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Navigating the Black Hole of Visa Administrative Processing

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

The visa application is complete and submitted. The interview done. Then, instead of issuing the visa, the consular officer hands issues a piece of paper advising that the applicant is now in administrative processing. In most cases, the consular officer wants more information.


This can be very frustrating, especially if the applicant needs the visa now. So, what are the applicant's options?

  1. First, don't panic (Yes, in the immigration context, this is Number 1 almost all of the time).

  2. Respond to the request for additional information as quickly and as completely as possible.

  3. Administrative processing is not forever (notwithstanding the black hole reference). Until relatively recently, most cases were resolved in about 60 days. Now, the State Department advises that administrative processing can take at least 180 days (almost 4 months longer).

  4. If the applicant needs it sooner, s/he (or an attorney) can write and request expedited review. But the applicant needs to demonstrate a hardship, and this can be very difficult to do. A grant of expedited review is going to be very much the exception and not the rule.

  5. If 180 days comes and goes with no decision, you can make a visa inquiry with the consulate or embassy.

  6. Finally, if that inquiry in No. 5 does not work or the applicant would be extremely prejudiced by a long delay, the applicant can file a petition for a writ of mandamus in U.S. District Court asking the court to order the embassy or consulate to make a decision on the visa application. This is a strategic decision and it is best to consult with an attorney before filing. As with other mandamus petitions, the court only orders the government to make a decision. It does not order them how to decide the application. Where you file the lawsuit will depend on the facts of your specific case. For example, if the applicant applied for an F1 Visa, you can file the lawsuit where the school is located.

With any of these steps, we strongly recommend that you consult an attorney, especially before filing anything in Federal Court,

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