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Administrative Processing of Nonimmigrant Visa Applications

Overview

In order to apply for a new nonimmigrant visa, with limited exceptions, an individual must attend an interview at a U.S. Consular Post abroad.  The U.S. Department of State conducts extensive background checks on all applicants before issuing visas. If the Consular officer conducting the interview cannot immediately establish eligibility for the visa, the application may be placed in administrative processing during which the application will undergo further review.

Administrative Processing

An applicant will be notified by the officer at the end of the visa interview as to whether the visa will be issued or refused. If eligibility cannot be established, the Consular officer must refuse the visa and may place the application in administrative processing. Unfortunately, there is no advance notice that the Department of State will select an applicant for additional administrative processing.

There are certain factors that may lead to an increased chance of being selected for administrative processing.  H-1B visa applicants working in scientific, technology, medical, engineering or mathematical fields may be selected for additional administrative processing.  Applicants from countries where residents are more likely to be scrutinized by the Department of State are also more frequently subject to delays for more extensive background checks.  Ultimately, the applicant will only become aware that this additional processing is required at the time of the visa interview.

The Department of State characterizes an administrative processing request as a visa “refusal,” although in many cases the visa is still issued following administrative processing.  An applicant who is refused a visa following the interview due to “Necessary Administrative Processing” could be waiting anywhere from two weeks to several months to receive the visa. 

If your application is selected for administrative processing, you may not return to the United States until the visa is issued.  All visa applicants should plan travel carefully and plan for the contingency of being delayed by administrative processing.  We also recommend that you alert your employer or school of the possibility that your return to the United States could be delayed.  While many cases are resolved by the Department of State within two to three weeks, there are instances of Administrative Processing extending to several months. 

Normal Visa Processing Wait Times

Information related to normal visa processing times can be found on the Department of State website as well as on U.S. Embassy and Consulate websites. 

Please be sure to consult with immigration counsel for travel advice specific to your circumstances.

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