what is administrative processing

EP3: What Is Administrative Processing? How Long Does It Take?

Imagine this: you submit your initial petition and all goes well. After a few months of waiting, your petition is approved (YAY!) and your case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
After your interview arrives, you think that it went well and are confident that your visa will be approved. Then, out of nowhere, you are placed in administrative processing.
So, what is administrative processing (AP)?
I’ve written about this topic a number of times before but I continue to get questions about it. Administrative processing is a catch-all phrase for “general review” of your case.

Administrative Processing

So, lets breakdown exactly what happens when a case is placed in administrative processing. This may help you feel a little better about the wait time if you know what the consulate or embassy is actually doing.

Below we’ll go over what is administrative processing and what you can expect.

  • Addition review of your documents/case

    • Can’t make an instant decision after interview
      • When a consular office can’t make a decision on whether to approve or deny your visa application, it’s usually placed in administrative processing until further notice. It just means that they need more time to review the answer given during the interview and to look over the documents you submitted.
    • Supervisor may review/second opinion
      • Sometimes, the consular officer who interviewed you may ask their supervisor to look over your file. If it comes down to the fact that your case is borderline between approval or denial, having a second pair of eyes look over the documents can be helpful.
    • New documents submitted at interview
      • If you submitted any new documents to the consular officer, they will need more time to review it. But, even if you haven’t submitted anything new they might want to just reviewing everything you’ve ever submitted to USCIS. This can mean longer time in administrative processing.
  • FBI name and background check

    • Consular Lookout & Support System (CLASS) database
      • This database is used by the Department of State (DOS) for name and background checks. Accuracy of the information that is found is actually up to the applicant so be sure that the information found is truly under your name. Sometimes the consular officer will find something and deny you the visa but you should find out why you were denied.
    • Common names will increase wait time
      • If your name is very common in your country, it’s likely that you will be placed in administrative processing for a while. This is due to the fact that they need confirm that every result for your name isn’t you.
  • Criminal background check

    • All criminal arrests & convictions reviewed
      • Any arrest or conviction will be reviewed by DOS. Even if you were never actually convicted, it will come up and you will need to wait until the consulate decides whether your arrest of conviction would make you inadmissible.
  • Suspicion of immigration fraud

    • Previous petitions from other Americans
      • Having a previous petition submitted by another American citizen can cause delays in processing your current visa application. Not only does the consular officer suspect immigration fraud but it’s up to you to show them that the first petition wasn’t pursued only for immigration benefits.
    • Large age gap
      • Being much older or much younger than your partner is one of the signs that USCIS and DOS use to determine if there is possible immigration fraud. This doesn’t mean that a large age gap will automatically get your visa denied but you will need to prove to them that you have a real genuine relationship.
    • Can’t speak common language
      • Another red flag for USCIS is if you and your spouse (or fiancee) don’t speak the same language. They’ll wonder how you communicated throughout your entire relationship. Of course, you could say that you had your communication translated but this may not be enough for USCIS.
    • Quick courtship
      • If you got engaged or married only after a few weeks of knowing each other, get ready for an uphill battle to prove your relationship is bona fide. USCIS likes to see couples that have known each other for at least a few months and have visited each other at least once. But, remember that being together for years and meeting multiple times does make your case stronger but it’s no guarantee of a successful application.
  • Review of prior visa applications and overstays

    • 3 or 10 year bar?
      • Having a 3 or 10 year bar will definitely complicate your immigrant visa application. If you’ve served the bar, be sure to include evidence of the time you were outside the United States. You may be required to submit the I-601 waiver and prove extreme hardship to your US spouse. A waiver is serious business so if you need to go this route, consider becoming a client and let me help you put together a strong waiver petition.
    • Entry without inspection?
      • Entry without inspection (EWI) is a term used for anyone who enter the U.S. without CBP knowing or admitting you into the country. You can consider this a form of illegal entry. If you came to the U.S. with a visa or permission, you will have a difficult time getting approved for an immigrant visa. You must file a waiver because you entered the country without permission even if you’ve already left. The only exception is if you didn’t accrue unlawful presence time but even then it complicates your case and you should seek help.
  • Review of previous visa denials

    • Were you ever denied a visa?
      • Being denied a visa in the past can affect the outcome of your current application. This is especially true if the previous visa was denied. Before applying for another visa, you need to find out why and try to overcome the denial reason. But, having a nonimmigrant visa denied doesn’t necessarily mean that your family-based immigrant visa will also be denied. If you are concerned that a previous denial will affect your case, become a client and let’s review your options.

 How long does AP take?

Okay, now that we know the answer to the question “what is administrative processing?”, let’s find out what we can do if it takes too long to process.

The problem with administrative processing is that there is no definite timeline for approval. It’s like a processing black-hole where you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

This is where all the frustration stems from because no one wants their life in someone’s hands and have no idea whether they will get a positive or negative outcome.

Adminsitrative processing

Allow 60 days to process under AP

After being placed in administrative processing, I’m sure the first thing you want to do is call the embassy 2 days later to get an update. Don’t hold your breathe though. It’s unlikely they will answer you or if they do, provide you with any useful information.

You may get a generic email response stating that you case is in administrative processing and please allow 60 days to complete.

What I recommend is that you wait the 60 days but on day 61, call or email the consulate for an update. Most normal straight-forward cases complete AP within 60 days.

For cases that take much longer than this it’s due to issues with the background or name checks. More recently, I’ve seen applicants receiving form DS-5355 which can delay your case by weeks or months.

Was your case placed in administrative processing? Wondering if there is a way to speed this up or how to contact the consulate for an update? Consider becoming a client and let’s talk about your case.

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Hi! I’m a foreign born Canadian that has immigrated to the United States to marry the love of my life. I successfully navigated the U.S. immigration system all the way to U.S. citizenship. Immigration is a privilege not a right!

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