Since the final year of the Obama administration, the number of nonimmigrant visas issued each year has decreased from more than 10 million to approximately 8.7 million. Managing Member Sherrod Seward Esq. recently discussed this downward trend in an interview with Spectrum News 1, citing not just an increase in restrictions and outright bans but also the widespread use of a bureaucratic loophole: administrative processing.
Ideally, an adjudicating officer should either accept or deny an application as soon as they review it. Instead, many cases at U.S. consulates and embassies undergo administrative processing, which is like the black hole of the nonimmigrant visa system. According to a spokesperson for Representative Alma Adams, administrative processing can occur when a case is within the jurisdiction of either USCIS or the DOS.
A case may enter administrative processing for any of the following reasons, and more:
- Fraud investigation
- National security assessment (i.e. potential connections to terrorism/organized crime)
- Review or verification of the applicant’s criminal history
- Questionable behavior on social media
- Drug use for sports purposes (i.e. “doping”)
- Verification of the applicant’s relationship to their sponsor
- Assessment of whether an executive order suspending immigrant visas applies to the applicant
- A need for additional information
According to Attorney Seward, some cases will enter administrative processing for no reason at all. While the Department of State will not release the exact number of cases currently undergoing administrative processing, Attorney Seward and the office of Alma Adams agree that the number has increased.
Unfortunately, no law or policy limits the amount of time a case can remain in administrative processing. So, even if an applicant is exempt from the Trump administration’s recent immigration ban, administrative processing may allow their case to stay pending indefinitely.
The result, according to Attorney Seward, is a holdup of legal applications and the loss of millions of dollars that would normally arise from the activities of nonimmigrant visa holders—particularly athletes and performers on O and P visas.
A State Department official attributes these delays to the need to protect U.S. citizens from national security threats. Administrative processing is, according to the official, an aspect of “robust screening standards” that respond to “emerging threats.” Attorney Seward, however, says this is likely a way to limit the number of visa holders from certain countries.
While a lawyer can use several legal remedies to handle an application denial (e.g. appealing the decision, applying for a waiver, etc.), there is no legitimate way to compel an officer to make a decision on a case that has entered administrative processing. Once a year passes, an attorney can file a mandamus lawsuit in federal court, but most athletes’ and performers’ careers cannot afford to wait this long.
Working with Congressional Offices
While there is no official way to expedite a case that has entered administrative processing, inquiries from congressional officials are generally the most effective option for cases caught in these black holes. Nearly every congressperson has an immigration liaison who can submit official inquiries to U.S. consulates about case statuses.
Because these inquiries are difficult to obtain due to busy schedules, USCIS understaffing, and other challenges), Oakhurst Immigration Law will be working with congressional offices to try and make substantial changes. We are actively recruiting former immigration liaisons with the goal of establishing rapport with current liaisons throughout the United States. This may allow us to obtain regular assistance with administrative processing in addition to other matters, such as obtaining waivers and expediting appointments.
Retain Dedicated Legal Support Today
Especially today, the immigration system is rife with challenges. With the right support, however, your immigration goals may be more achievable than you believe. Oakhurst Immigration Law has successfully served internationally renowned athletes, performers, and others of extraordinary ability, helping them obtain nonimmigrant visas in as little time as possible. If your goal is to share your talent with the world, our team has the skills needed to turn this vision into reality.