The U.S. Department of State has stopped fielding attorney email inquiries regarding administrative processing on behalf of visa applicants.

As a result, visa applicants should be prepared for the possibility of delays in issuance.

Many visa applications require further “administrative processing” after the consular officer interviews the applicant. “Administrative processing” usually means that a security clearance is being performed in Washington, D.C. A clearance is usually required when there is a “hit,” indicating a potential match of a name check or fingerprint scan with a foreign national in a government database. Hits can occur due to name matches on various government lists, prior visa problems such as overstays or denials, or criminal arrests or convictions. Even a name, date of birth, or place of birth that closely matches someone who has a record could cause a hit. A security clearance can also be initiated based on certain answers on the DS-160 form or based on the Technology Alert List (TAL). The TAL is a list of sensitive technologies that have been identified as “dual purpose” technologies, i.e., technologies with both civilian and military applications. TAL security clearances are performed in an effort to prevent the inappropriate transfer of such sensitive technologies or materials.

Administrative processing, or security advisory opinions, are a fairly common feature of H-1B and L-1 applicants from countries such as China, India and Russia. The extra processing can add several weeks to normal wait times. In the past, attorneys could make case-specific inquiries about administrative processing through a dedicated State Department Legalnet email inquiry channel if the processing lasted 60 days or longer.

Elimination of this avenue of inquiry may cause further delays, as these inquiries will no longer be addressed at the Departmental level. Many consular posts are non-responsive to inquiries.

BAL Analysis: Applicants are reminded to apply early for visas and plan for extra time in case the consulate initiates administrative processing. Where applicants are flagged for additional processing, they should work with their BAL attorney to coordinate their communication with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to carefully track delays and ensure that the proper information is submitted. Unfortunately, there is usually no way to know in advance if further administrative processing will be required and there is no way to expedite the process. Applicants are first advised whether they need administrative processing at the conclusion of the visa interview.

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