University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Security Clearance
Visa Issuance and Security Clearance (for all visa types)

The U.S. Department of State has implemented security clearance procedures for the issuance of Non-Immigrant Visas (NIV). There may be significant delays before your visa application is approved. If you need to apply for a new visa, please submit your application to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy as soon as possible after you arrive at your destination overseas. The screening process can be as simple as a name check in the U.S. government databases, or it can be more comprehensive and time consuming. If the consulate decides to seek a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO) before issuing you a visa, they will suspend your visa application and designate it as "pending administrative processing." Such processing requires the consulate to refer your visa application information to Washington D.C., where it is sent on to several security and government agencies for background checking. These background checks usually take 2-8 weeks, during which time you must wait abroad. However, even the consulate cannot predict the actual processing time for each application.

Most commonly, a security screening is triggered by nationality, country of citizenship, countries you have visited in the past, and your field of study or expertise. Foreign nationals from the following countries are affected by the security clearance process: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Other countries and criteria may be added to the above list without notice. The U.S. State Department has not officially confirmed the above list or criteria. The U.S. Transportation Security Agency has also added ten "countries of interest" (Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen) and three countries listed as "state sponsors of terrorism" (Iran, Syria, and Sudan) to a requirement for additional security checks before boarding flights to the U.S.

Also, if you are a University employee or student doing work with sensitive technology - i.e. technology with application to both military and civilian purposes, it may speed up the background check if you supply detailed information to the consulate about the nature of your background and research. Have your faculty supervisor write a letter addressing the following items (do this before you go to the consulate if possible):

  1. Description of your current or most recent research/professional projects in detail (in the U.S. or abroad), your planned research/projects at the U of M and description of practical applications of most recent and planned research/projects. Explain if this research is/will be in the public domain. Assume that you are describing your work to a technical expert, scientist, or professional in your field.
  2. Your University of Minnesota department's goals and objectives as related to your work in the U.S.
  3. Plans after completion of your work (i.e., where will you live/study/work?).
  4. Any sponsoring institutions (other than the U of M) that will fund your research/projects.
Please note that neither ISSS, your academic department, nor any Congressional representative can intervene on your behalf if you experience any delays due to the security clearance procedures, or if your visa is denied as a result of a security clearance check. The U.S. government views the application for a visa within the context of national security; therefore, ISSS cannot expedite the processing of a visa or advocate on your behalf.