Visa Decision Delays

If you have applied for a visa at the US Embassy in London or the US Consul General in Belfast, but your current status has remained “administrative processing,” or "refused" with a 221(g) letter, for an unexpectedly long amount of time, you are experiencing a visa decision delay. There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing a visa decision delay. A US lawyer will help explain the delay and may be able to resolve it.  To discuss your specific circumstances, contact us by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

National Security Concerns (CARRP and TRIG)

Visa decision delays may occur as a result of needed paperwork not being available at the time of your visa application interview.  It can also occur due to U.S. national security concerns raised by something on your application.  There are two key programs that can cause an undue delay for visa issuance based on national security concerns, Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP), in the United States, and Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG), which can be found for foreign nationals applying for visas from abroad.  Another important acronym associated with this topic is the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, FDNS, the section of the US embassies and consulates that handles concerns over national security.

TRIG is the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Ground.  An inadmissibility ground bars one from making a legal entry to the United States.  CARRP is the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program.  CARRP is a USCIS based program started with the Scharfen Memo in 2008.[1]  Unlike CARRP, TRIG has a statutory basis and is somewhat more transparent than CARRP.

A foreign national can find themselves with a visa decision delay, if

  1. an adjudicator can make an “articulable link” to prior, current or planned involvement in, or association with, an activity, individual or organization described in . . . the inadmissibility grounds related to terrorism;
  2. their name appears on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB, a.k.a., the Terrorist Watch List) - a database repeatedly criticized as inaccurate and over-inclusive.  It includes as many as one million names;
  3. they have travelled through areas of known terrorist activity,
  4. they have had large scale transfer or receipt of securities or funds,
  5. they have family members or close associates, such as a roommate, co-worker, employee, owner, partner, affiliate, or friend, who are on the Terrorist Watch List; or
  6. they were engaged in or related simply to “other suspicious activities.”

Common names.  One can also experience a visa decision delay if a security check produces a positive hit on your name and is associated with a national security related investigatory file, even if you yourself were never the subject of an investigation.

Once in administrative processing for a national security concern, it can require consular officers to search the record for a reason to deny such applications, or indefinitely delay adjudication at the request of other government agencies for as long as the person continues to be a national security concern.  The procedures are outside those of the Immigration & Nationality Act and related regulations.  In the US, the withholding of adjudication is authorized under the abeyance regulation, 8 CFR Sec. 103.2(b)(18).

National security concern applicants make up a new category of visa and immigration cases.  Visa adjudicators delay their decision, and then deny the visa application on other pretexts or indefinitely withhold adjudication.  The indefinite delay results in a de facto denial.

Forcing a decision with litigation in a US court, with a motion like a writ of mandamus makes the decision happen, but can yield mixed results.  It can yield a negative result, but worse it could threaten family members who hold visas and travel without molestation.  Clients should understand the risks of mandamus court actions in the United States. 

Another method for encouraging a consular decisions is congressional liaison, asking a US Congress person's office to make an inquiry.  This is possible where there is a US interest in the visa being issued, linked to a particular state.

National security concern applicants are in a type of “Fight Club” where the main rule is that no one talks about “Fight Club.”  Their adjudication track prohibits release of information to the applicant related to the finding that they are a “national security concern."  That said, when they do receive a visa, there is often an annotation on the face of the visa: "Clearance Received."

How to Resolve

A lawyer can approach the consular adjudicator if there are discrepancies in your record - with an attorney letter or client affidavit explaining and clarifying the mistake of fact.  An attorney can contact the consular adjudicator to ask whether the client can have an interview to discuss the national security concerns.  The attorney can file a Privacy Act Amendment of Record for any erroneous info, especially due to agency error, discovered in a client’s file.  The foreign national can also contact local FBI to request a Letterhead Memorandum (LHM) absolving them of any national security issues.

Contact Melissa Chavin – US Visa Lawyer

To discuss your specific circumstances and requirements, contact attorney Melissa Chavin to set up a consultation. Ms. Chavin is licensed to advise on US law, and can help you resolve your concerns.

Article Resource:

Paul O’Dwyer, Stacy Tolchin, Jay Gairson, & Denyse Sabagh, “Unable to Win! CARRP and TRIG,” Immigration Practice Pointers (AILA 2016-17 Ed.)

[1] USCIS Memorandum, J. Scharfen, “Policy for Vetting and Adjudicating Cases with National Security Concerns” (April 11, 2008)

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