All individuals who apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad for a U.S. entry or re-entry visa are screened before the visa is issued, regardless of nationality. After the events of September 11, 2001, no consular post wants to make the mistake of issuing a visa to an individual who should not get one.
The consular post conducts an initial review of the application and interviews the applicant about his/her planned activity in the U.S. It is at this initial stage that clear and concise information about the student's or scholar's teaching, research, or other activity should be explained. In most cases, the visa is issued within a matter of days or weeks.
Issues that may cause problems or delays in the visa application process:
The consular post asks the Department of State in Washington, D.C. to initiate the process of requesting clearances from various government agencies and databases including the FBI, CIA, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Asset Control, Interpol, the national criminal and law enforcement databases, the DOS Bureau of Non-proliferation, and others.
The Bureau of Non-proliferation is concerned with technology transfer and other issues. This bureau considers many technologies that people study and research at OSU to be "sensitive" technologies with possibly risky applications or at risk of being exported. It is important to understand this in order to understand why OSU researchers are subject to these clearances.
Although discretion to request SAOs always rests with the consular post, what follows will well-prepare the student/scholar for travel:
First, report the delay to the Office of International Services. If the applicant is still awaiting the security clearance and visa 90 days or more after making the application, please notify OIS again.
Unfortunately, congressional offices are unable to help expedite visa issuance. The Department of State considers this to be a matter of national security and will not circumvent the security advisory opinion process under any circumstances. However, a combination of efforts on the part of congressional representatives, institutions such as OSU, and higher education associations has resulted in high-level awareness of the problems and there are on-going efforts for improvement.
OSU departments, laboratories, and centers should decide on a case-by-case basis how to handle this issue. Decisions about whether to place someone on unpaid leave, charge vacation days, or terminate employment should be made at the departmental level.