Getting to No

Extreme Vetting and Administrative Processing

On 4 May 2017, the Trump administration published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intentions to expand data collection associated with visa applications from certain individuals "to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities."

On 25 May, consulates began implementing the program.

The expanded data collection 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."

You can read the Federal Register notice here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/05/04/2017-08975/notice-of-information-collection-under-omb-emergency-review-supplemental-questions-for-visa

The State Department has introduced a new form, 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

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.

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.

About Visa Processing Wait Times – Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants

Information about nonimmigrant visa wait times for interviews and visa processing time frames are shown on this website, as well as on U.S. Embassy and Consulate websites worldwide. It should be noted that the “Wait Times for a Nonimmigrant Visa to be Processed” information by country does not include time required for administrative processing. Processing wait time also does not include the time required to return the passport to applicants, by either courier services or the local mail system.