U.S. Administrative Processing – What does that mean for visa applicants, and how to deal with it?
U.S. immigration Administrative Processing means additional steps will be taken during your visa application process. It involves the U.S. Embassy conducting a more thorough review of an individual’s case. This occurs when the responsible official determines that they need more information to decide on the visa application or if something in the application raises concerns.
For instance, an immigration case may enter administrative processing if a red flag is detected during the initial review, such as information that needs to be verified or if the officer feels that the application is missing necessary documentation. In these cases, the Consular officer can put visa applicants on hold based on section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a notice of administrative processing.
It’s important to note that administrative processing does not necessarily mean that the visa application will be denied. However, it does result in a delay in the processing of the case and can take several weeks or months to resolve. In some cases, the additional review can result in the approval of the visa, while in others, it may lead to a visa denial.
This process is not transparent, and the specific details of how it is conducted are not readily available to the public. However, it can be understood that the applicant’s case is transferred from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to a data center for further review. This review focuses on the individual circumstances of each case, and they often check for criminal convictions, security risks, immigration violations, or other irregularities in the applicant’s background.
It’s important to note that this additional review process can cause a delay in the processing of the visa application. While the exact length of time can vary, it can take several weeks or even months for administrative processing to be completed. The result of this review can impact the outcome of the visa application, so applicants need to be aware of this process and be patient while waiting for a decision.
The reasoning behind the Administrative Processing
Administrative processing refers to the process the U.S. Embassy may undertake when they don’t have sufficient information or supporting documentation to decide on a visa application. In other words, they don’t have enough evidence to approve the visa at the moment.
When a visa applicant is flagged for further review, the consular officer will inform the applicant by a letter that their visa petition is being held for further evaluation of their eligibility.
The letter may, but not always, request the applicant to provide additional information or documents to assist the consular official in making a final decision on the new visa application. This administrative processing period ensures that all necessary information and documentation have been provided and evaluated before making a final decision.
Most common reasons why an application is likely to be placed in administrative processing
While a consular officer cannot disclose the specific cause of an administrative processing delay to a visa applicant, there are various reasons why an individual’s visa application may be subject to this additional review.
Some common reasons include the following:
Additional Review: This extra step is taken when the information provided by the applicant is inadequate, confusing, or raises concerns that need to be addressed. This procedure aims to gather additional information about the visa applicant to make more informed decisions and ensure the security and integrity of the visa application process.
Database verification: All visa applicants’ biographic and biometric details are screened against various government databases as part of the visa application process. The consular officer must perform further verification to clear the hit if these screenings indicate a potential match with a person on a government watchlist. This means confirming that the visa applicant differs from the person on the watchlist.
Technology Concerns: The Technology Alert List (TAL) outlines certain commercial or academic activities that may raise concerns about the potential illegal transfer of technology. When a visa applicant intends to participate in one of these activities, the consular officer must submit an inquiry to the Department of State for further review. This review aims to ensure that sensitive technology does not fall into the wrong hands and to protect national security interests. This review determines whether the risk of illegal technology transfer is significant enough to warrant a visa denial.
It is worth mentioning that these are just some of the typical reasons for administrative processing, as there may be other factors specific to individual cases. However, the particular reason for the delay cannot be revealed to the applicant due to privacy and security considerations of the visa application process.
When the visa application falls into the “black hole” of the AP
Administrative processing is often referred to as a “black hole” in the visa application process due to the lack of transparency and certainty surrounding the processing times. Administrative processing may be required after a consular officer has interviewed some visa applicants, a fact advised to the applicant at the time of application.
Most cases undergoing administrative processing are typically concluded within 60 days after the visa interview. However, the exact length of time for administrative processing can vary based on individual circumstances.
To account for potential delays, visa applicants should apply for their visa well before their planned travel date.
Visa processing times for nonimmigrant visa applicants
The estimated wait times for nonimmigrant visa interviews and processing can be found on the official website of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.
However, it’s essential to remember that these wait times do not take into account the time required for administrative processing, which is a separate step that some applicants may need to go through.
Additionally, the processing time frames listed do not factor in the time it takes to return the passport to the applicant through courier services or the local mail system.
Visa applicants should wait for at least 180 days before making inquiries about the status of administrative processing. This applies unless there is a case of emergency travel, such as a severe illness, injury, or death in the applicant’s immediate family. The waiting period starts from the visa interview date or the submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.
Administrative Processing outcomes under the INA – Immigration and Nationality Act
In the end, a U.S. visa application can only result in either being granted or denied by the consular officer. If the applicant fails to prove their eligibility for a visa, the officer has no choice but to reject the application.
There are two main types of visa denials “hard” and “soft.” A hard denial is made under either Section 214(b) or Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and a soft denial is made based on Section 221(g) of the INA.
The officer base decides on his belief that the applicant plans to overstay the visa. The application will be denied under Section 214(b). Conversely, if the officer finds the applicant legally ineligible for a visa based on a specific reason, such as a prior controlled substance violation, the application will be denied under Section 212(a).
These “hard” denials are considered conclusive, and it is unlikely that they will be revised, especially not in the same application.
A soft denial is made under Section 221(g) of the INA, which provides an interim measure for visa officers to temporarily deny a case if they do not have the necessary information or clearance to grant the visa. Thus, the matter is delayed for further review.
The reason for this is that the visa officer believes that the missing information or clearance is expected to become available soon, and once received, it will overcome the denial and result in the grant of the visa.
Consequences of a visa denial after additional administrative processing
It is essential to understand that a denial under Section 221(g), which results in the case being placed in administrative processing, is legally treated as a denial, just like a denial under Section 214(b) or 212(a).
Unless the denial is resolved and converted into a grant within one year, it will stay in the applicant’s record and have the same ramifications as any other visa denial. Due to the previous visa denial by the Department of State, the applicant may be denied travel authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
If you have yet to receive a request from the visa officer for additional information or documentation, your case may be in administrative processing either because the officer is waiting for clearance or conducting a local investigation.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to determine the exact reason for your case being in administrative processing, and even if you did know, you wouldn’t be able to influence the timeline.
Nevertheless, one proactive step you can take is to contact the Consular Section of the Embassy or Consulate. You can contact the Embassy or Consulate via email to inquire about the status of your case, especially if several weeks have gone by and you are still waiting for updates.
To learn more about your immigration options, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free 15-minute consultation.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide direct legal advice.
Frequently asked questions about the Administrative Processing
What is the U.S. Department of State Administrative Processing (AP)?Administrative Processing means that there is a situation where the visa processing is temporarily delayed due to some concern or issue with the case that requires further review or investigation. In other words, there is some aspect of the case that the visa officers are not satisfied with, and they need more time to examine if the applicant is eligible for the visa before making the final decision.
Why may a visa officer submit a new visa application to administrative processing?Confirm that a visa applicant does not pose a security threat, is eligible for the requested visa, and is admissible to the United States.
What happens if administrative processing is required?When a visa application is chosen for administrative processing, the applicant will either be informed at the end of the interview or receive a letter indicating that the case is temporarily suspended until eligibility is confirmed. The letter may, but does not necessarily, ask the applicant to submit additional information or documents that will assist the consular official in deciding.
Does administrative processing result in an automatically refused visa application?No, the determination of visa eligibility is still pending and has not been officially refused during the administrative processing stage. Once the case has been reviewed, the application will probably be approved if no issues are discovered. However, the ultimate determination of whether the visa will be approved lies with the Consular Officer. These decisions are made individually, and an unfavorable decision cannot be challenged in any U.S. court.
What is the administrative processing waiting time?The processing duration is uncertain, as many factors must be considered. The U.S. Department of State states that most administrative processing cases are resolved within 60 days or less from the visa interview. However, the average waiting time for administrative processing can differ based on the consulate’s location.
What can be done if the case is submitted to administrative processing and more than 60 days have passed?You can check your visa status at the DOS website or contact the consulate or embassy handling your case through email. If your case has been pending for over 90 days, an immigration specialist can inquire to the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Office by email or by calling 202-485-7600.
What can be done if a visa is denied after the administrative processing?Visa denials cannot be challenged, but individuals can reapply for a new visa in the future. Please note that you must submit a new application and pay a new fee.
My visa was denied. How do I know if it was a hard or soft denial?You can determine the type of denial you have received by examining the notice. If the notice mentions 214(b) or 212(a), it is a “hard” denial. If it mentions 221(g) or administrative processing, it is a “soft” denial. If the officer mentions a waiver, it is a different form of relief for ineligibility, and you should seek advice on making a waiver application.