What Are Security Checks?
An important aspect of Nonimmigrant Visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates is the security check procedure. A security check is performed by immigration officials as a necessary part of each visa application. The individual annoyance of waiting for a delayed security check pales in comparison to the national security concern of carefully screening individuals who want to enter the U.S.
The uncertainty of the security check process and the often time-consuming delays can cause a potential visa applicant to wait an unspecified amount of time. Meanwhile, business plans, employment opportunities, major life events and holidays can pass without the issuance of a visa. The most common types of checks required are discussed below.
What are the Types of Security Checks?
Visa Condor Checks, are required for specified individuals. The exact criteria for which applicants this Check applies to are confidential. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that any one of a number of factors may trigger the need for Visa Condor Clearance:
- Travel to predominantly Muslim countries
- Prior foreign military service in certain countries
- Prior employment in sensitive sectors
- Specialized training that may have military, intelligence or security implications
- Birth or residency in certain countries, not limited to Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen., Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North, Korea, Sudan, Syria.
The U.S. Department of State reports that approximately 80% of Visas Condor clearances are completed within 30 days.
Visa Donkey Checks are based on a “name hit”, meaning a name is similar to an individual of interest to U.S. authorities. In theory, the name hit is non nationality-specific. However, male applicants from Middle Eastern countries are most often subject to this type of check. Processing estimates for most Visa Donkey clearances take between 2 to 4 months, although long delays are no unheard of for a select few.
Visa Mantis Checks are required for individuals who are involved in any of the technologies included on a list of 15 areas. The Critical Fields List (CFL) of the Department of States Technology Alert List is very comprehensive and includes almost any field relating to military, weapons technology or intelligence. This includes biochemistry, chemical engineering, and certain medical research specialty fields. For example, a high school chemistry teacher from France intending to visit the U.S. could be subject to a Mantis Check. Most Mantis checks are completed within 10 weeks from the date of request by the consular officer.
Routine Criminal Checks are performed by immigration officials by using the Consular Lookout and Support System (also known as “CLASS”). This system contains information on criminal convictions, FBI records, and terrorist watch lists. The system is updated very regularly, and is a valuable tool of national security to immigration officials.
How Can a Lengthy Delay be Prevented?
Although the initiation of certain security checks on the part of consular officers is entirely discretionary, some checks can be prevented if all necessary information is provided to the officers during the application process, thus speeding up the overall process. Special attention must be given to the information submitted on visa forms and in supplemental documents. All post-specific directions must be followed carefully and all manner of supporting documentation must be included.
Because many names are common to many people (e.g. “Maria Gonzalez” or “Jin Wang”), false hits sometimes occur. Special care must be given to such cases so that the proper documents are obtained for presentation to immigration authorities. In the instance of a criminal hit, court dispositions, arrest records, and legal briefs can be submitted to immigration authorities for clarification.
The Department of State’s Visa Office will field public inquiries in regards to long-pending checks of over 90 days. However, due to security concerns, little information is usually forthcoming. Contrary to popular belief, congressional offices are unable to help expedite visa issuance. The Department of State considers security checks to be a matter of national security and is not willing allow applicants to bypass the clearance process.
The only circumstance under which expediting security clearance is viable is if there is a significant U.S. government interest or humanitarian interest. A request to expedite is normally requested at the post where the visa was originally applied for, and ultimately adjudicated by the Washington D.C.’s Visa Office