Ask an immigration attorney about administrative processing and you may hear: “be patient,” “it takes time,” “you’ll hear from them soon,” “not much we can do,” “it’s a waiting game.” I’m not knocking those responses. I’ve used them too, but unlike most of my colleagues, I’ve also had the displeasure of sitting outside the United States while being stuck in this Black Hole like experience for myself. So, I’d like to add another phrase about administrative processing to that list of truths, “it sucks!” And for the sake of keeping this article PG, I’m holding back my salty language. Here’s why administrative processing at a U.S. consulate or embassy can get you down, along with my suggestions to help keep your sanity during the process.
The Interview Went Well Though
So you thought your interview went well. I hear you. You had an answer to every question and paperwork for every request. You were charming, classy and darn right on top of your game. Maybe the consular officer went as far to tell you that you’ll get your visa in the next week or so. You left the interview and went to lunch whistling your favorite tune all chipper and such. You called your mom, your dad, and the neighbor down the street. You're going to America!
You waited a week. You waited a bit longer. You convinced yourself your passport was on its way. You checked the forums online and scoped out if others were getting their passports back. You asked friends about their experiences. The blood starts pooling in your head. The panic sets in.
WTF just happened!
Look, whether the consular officer handed you a 221(g) notice, or you found out sometime after your interview, the result is the same – administrative processing is an unpleasant experience any way you slice it. A case can go into administrative processing for all sorts of reasons, including namechecks and the consulate's verification of facts in your application. It may or may not have anything to do with you personally. For example, if you applied for an H-1B, your case might have gone into administrative processing because the consulate needed additional information from /about your employer. However, just because the consular officer didn’t ask you for any additional information at the interview, does not mean the consulate will not need any additional information or documentation later on.
One of my favorite sayings about life, and I have many, comes from Tupac Shakur: “You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened…or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the f*ck on.” As hard as this is to do in life, I try to think about this whenever something doesn’t go my way. I don’t always succeed at it, but it’s an important reminder for us all. If you spend too much time thinking about what may or may not have caused your case to fall into administrative processing, you will slowly but surely dig yourself into despair. Try your best to keep busy. Work out. Hike. Bike. Dance. Stay active. Eat well. Drink plenty of water. Spend time with those you love and keep moving forward. When the consulate is done with their processing, they will let you know. If they need something, they will let you know. For now, you have done your part. If you have an employment sponsor, follow up with them every 90 days to see if you can encourage them to ask their lawyer to reach out to the consulate. Otherwise, contact your own lawyer, and have them follow up for you.
There is a fine line between making inquiries from time to time and pestering the consulate. The last thing you want to do is get someone at the consulate peeved. The most likely scenario is that an inquiry to the consulate will yield a generic response similar to “your case is still in administrative processing. It cannot be expedited, and we cannot continue on your case till the administrative processing is completed. There is no timeframe.” Or words to that affect. Nevertheless, I believe it’s important to reach out to the consulate at set intervals, every 90 days or so, for a few reasons. First, it will help you feel like you’re doing something productive. Second, even if the administrative processing is complete on your case, your file might be collecting dust someplace. An inquiry may help move it along. Last, staying on top of your case shows interest. This is especially important for employers. For example, when an employer sponsoring an H-1B makes inquiries periodically, it lets the consulate know the employer is serious about the employee, and that the need for the H-1B is necessary to their business. In my opinion, a laissez-faire attitude by an employer isn’t helpful in administrative processing cases. But again, there is a fine line. Showing eagerness should not cross into desperation territory.
Administrative processing has no concept of time as we know it. We often use the Black Hole in space as an analogy to talk about administrative processing for a reason. To the person stuck in administrative processing, it can feel like their case is in some unreachable place. Neither the lawyer, employer, nor the consulate can give you a straight answer. They can’t tell you how long this is going to take or what’s going on. You’re not even sure the consulate knows what’s happening. It’s a crazy time, I know.
You should know that most administrative processing cases work themselves out, and many people receive their visas after a short time. Others, will be stuck for many many months with no end in sight. That’s just the reality of it. When we struggle in life, we often look for a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel to keep us going. Unfortunately, much of your time spent in administrative processing, especially if it drags on for many months, will not offer a single speck of light in the distance. However, if the consulate sends you an email asking for further information or documentation, that is a glimmer of light. So don’t panic. Respond timely.
There’s an important distinction in our analogy between a Black Hole and administrative processing. What goes into a Black Hole doesn’t come back out. However, what goes into administrative processing, will come back out, eventually.
Sunil C. Patel is an experienced immigration attorney and himself a first-generation immigrant. Formerly a managing attorney with a multinational immigration and corporate law firm, he now focuses his practice exclusively in immigration law at his own law firm, Sunil C. Patel Immigration Law, LLC. To discuss your case with Attorney Sunil, please schedule a consultation.