On June 8, 2023, the U.S. Department of State announced that it had adopted new technology and enhanced coordination to reduce the time required for Administrative Processing, which encompasses a range of possible additional steps that may be required before an applicant can demonstrate eligibility for a visa. These steps may include additional national security vetting. Historically, Administrative Processing lacked predictability and transparency, and many U.S. visa applications would languish for months or years.
Despite the State Department’s assurances, many Administrative Processing visa cases are still taking a very long time to clear. This is particularly true for Russian, Chinese, and Iranian applicants, including individuals who held visas in the past, are currently living in the United States, or have U.S. citizen family members. While the Department of State’s new system may have been effective at eliminating some cases from requiring Administrative Processing in the first place, many visa cases placed into Administrative Processing are still experiencing lengthy and frustrating waits. Absent an effective advocacy and engagement strategy, expediting the resolution of an Administrative Processing case can be challenging, and applicants living in the United States needing a visa to return should seek advice on the risk of a lengthy delay before leaving the country. In some instances, deferring travel may be advisable.
If a visa applicant is told that they will be placed into Administrative Processing, they should take the following steps:
- Ask the interviewing officer why the application is going into Administrative Processing;
- Ask how long the officer believes it will take for the application to clear Administrative Processing;
- Make notes immediately after the interview of all of the questions asked by the consular officer;
- Preserve any paperwork given to the visa applicant after the interview;
- Seek professional advice before submitting responses to any questionnaires or requests for additional evidence.
Depending on the information gathered at the interview, a visa applicant may need to prepare personally and professionally for a long wait. If, after several months, the case has still not cleared, or if urgent personal or business issues arise requiring a more rapid resolution, visa applicants should explore engaging the Department of State regarding expedited processing. While the Department of State typically tells applicants that administrative processing cannot be expedited, in certain situations, such as a medical emergency, it is possible for consular managers to influence the prioritization of an application. Managers have a lot of influence over the resolution of a case pending final adjudication only when the case is pending with the consular section overseas. If an application, however, is pending clearance in Washington or with another agency, which is the case for most Administrative Processing applications languishing for long periods of time, consular managers overseas have limited influence over the resolution of such cases.