Form DS-5535 and Administrative Processing: How Long Does It Take?
The internet and social media have truly changed the way we communicate.
Think about it.
How soon after you wake up do you check your email, Facebook or watch that stupid cat video on YouTube? Well, USCIS is also looking at your social media profile and status updates. I’ve received a few emails from people who have been placed on administrative processing and were given form DS-5535.
Form DS-5535 was introduced on May 4th 2017 as a way to vet applicants from certain countries. It’s meant to stop anyone who may be a terrorist or a risk to the United States from entering the country.
What is form DS-5535?
DS-5535 is a questionnaire given to visa applicants to fill out after the visa interview. The information you provide will be used to run a background check to see whether you are a threat to U.S. security. You’ll be asked for usernames for any websites or applications you have used or shared content on including photos, videos, and status updates.
Answering the questions of form DS-5535 is supposed to be voluntary. But refusing to fill it out could delay the processing of your case or worse, deny it outright.
Lisa and Amir recently got married in Jordan and applied for a CR1 spouse visa at the embassy in Jordan. They thought the interview went well for Amir but he was ultimately placed in administrative processing and was given form 221(g).
After 10 days, the embassy emailed Lisa and Amir asking him to fill out form DS-5535 Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants. They responded quickly and submitted the form within 2 days. But the embassy hasn’t given them an answer on when Amir will be approved for the CR1 visa.
Department of State (DOS) who handles the consulate and embassies abroad said that the new supplemental questionnaire will only affect 0.5% of visa applicants. This amounts to about 65,000 people worldwide.
- Travel history during the last fifteen years, including where you got the money to travel;
- Address history for the last fifteen years;
- Employment history for the last fifteen years;
- All passport numbers and countries of citizenship;
- 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, used in the last five years; and
- Phone numbers and email addresses used in the last five years.
Does this sounds like Big Brother to you? It’s a bit creepy that DOS and USCIS want this much information about you and your family. But since 9/11, security has been number one on everyone’s mind. It’s definitely a hassle to have to fill out this extra information, but you really don’t have a choice.
Andrew met Layla in Morocco during a 3 month vacation. They fell in love and quickly got engaged before he left for the United States. When it was time for the K1 visa interview, Layla was given form DS-5535 immediately after the interview was over. She filled it out and sent it back 3 days later.
Andrew and Layla haven’t heard anything since and are now wondering how long this extra step in screening is going to take.
After DS-5355 Is Submitted, How Long For Approval?
From what I’ve read it can take anywhere from 10-30 days to hear back from the U.S. consulate. But, if you’re also placed on administrative processing this can really extend the waiting time to months. If it’s been longer than 30 days, I recommend you contact the U.S. consulate or embassy directly to get an update on your case.
If you’ve submitted all the required documents, this may be a little reminder for them to finish processing your case.
What If I Am Denied The Visa Based On DS-5535?
First, you need to find out exactly why the visa was denied. It could actually be something that isn’t related to form DS-5535 such as missing documents. If it truly is the information given on form DS-5535, it’s time to contact an immigration attorney. Since this policy is so new we haven’t seen any cases where the information in DS-5535 was used against the applicant to deny them.
A lawyer will be able to review your entire case and advise you of what the next steps should be. Make sure to interview a few different immigration lawyers before you hire one as not all of them will be honest and trustworthy.
Can I Refuse To Submit DS-5355?
Sure, it’s considered voluntary but may block you from getting immigration benefits. Also, by refusing to submit this information, USCIS will wonder whether you have something to hide. If there are any questionable photos or comments on any of your social media accounts – delete them.
You should be very careful what you post online because this can be used against you during the immigration application process.
The following are things that could really get you trouble:
- Making online threats to President Trump
- Joining forums/communities of Muslim extremists
- Posting photos with weapons
- Comments about Islamic Jihad
- Comments about anything anti-Jew
Notice anything about what I listed above? They primarily burden those who are from Muslim countries. I’ll be completely honest and say that Muslims are a probably a target and it’s unfortunate. There’s not much you can do about the country you were born in or the religion of your parents but you can control what you do online.
You can no longer be anonymous online. Everything you say, do and post will be available to the entire world forever. Before you post anything online, think to yourself whether you will regret it in the future if you could never take it back.
Administrative Processing After DS-5535, Was I Denied?
Being placed on administrative processing doesn’t mean you were denied. After submitting form DS-5535, the consular officer may need additional time to complete background checks and review the documents you submitted. It’s next to impossible to speed up the review process and there is no expedite available once it gets to this stage.
Administrative processing is like a black-hole where your case lingers for long periods of time. Many applicants are desperate to hear back about their case but are left wondering what is going on.
I wouldn’t wish AP on my worst enemy and that’s says a lot.
The best thing to do is keep yourself busy and prepare for the next step once your case is approved. If the U.S. consulate kept your passport, this is a good sign. It means that they will likely approve your visa but just need additional time to review your case.
Most cases that are going to be denied are given form 221(g) that will state that they intend to deny the visa or return it to USCIS. This is called Notice of Intent To Revoke (NOIR) and you’ll be given 30 days to respond with additional evidence before your case is denied.
Education or Occupation Under The Technology Alert List (TAL)
U.S. consulate officials are taught to screen applicants that have education or experience in certain occupations. This is due to a concern over the illegal transfer of sensitive technology, a process evolved during the Cold War to screen suspect visa cases.
When they first began the screening processing, they used post-check name-check procedures known as SPLEX, CHINEX and VIETEX and focused on people from certain countries (the former Warsaw pact, China and Vietnam).
In January 1998, the VISAS MANTIS program was created due to intelligence community concern that U.S. made products and information are vulnerable to theft globally. The program is designed to do the following:
- Stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems;
- Control development of destabilizing conventional military capabilities in certain regions of the world;
- Prevent the transfer of arms and sensitive dual-use items to terrorist states; and
- Maintain U.S. advantages in certain militarily critical technologies.
The following fields of study or work will cause your case to be scrutinized further and delay the processing of your case:
- Conventional Munitions;
- Nuclear Technology, Physics, and Engineering;
- Rocket Systems and Unmanned Air Vehicle;
- Navigation, Avionics and Flight Control;
- Chemical, Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering;
- Remote Sensing, Imaging and Reconnaissance;
- Advanced Computer/Microelectronic Technology;
- Materials Technology;
- Information Security;
- Laser and Directed Energy Systems Technology;
- Sensors and Sensor Technology;
- Marine Technology; and
- Robotics Urban Planning
Final Thoughts On Form DS-5535 and Administrative Processing
If you are applying from a Muslim country, be prepared to fill out this form. Is this discrimination? Probably but USCIS and DOS can do whatever they want as immigration is a privilege and not a right.
Receiving form DS-5535 shouldn’t cause you to panic just yet. If you have kept your online activity “clean” then you have nothing to worry about. You should provide all the information that is asked and then wait to see whether you are approved. Since the form is so new, I haven’t seen too many issues come up with form DS-5535 yet.
Everyone that has contacted me about this form has received it and then had to wait a while for a response. There doesn’t seem to be a set timeline on how long it takes to process DS-5535 but I’m thinking it won’t be within 30 days. After you submit the new form, all you can do it wait for an answer and then follow up after 30 days have passed.