with a variety of immigration needs including international transfers, visa eligibility, and the green card process. She works primarily with professionals in IT, Engineering, Finance, Pharmacy, and Insurance.