Processing Delays Plague U.S. Visa Applicants

Ellis Porter warns clients and all would-be travelers when making international travel plans for the foreseeable future.  Significant delays could impact those visiting U.S. consulates for visa issuance. Clients taking up or resuming employment can expect challenges and increased wait times and should plan trips accordingly.

Travel Ban Partially Revived

In a move that leaves more questions than it answers, the Supreme Court issued a decision today confirming that it will hear the appeal over President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.  The high court also granted the administration’s request to reinstate part of the ban in the meantime.  What does that mean, exactly? Specific details will likely be coming soon.  However, foreign nationals who "lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity" in the U.S. and who are from the listed six countries are expected to be impacted.  Such visa applicants who have never been in the U.S., or have no family, business or other ties could be prohibited from visa issuance and/or admission to the U.S.

What Obama Sped Up, Trump Slows Down

President Donald Trump also recently revoked a provision of an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama in January 2012.  The original order sought to speed up visa interview wait times for nonimmigrant visa applicants by directing DOS, DHS, and other agencies to interview 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants within three weeks of receipt of an application.

Trump's executive order completely removed the Obama-era provision, which had also specified that “resource and security considerations and the need to ensure the provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions.”  Though no further details regarding processing times have been established, the move is expected to have a significant slowing effect on visa issuance since target times have now been eliminated.

Suspected Uptick in Administrative Processing

Ellis Porter attorneys report an increase of NIV applicants being placed in administrative processing after consular interviews.  Administrative processing, also known as Security Advisory Opinion (SAO), is the time period during which visa applications undergo additional review outside of the “normal” visa processing times. Administrative processing takes place after the visa interview.   Though unofficial, based on our data collection, this phenomenon appears to be randomly impacting different groups, ie., different countries, genders, religious groups.  We’ve also received reports from clients that some consulates have started using the new “optional” form requesting 15 years residence, social media accounts for past five years, etc. Ellis Porter will continue to collect information and experiences and keep you informed of any changes that may impact your travel needs.