Deciphering administrative processing times – Blog: Think Immigration


Administrative processingOr INA §221(g), is the catch-all term used by the U.S. Department of State to describe the case where a consular officer cannot make an immediate decision regarding a visa application. Most visa applications are reviewed by consular officers at the time of the interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

An applicant’s case or history may result in additional review, commonly referred to as administrative processing. The resulting delay creates significant financial difficulties and challenges for applicants, their U.S. citizen family members and sponsor American employers and businessess.

Coming to a visa interview well prepared can reduce the likelihood of administrative processing, while identifying the root cause can result in a quicker resolution.

The elevator pitch

Consular officers are busy, often interviewing up to 150 visa applicants in a single day at high volume publications such as Monterrey, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, Guadalajara, Buenos Aires, Manila and Guangzhou. Officers quickly review an applicant’s DS-160 nonimmigrant or DS-260 immigrant visa application before conducting a brief interview that may last only a few minutes.

Candidates who come prepared with a concise pitch explaining their case and highlighting their qualifications increase their chances of being approved during the interview.

Post-interview transcription

When administrative processing is required, the officer must provide the applicant with a Form 221(g), which will list all missing documents and provide instructions for submission to the position, if applicable.

Immediately after the interview, visa applicants should remember the consular conversation. Having a written record of the questions the officer asked and the responses will help attorneys understand why the matter may be subject to administrative processing in order to plan how best to resolve it.

Visa Status: Refused

A common misconception is that a visa status appearing as “denied” on the Department of State form Consular Electronic Application Center (ECAC) means that the visa has been “refused”. This is not the case in the context of administrative processing, and a refusal can be overcome.

One way to distinguish the two types of refusal, i.e. refused or undergoing administrative processing, is that the latter includes an additional paragraph which refers applicants to the consular officer’s instructions.

Lawyers may choose to send the message by email to inquire about the reason for the application rejection, keeping in mind that positions generally do not disclose specific details, and to ask if additional information is required from the applicant at this stage.

Once the administrative processing has been completed, the Post Office will inform the applicant of its decision. The status of the file on the CEAC will also be updated either “delivered” (visa granted) or “refused” (visa refused) with the date of the change, while no longer displaying the annotation referring applicants to the instructions of the CEAC. consular agent.

Factors underlying administrative processing

The processing and duration of administrative processing depend on the nature of the file. The application may remain under review at the post with the consular officer who interviewed the applicant, allowing the officer to control the processing time. This often happens when additional documents, information or time is required to make a decision regarding a visa application.

In other cases, consular officers may be required to forward the case to the Department of State in Washington, DC, where they will not have access to information about the status of the case and will not have the power to speed up treatment. An indication that resolution may take a long time is when the officer returns the applicant’s passport at the end of the interview.

Administrative processing can be motivated by various factors:

Incomplete documentation. Missing documents, such as originals or incomplete medical examinations, will delay visa issuance.

Missing information. An agent may be reluctant to make a decision during the interview if the applicant is not well prepared to answer questions about the purpose of travel, financial stability, or ties to the home country.

Complementary exam. A consular officer may need more time to review a complex case.

Legal question. A consular officer may wish to consult the law or the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), which provides instructions regarding the issuance of visas. The agent may also contact the Department of State Office of Legal Counsel in Washington, D.C.

Prior visa refusal. A consular officer will have access to notes of a previous refusal by another officer. Applicants should be prepared to clarify any changes in their circumstances since their last interview.

Suspicion of fraud. A consular officer may have suspicions about the case and refer it to the Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU), which may conduct investigations and visit applicants or their employers in the United States and abroad to verify that the information in the petition is true.

Criminal history. Background checks are typically conducted the day before the visa interview to ensure the most up-to-date information is available. If an applicant has a criminal record, the consular officer may need to conduct additional research to determine the applicant’s visa eligibility.

Security issues. A Safety Advisory Notice (SAO) from the Department of State in Washington, DC, is required in cases involving national security concerns. SAOs are in-depth biographical checks conducted by interagency partners in the intelligence community and law enforcement. This is a black box that can take months or even years for interagency partners, which are not disclosed to the requester, to provide their findings to the State Department. Consular officers have the ability to follow up with the Department of State regarding long-pending SAOs.

In conclusion, although some factors that lead to delays in consular processing are beyond our control, visa applicants can improve their visa application experience by being prepared with a compelling case and all required documents, writing down the conversation consular and understanding the considerations that may lead to administrative processing.


AILA members interested in learning more about how to manage administrative processing delays may be interested in AILA’s national webinar on October 12. Managing delays during consular interviews, INA §221(g) letters and administrative processing: “What is the delay? ».

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