Visa applications by non-US citizen FRA employees usually undergo “security clearance” (also called “administrative processing”) prior to the visa issuance. A security clearance request can be triggered by the type of work performed by the visa applicant (e.g. scientist/physicist) or by the place of work (e.g. Fermilab). Each security clearance involves a review of queries submitted to numerous state, federal and international agencies, a process that is managed by the FBI. There is no timeline for completion of the security clearance and (by law) there is no way to expedite the process. Processing security clearances can be as short as three weeks, but in some cases visa applications by FRA employees have taken from 2 ½ to 4 months from the date of interview to issuance of the visa.
The Visa Office tracks visa application/security clearance duration based on Lab employee experience and is well placed to advise on this issue. Please read the Travel Advisory before making any travel plans.
Travel on Official Lab Business
Unanticipated delays in returning to the Lab from outside the U.S. can result in significant increase in the cost of travel and dislocation in work responsibilities. For these reasons we must ensure, prior to departure, that:
Any foreign national traveling outside the U.S. on Fermilab business and needing to apply for a visa while abroad with which to re-enter the U.S. MUST complete the Foreign Travel with Visa Application Approval and Information Form. This form must be signed by both the foreign national and supervisor, and submitted to the Visa Office no less than: 100 days prior to US departure (conference attendees) or 45 days prior to US departure (all other travel). Failure to follow the procedures outlined on that form, to timely submit the completed form, or to follow all other applicable Travel Office rules relating to foreign travel, may result in the travel costs being deemed unallowable and thus not reimbursable.
All foreign nationals who will travel outside the U.S. and apply for a visa while abroad should discuss their plans with the Visa Office.
Communications During Visa Processing
During the visa application process, employees must keep the Visa Office advised of the status of the application including the date the application was submitted, the date of the interview, the results of the interview, and any communications between the Consulate and the employee. The Visa Office will communicate with the Department of State as appropriate to ensure the visa is promptly issued once security clearance is complete. Documentation of these efforts is necessary to show that Fermilab has made every effort to minimize the consequences and costs of unexpected delays in visa issuance.
FRA will not assign an employee to work outside the US if the travel is for personal reasons.
Travel For Personal Reasons
Employees who are traveling outside the U.S. for personal reasons and who will apply for a new visa also should go to the Visa Office’s Travel Advisory to review current visa processing information. They also should meet with the Visa Office prior to finalizing travel plans. Delays in visa issuance can result in delays in return, and thereby result in significant additional cost and problems in staffing and project completion for the Lab.