Getting to No
Extreme Vetting and Administrative Processing
Expanded data collection in the visa application process began in 2017 and includes the following:
Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
Address history during the last fifteen years;
Employment history during the last fifteen years;
All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
Name and dates of birth for all children;
Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.
Who is actually subject to extreme vetting? The guidance is vague:
"Department of State consular officers at visa-adjudicating posts worldwide will ask the proposed additional questions to resolve an applicant's identity or to vet for terrorism or other national security related visa ineligibilities when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny."
Increasingly, much of this additional information has been included in the standard visa application form (DS-160). In some cases, however, consulates will request completion of an additional form, the DS-5535, for the data collection. You can the form here:
Among the more troublesome aspects of the expanded collection is the effective codification of the practice of accessing individual's social media accounts. For additional perspective, take a look at this article in the Register: Social Media Vetting for US Visas Goes Live
Although the State Department estimates the average time to complete the DS-5535 at 60 minutes, the historic nature of the requested information (e.g. all past passport numbers) suggests that this is unrealistic. Completion of the form is voluntary, but one would expect that failure to provide the information would lead to denial of the visa application.
Administrative Processing -- When No Means Yes?
Increasingly, it seems cases are held in a pending state called "Administrative Processing." On the positive side, Administrative Processing is normally reserved for applications that are deemed approvable, but for security or other grounds may require additional review. The downside is that this review can take weeks or months (or, in some cases, years). Standard practice is to allow 60 days before contacting the embassy about a case held in Administrative Processing. In some cases, where applications have been held for extended periods of time, it may be helpful to file a new application.
In the past, cases held in Administrative Processing showed "Administrative Processing" as the case status in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). More recently, CEAC case statussays "Refused" for any application in which the visa is not Issued. Once the visa is issued, the status will change to reflect that. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/visas-ceac-case-status-change.html#.XmPZrzD7lyw.email
The following information is from the State Department website at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/administrative-processing-information.html
Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case. Visa applicants are reminded to apply early for their visa, well in advance of the anticipated travel date.
Before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants or their representatives will need to wait at least 60 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.