Virginia, US


If you are traveling outside the United States and will be applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy, you should be aware of State Department security procedures and should also be prepared for delays in visa issuance. Visa issuance may take as long as several weeks; most cases will be processed to completion in less time, but in some instances, security clearances may take longer than the stated period. If you plan to apply for a visa outside the United States, you should contact the relevant consulate or embassy for specific information on application procedures and processing times. The U.S. consulate may require your visa application to undergo additional security screening based on your country of nationality, whether your name is similar to an individual listed in a U.S. government security database, or whether your job or degree is in a high-technology field, among other reasons. Though security checks are a regular part of the application process, new directives from the Trump Administration require the State Department and other agencies to implement more stringent vetting of applicants.
Foreign nationals who are currently applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate must submit Form DS-160, the electronic nonimmigrant visa application. Form DS-160 is completed online and is electronically transmitted to the State Department.
State Department guidelines require most classes of nonimmigrant visa applicants to appear at consulates for personal interviews, with the exception of certain foreign nationals applying to renew a visa that remains valid or has been expired for one year or less. Most consulates use an online appointment system for visa applicants.  Be prepared for the possibility of lengthy waits of four to six weeks or longer for visa appointments. During a visa appointment, you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed about your visa application and your prospective stay in the United States. You may also be subject to a sometimes-lengthy security clearance, discussed further below.
In most cases, before approving the visa application and issuing the visa, the U.S. consulate must verify the approval of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) petition that is the basis for the visa application. To make this verification, the consulate will consult the State Department’s Petition Information Management Service (PIMS), an electronic database that contains information on petition approvals. Please note that it may take several days or more for the consulate to verify the approval in the PIMS system, particularly if the visa applicant was the beneficiary of a petition to change or extend nonimmigrant status. Visa applicants should be prepared for the possibility of delays while the consulate verifies the petition approval.
If you will be applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate, you should contact the consular post at which you will apply for a nonimmigrant visa in order to obtain the latest information on procedures, requirements and appointment wait times.
If you are between the ages of 14 and 79 and are applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy, you will be required to make a personal appearance at the post so that your fingerprints and photograph can be taken. Biometric information captured during the visa application process is later coordinated with fingerprints and photographs taken for Biometric Data Collection (formerly the US-VISIT) at the U.S. port of entry (discussed below).
When applying for a visa to the United States, you may be subject to additional security and background checks. Though the State Department has provided only limited information on the circumstances that will prompt the checks, the following may trigger additional screening:
Citizenship, nationality or country of birth.
Special scrutiny is imposed on male visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 who were born in or are nationals or citizens of 26 countries of concern. Though the State Department has declined to release the list of countries on national security grounds, it is thought to include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Citizens of North Korea are subject to increased scrutiny as well.
Background information.
The State Department requires visa applicants to provide extensive background information on the applicant’s foreign travel history, education, military service, weapons and combat training, membership in and contributions to charitable organizations and other details. This information may trigger more intensive security clearances.
Involvement in high-technology fields.
If you work in high technology, engineering, or the sciences, you should be prepared to be questioned closely about the details of your job. This is also true if you work with products or services that have both commercial and military applications (known as "dual use" technologies). Visa delays may result as consular officers seek security advisory opinions from federal agencies on your work background. If an export control license is required for a position, you must ensure that your job activities are within the terms of the license and that your employer can document your compliance with the license.
Home country references for students and exchange visitors.
All applicants for foreign student visas in the F and M categories and exchange visitor visas in the J category must provide information on their family members and work history, and provide the names, addresses and telephone numbers of at least two persons in the country of residence who can verify information about the applicant. Consular officers may elect to verify an applicant’s background information with family members, current and former employers and other references.
Appearance in national security and law enforcement databases.
Consular officers are required to screen visa applicants through the State Department’s security databases and lookout lists, which contain the names of individuals identified as security risks. A positive “hit” on one of these lists will trigger additional security clearances and may cause the consular officer to seek guidance from State Department headquarters on the further handling of the case; as a result, visas may be delayed or refused. If you believe that your name may appear or is similar to a name that appears in one of these databases, please contact the Fragomen professional with whom you normally work.