Caltech students and Caltech/JPL scholars sometimes encounter security-check delays in the visa acquisition process. These delays may happen because your name is a common name. You may have a delay because your field of study warrants a closer look. You may have a delay because of your country of citizenship or birth. Or, it may be some combination of these factors. These security delays are not unusual and seldom have anything to do with you personally. They are, however, extremely inconvenient.
What is actually happening to your visa application if you are subject to a security check?
If your application is subject to a security check, your case is sent to Washington, DC for "administrative processing." There are a number of government agencies that may be interested (FBI, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Bureau, Department of Commerce, etc.) These agencies coordinate their scrutiny and then send the ok-to-process message to the U.S. Consulate where you applied. As you might imagine, these agencies are not open to inquiry about the progress of a case. It does not help to have your Caltech or JPL sponsor call the U.S. Consulate.
Can Caltech or JPL do anything to speed up the process?
Not directly. We do file a request for an inquiry with our Congressional Representatives on all such delays. While this doesn't speed the processing of the case, it can uncover whether or not your case is simply lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. It also has the outcome of keeping this situation in the mind of our Congressional Representatives.
What can you do if you are in a visa delay?
- Notify your Caltech or JPL sponsor about the delay.
- Notify the International Offices at Caltech and JPL so we can make an inquiry through our Congressional Representatives.
- Provide all supplementary documentation/information to the U.S. Consulate. Review the Department of State information regarding "further administrative processing."
- Check the call number or website to follow the status of your pending application.
- Contact the International Offices at Caltech or JPL once you have received your visa.