Travel Abroad and Visa Issuance Delays

Dear Clients and Friends,

Now that the summer travel season is in full swing, it is becoming increasingly clear that temporary workers, students, exchange visitors, and other nonimmigrants that need to obtain a new entry visa at an American Consulate to reenter the U.S. may encounter significant delays. There are several hurdles which applicants may face:

Reminder: an approval notice issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Form I-797 is NOT a visa and is NOT acceptable by itself for reentry to the U.S. (Different rules apply for Canadian citizens).

Appointment availability: Virtually all visa seekers need a personal appointment. American Consulates worldwide are backlogged in scheduling such that it may take four, six, or even eight weeks before an appointment is available.

Scheduling a visa appointment: the logistics of scheduling vary from one Consulate to another. The best source of information on practice at a particular Consulate is the Department of State website at

Physical security measures: Consulates have taken extremely strict measures to enhance building security. Cell phones, laptops, even remote entry car keys are generally prohibited. Applicants who carry these items with them may be denied entry to the building, as there will be no provision for safekeeping of such personal items. More detailed information is available on

Establishing eligibility: it is essential to carry all appropriate documentation required to establish visa eligibility. Despite making every effort to be prepared, many applicants are asked to present documents or other information which may not have been reasonably foreseen.

Security clearance delays: this can be the most devastating consequence of enhanced efforts to screen visa applicants. Applicants whose personal data may closely match that of suspect individuals are sometimes delayed for months while background checks are completed.

Based on the foregoing, any nonimmigrant traveling abroad who will require a new visa to reenter the U.S. must carefully consider whether it is feasible to travel abroad, accomplish the purpose of their visit, and have enough time to successfully navigate the visa issuance process.

There are two additional issues involving travel abroad worth reiterating at this time:

  1. Passports must generally be valid for at least six months BEYOND the requested period of admission. If the Applicant’s passport is valid for s shorter period, the authorized stay granted at the port of entry will also be limited accordingly.

  2. Upon reentry to the U.S. all nonimmigrants are issued Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, stamped and noted by the Immigration Officer with the classification and period of stay granted. Applicants should carefully examine their Form I-94 upon issuance to insure that they have been accorded the proper classification and period of time they are entitled to. The date to which admitted on the Form I-94 is the critical date in determining when their authorized stay expires.