As the upcoming holiday season approaches, we wish to provide an update on visa processing, as well as a refresher on the impact of “administrative processing” for visa applications.
- Generally, due to volume and holiday schedule, visa issuance during the months of December and January may be slower than usual. However, due to recent technical issues, U.S. Consulate/Embassy posts worldwide are experiencing additional delays in visa processing. The Department of State (DOS) has indicated that only 15-20% of approved visa applications are delayed and that it is in the process of resolving the issue.
- Certain individuals applying for visas at U.S. Consulate/Embassy posts may be subject to “administrative processing” or a “hold” on further processing of the visa application. In most situations, the hold is due to “clearance” procedures – generally a background check or hit based on biographic and biometric data checked against various databases. In other situations, the hold may be due to an individual’s activities (such as H-1B or academic responsibilities) possibly being subject to the government’s “Technology Alert List.” In limited circumstances, the hold may be due to U.S. Consulate/Embassy posts requiring additional internal consideration based on information that may have arisen during the visa application interview. DOS indicates that most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview and that the number of visa applications denied following administrative processing is limited. However, there is no existing procedure to “pre-clear” administrative processing prior to submission of a visa application. DOS indicates that assuming no derogatory information is available to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy post, an existing visa would not be cancelled while a new application is pending administrative processing. However, DOS also emphasizes that an application for admission to the U.S. is made to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which has its own authority to determine admissibility. CBP may deny admission even if the existing visa has not been cancelled.
- On December 11, 2017, limited nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations will begin at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy posts in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok. The post in Moscow continues to offer limited services as well.
Employers with foreign nationals applying for visas or with pending visa applications should be prepared for possible processing delays. For any questions related to a specific case and potential strategies and alternatives, please feel free to reach out to us.