Administrative Processing 

Visa application processing delays at U.S. consulates abroad.


What is administrative processing?

Administrative processing broadly means that your visa has been denied, or a decision cannot be made on your visa application at the time of your interview. Established in Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), consular officers are directed  to deny a visa if it appears that the applicant is not eligible under any section of law. INA section 221(g) states the following:

No visa or other documentation shall be issued to an alien if:

(1) it appears to the consular officer, from statements in the application, or in the papers submitted therewith, that such alien is ineligible to receive a visa or such other documentation under section 1192 of this title, or any other provision of law,

(2) the application fails to comply with the provisions of this chapter, or the regulations issued thereunder, or

(3) the consular officer knows or has reason to believe that such alien is ineligible to receive a visa or such other documentation under section 1182 of this title, or any other provision of law …

During the interview, the consular officer will tell the applicant that his/her application requires further “administrative processing” under Section 221(g) of the INA. The consulate will not disclose the specific reason for the need for administrative processing. Some applicants are asked to provide additional written information regarding their intended activities in the U.S. or their employer's business and operations. Others may not be asked to provide any additional information. In either case, the applicant must wait for the consulate to contact him/her regarding their visa application or check the status online (where available).

What may trigger administrative processing?

U.S. consulates are required to conduct background checks of all visa applicants to determine whether they may pose a security or integrity risk to the U.S. In seeking to confirm the potential risk of applicants, officers may request that an applicant’s data be further reviewed by DOS headquarters. They do this by requesting a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO). SAOs include:

  • Mantis: This SAO is triggered when the consulate suspects a visa applicant may be violating the Technology Alert List (TAL). The TAL includes critical fields of employment, such as nuclear technology, robotics, sensors, aircraft and missile systems, advanced computer technology, biotechnology, etc. Officers will listen for key words during your interview indicating you may be working in a critical area. Additionally, if you are a citizen of a country deemed a state sponsor of terrorism (Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea) or a country of proliferation concern, and you are seeking to engage in a commercial or academic activity in a critical field, your application will likely be flagged.
  • Condor: This SAO is issued when an applicant is from a predominantly Muslim country.
  • Donkey: This SAO is administered through the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), which is used to perform namechecks of visa and passport applicants. Checks are run through various search engines that run against government databases.
  • Eagle: This SAO is triggered when an applicant is from a country deemed to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

If Administrative Processing is required, consulate officers generally do not inform applicants of which specific SAO was triggered. Because officers are not well versed in every field, and they are instructed to proceed with caution before approving an application without further review, an increase in Administrative Processing under the Mantis SAO is possible for those with backgrounds in engineering or science, even if their work is not related to a critical area of technology.

What can I do if my application is selected for administrative processing?

If Administrative Processing is triggered, there is little that visa applicants or attorneys can do to determine which specific SAO was triggered or how long it will take for the visa to be issued. The applicant can only monitor his/her application status and wait for a final decision to be made. Therefore, the best practice is for visa applicants to be prepared in case of lengthy delays.