In most cases, US embassies and consulates issue the visa and return your passport within a few days or a couple of weeks. However, we have noticed a significant uptick in individuals being subject to additional review or screening via a deeper background check prior to receiving their visa. This is known as “administrative processing,” and if you are selected for it, the consular officer should provide you with an explanation known as a “221(g) letter.” Please notify ISSS immediately if you are selected for administrative processing and receive a 221(g) letter and scan a copy of it to isss@uab.edu and your department administrator. The consulate will email you when administrative processing is completed, usually within 30 days. However, there is no set timeframe, and it can take up to 60 days. The Department of State will neither discuss nor reveal the reason for requesting administrative processing on a particular applicant, and there are no provisions for expediting review. If you have not received your passport and visa within 60 days, we will work with your department to follow the instructions provided in the 221(g) letter and provide an additional support letter for you.

If you are employed or conduct research in a technologically or biologically “sensitive” field, consult your supervisor or faculty advisor to discuss contingency plans in the event you are placed under administrative processing or face security clearance issues.

  • Some individuals may be subject to a Security Advisory Opinion because of their country of origin, citizenship, field of study/research, or at the discretion of the consular officer. Security Advisory Opinions commonly take 6 to 8 weeks, but may take longer in some cases. As a reminder, citizens of Iran, Sudan, and Syria cannot apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico.
  • If an SAO is requested, the consular post will ask the Department of State to initiate the process of requesting clearances from various government agencies and databases including the FBI, CIA, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Asset Control, Interpol, the national criminal and law enforcement databases, the DOS Bureau of Non-proliferation, and others. The Bureau of Non-proliferation is concerned with technology transfer and other issues. It considers lasers and many other technologies studied and researched at UAB to be “sensitive” technologies with possibly risky applications or risk of being exported.
  • If you conduct research in certain technologically sensitive fields appearing on the TAL, the Department of State must conduct a security clearance prior to issuing a visa. Clearance may take one to several months. The TAL includes: nuclear technology; rocket systems; unmanned air vehicle subsystems; navigation, avionics, and flight control usable in rocket systems; chemical, biotechnological, and biomedical engineering; remote sensing, imaging, and reconnaissance; advanced computer/microelectronic technology; materials technology; information security; laser and directed energy systems technology; sensors and sensor technology; marine technology; robotics; and urban planning.Please understand that there can be many reasons for a delay in visa issuance other than administrative processing. All applicants must fulfill multiple criteria to the satisfaction of the consular officer. The burden of proof lies with applicants to demonstrate that the documents presented are genuine and that they are eligible for the visa.Please do not use outside channels to request political assistance. Unfortunately, congressional offices are often unable to help expedite visa issuance except in cases of extreme emergency, and even an interruption to patient care is not enough. The Department of State considers visa applications to be a matter of national security and will not circumvent the review process under any circumstances. Regardless, UAB (and the University of Alabama System) has a protocol for obtaining congressional assistance, and we must operate within that protocol. If you believe a situation is truly emergent, please contact UAB’s Senior International Officer.
  • ISSS cannot advise on HR issues about continuing pay and benefits for individuals selected for administrative processing other than to treat the individual as you would a US worker in a similar situation. Decisions about whether to place someone on unpaid leave, charge vacation days, etc. should be made at the departmental level in consultation with your HR professional. Similarly, if the individual selected for administrative processing is a student receiving a scholarship, student assistantship, or graduate assistantship please consult HR to determine next steps, if any.
  • If your student, employee, or visiting scholar is selected for administrative processing, notify ISSS immediately so that we can advise and provide additional guidance or a support letter as and when appropriate. We track these cases for trends, etc. The Department of State will not entertain inquiries until at least 30 days have passed, and bugging them will likely result in additional delays.

Information for Departments Whose Student/Employee/Visiting Scholar Is Selected for Administrative Processing


Please understand that there can be many reasons for a delay in visa issuance other than administrative processing. All applicants must fulfill multiple criteria to the satisfaction of the consular officer. The burden of proof lies with applicants to demonstrate that the documents presented are genuine and that they are eligible for the visa.

If your student, employee, or visiting scholar is selected for administrative processing, notify ISSS immediately so that we can advise and provide additional guidance or a support letter as and when appropriate. We track these cases for trends, etc. The Department of State will not entertain inquiries until at least 30 days have passed, and bugging them will likely result in additional delays.

Please do not use outside channels to request political assistance. Unfortunately, congressional offices are often unable to help expedite visa issuance except in cases of extreme emergency, and even an interruption to patient care is not enough. The Department of State considers visa applications to be a matter of national security and will not circumvent the review process under any circumstances. Regardless, UAB (and the University of Alabama System) has a protocol for obtaining congressional assistance, and we must operate within that protocol. If you believe a situation is truly emergent, please contact UAB’s Senior International Officer.

ISSS cannot advise on HR issues about continuing pay and benefits for individuals selected for administrative processing other than to treat the individual as you would a US worker in a similar situation. Decisions about whether to place someone on unpaid leave, charge vacation days, etc. should be made at the departmental level in consultation with your HR professional. Similarly, if the individual selected for administrative processing is a student receiving a scholarship, student assistantship, or graduate assistantship please consult HR to determine next steps, if any.