Chapter 5. Terrorist Safe Havens (7120 Report) -- 5.6. Visas for Participants in U.S. Government Programs

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
April 30, 2009

According to the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, current visa processing guidelines are sufficient to meet any requirements for the issuance of appropriate visas to individuals from predominantly Muslim nations to participate in any new exchange program, as envisioned by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs' policy is to expedite all student and exchange visitor applications, with the goal of giving every student and exchange visitor applicant the opportunity to meet their program start date in the United States, providing the individual is admissible. This policy is in place at every embassy and consulate worldwide. In countries with a significant waiting period for a visa appointment due to high demand, this policy reduces the wait time for students and exchange visitors from weeks to mere days. In all cases requiring a separate administrative processing, the average processing time is now about 60 to 90 days. Processing can take longer, however, and applicants should allow additional time. Administrative processing can only be expedited when circumstances involve significant USG interests or life and death situations.

The most important factor in expediting visa applications is for the applicants, in conjunction with their program sponsors, to initiate their visa applications well in advance of their planned travel. New exchange programs should be planned far enough in advance to allow the necessary time for visa processing. Candidates should be advised to obtain passports immediately, visit embassy websites for instructions on applying for U.S. visas, and ensure they follow instructions concerning required documents and procedures, as well as for information on how to complete a visa application and how to arrange an appointment.