Plan for visa issuance delays at U.S. Consulates. During the summer travel season, U.S. consulates overseas are busier and may have reduced hours. If you will apply for a new visa while abroad, check the relevant consulate or embassy for specific information about appointments, application procedures and processing times.
Plan for security clearance delays if requesting a new visa. If you will apply for a new visa before returning to the United States, be prepared for lengthy wait times and the possibility that your application will be flagged for enhanced security checks. 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, directives from the Trump Administration require the State Department and other agencies to implement more stringent vetting of applicants.
If a security clearance is required, your visa cannot be issued until the clearance has been completed. Because this process is confidential, the consulate will not confirm that a clearance is underway but may indicate that “administrative processing” is required. Security clearances can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks or more. In general, the government will not expedite a security clearance.
When you return to the U.S. please be prepared for enhanced security screening procedures. When you return to the United States, you will need to go through the Biometric Data Collection System, a check-in process where your fingerprints, photograph and travel documents are scanned against U.S. national security and police databases. You may also be subject to questioning about your immigration status, travel history, the purpose of your visit, background, employment and other issues.
The enhanced security screening could include a search of your electronic devices. Before you travel, check your employer’s procedures for dealing with searches of company-owned phones, laptops and other devices.
During inspection, answer questions to the
best of your ability. If you don’t understand a question, ask for
clarification. If you are detained at the port of entry, you are generally not
entitled to have a lawyer present, but you should ask for permission to call our
offices if the need arises.
Remember to obtain your Form I-94 arrival record. Once you have been cleared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at an air or sea port of entry, your passport will be stamped to show the date and class of admission, and the expiration date of your authorized stay. Your immigration information and duration of stay will also be entered into CBP’s online I-94 arrival record system. The expiration date on the passport stamp and the I-94 record marks the expiration of your eligibility to remain in valid legal status in the United States. Overstaying this date can have serious consequences.
After your arrival in the United States, you must obtain a printout of your online I-94 here. You should send a copy to our office and retain one for your records. Please notify us immediately if you notice any errors in your I-94 record.