Virginia, US

Mar 12 2020

State Department Clarifies Changes in Online Visa Status Updates

United States

At a Glance

  • The State Department’s online portal for visa applicants will no longer use “administrative processing” to describe a visa application refused under 211(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • A visa application under “administrative processing” will be deemed “refused” unless and until the application is overturned.
  • While the agency claims the new change is intended to more accurately describe a cases status, the change may also have been made to limit lawsuits requesting action on applications in administrative processing on the grounds that they have not been adjudicated. 

The Issue

The State Department has issued a clarification to recent changes it made to its online portal for visa applicants, the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). The explanation comes after stakeholders raised concerns that many applications that had previously been identified as being under “administrative processing” were now being listed as “refused.”

The agency has clarified that in spite of the new language used to describe a case’s status, there have been no changes to those applications under administrative processing. Visa applications under this added level of review (i.e. applications requiring additional information or subject to additional background or security screening) will hold the case status “refused” to more accurately convey the outcome of their visa interview. 

Visa Applications Outcomes

When a foreign national applies for a visa, there are only two potential outcomes – visa issuance or visa refusal.  Though in the past, CEAC also used “administrative processing” to describe the outcome of certain visa applications, those applications had technically been refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) even though the outcome may ultimately be overturned. Such cases may go from “refused” to “issued” if the applicant can demonstrate to a consular officer that s/he is eligible for a visa or if information comes to the attention of the consular officer from other sources that resolve any outstanding issues relating to the applicant’s eligibility for the visa, such as the results of a background or security check.

In spite of this explanation, some sources have suggested that the change, while technically accurate, may also have been made to limit mandamus actions asserting that an application in administrative processing has not been adjudicated.

What this means for visa applicants

When reviewing a case status update, the visa applicant should refer to the instructions the consular officer gave at the end of the visa interview and to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html for more information about his or her case.

Where an application is ultimately refused, the applicant should receive a separate notice related to the refusal.  If it is remains unclear as to whether the application has been refused or remains under administrative processing, the visa applicant or his/her immigration counsel may reach out to the particular post to confirm. Keep in mind that in some cases, the online "refusal" status is accompanied by a caption that states that if the applicant was told by a consular officer that their case was refused for administrative processing, then the case status will remain refused until processing is complete.

Fragomen is carefully following this change and will provide updates as they occur. 

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.