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While most visa applications are adjudicated by a consular officer at the time of visa interview, some applications may require additional time and consideration prior to the visa being adjudicated. Administrative Processing (or INA 221(g)) is the term used by the U.S. Department of State when an immediate decision cannot be made by the consular officer during the visa interview. Government processing times for Administrative Processing cases are indefinite. The U.S. Department of State Website provides more information about Administrative Processing.

Who is Subject to Administrative Processing?

While the below list is not exhaustive, Administrative Processing may be prompted by any of the following factors:

  • Incomplete documentation: If required documents are missing or incomplete during the visa interview, the applicant may be given the opportunity to provide additional documents as necessary and will remain subject to Administrative Processing until the consular officer receives and reviews the missing items.
  • Additional review: A consular officer may need additional time to consider an application, especially if they are dealing with a complex case, they need to further consult legal resources pertaining to the case, or where the applicant may not have been fully prepared to answer questions during the interview and the officer needs more time to evaluate.  
  • Applicant’s Background: There are a number of considerations regarding an applicant’s background which may delay issuance of a visa while the consular officer further reviews the case. This list may include (but is not limited to) an applicant’s field of study or research, prior visa denials, concerns of fraud, criminal history, or national security concerns. Even sharing a name with someone on a government watch list can trigger a delay.  Applicants from countries designated by the Department of State as State Sponsors of Terrorism always undergo a security clearance. Cases that require security clearances or that trigger national security concerns can require extensive background checks involving various government and law enforcement agencies.

What happens when an applicant becomes subject to Administrative Processing?

If the consular officer determines that administrative processing is required, they may provide the applicant with form 221(g) indicating that their visa application was subject to administrative processing. This form may include a list of any missing documents and provide further instructions for how to respond. If no letter or notification was provided during the visa interview, applicants may attempt to contact the consulate where they applied to inquire further. After the visa interview, an applicant may attempt to track their case on the Department of State’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website and notice that their visa status shows as “Refused”. In the context of Administrative Processing, there is a possibility that the refusal may be overcome and does not immediately equate to a “Denial”.  

How long does Administrative Processing take?

The duration of administrative processing varies by case. The consular officer reviewing the case may need additional documentation from the applicant, or require additional time to make a decision. In some scenarios, the consular officer may be required to advance the case to the Department of State in Washington D.C., after which the speed of processing is out of their control. The Department of State’s goal is to complete Administrative Processing as quickly as possible, but the reality is that while most cases are resolved in a few months, other cases can take many months or years to complete, or never reach resolution.  Because this is deemed a National Security matter, no outside entity has the ability to influence the speed or outcome of a visa application (this includes JHU faculty/staff, and even members of Congress). Once Administrative Processing been initiated by the U.S. Consulate, it cannot be stopped until it has been completed.

What to do if subject to Administrative Processing

While visa applicants may reduce the likelihood of Administrative Processing by attending a visa interview equipped with thorough documentation and come prepared to answer visa interview questions fully, clearly, and briefly—in many cases Administrative Processing cannot be avoided.  

Individuals who become subject to Administrative Processing should contact OIS as well as their hosting school or department at Johns Hopkins as soon as possible and formulate a contingency plan. OIS may need to modify dates on an individual’s immigration documents to accommodate possible arrival delays and can only do so if the JHU hosting school or department is willing to delay the program or appointment beyond its original start date.

The Department of State does not allow status inquiries until 60 days after the initiation of Administrative Processing. If 60 days have passed without a decision, visa applicants may attempt to independently contact the U.S. Consulate to inquire about their case, although Consulates are not always responsive to such inquiries. After more than six months have passed without a decision, OIS is able to engage the JHU Federal Strategy office to initiate a case status inquiry through a Congressional liaison.  This is a courtesy inquiry extended to JHU at the discretion of the Congressional Member’s office.

It is important to note that the visa application is at the full discretion of the Department of State, and no outside entity has the ability to influence the speed or outcome. However, submitting an inquiry may help to elevate awareness of the case.

Individuals and departments should contact OIS with questions about Administrative Processing.