Administrative Processing FBI Name checks


A DV2015 selectee from the forum named Martin has done a bit of research on the FBI name checks. These checks are not specific to DV lottery selectees, but the information gives an insight into some of the reasons why some cases are more likely to go on AP than others. In some countries there is a high chance of AP, in other countries it will happen rarely.

I have also speculated that KCC might be calling for some of these checks as part of the DS260 processing – and that might be something introduced this year with the new DS260 system. Perhaps I am giving USCIS/DoS too much credit – but if true it would at least explain why the DS260s are talking so long to process compared with the previous paper based process.  That would be advantageous to DV lottery selectees because as annoying as it is waiting for the DS260 to be completed, AP is far more detrimental since many AP checks failed to finish in previous years. Starting those checks earlier in the process would give AP cases a better chance to complete in time.

My thanks to Martin for this informative piece!

The Office of the Secretary of State for Visa Services maintains, that the FBI background check is a necessary process for sifting out terrorists, spies, and people that illegally transfer sensitive technologies. It also claims it only affects 2% of applicants, so if you’re unlucky to be chosen, be prepared to wait 12-360 days for a response, which might be a revocation of your previously approved visa. Most times, though, you would be approved.

The background check level you get depends on the application data or, specifically, nationality, you will be assigned one or more categories or class. These are code named: 

Mantis: (potential illegal transfer of sensitive technology)

Bear (for foreign government officials, representatives to international organisations,

and their families)

Donkey (name hits, certain nationalities)

Merlin (for refugees and asylum seekers)

Eagle(certain nationals of Cuba, China, Russia, Iran, Vietnam)

Condor (certain nationalities e.g. Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen.)

Hawk (for immigrant visas).

Horse (diplomatic visa holders of certain nationalities)

Pegasus (officials of Commonwealth of Independent States)

Afterwards, your information is forwarded to the pertinent agencies for a very thorough check– mostly FBI. Others could be CIA, DEA, U.S. Department of Commerce, Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Interpol, and the Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Non-proliferation.

This is where the delay really occurs. If everything goes well, you can have your approved visa in as little as three weeks, but if there is a problem of any sort, a delay could be anything from 30 days to 360 days. The most painful part is that you don’t know exactly how long it’s going to take, and there are no step by step updates, so you are stuck in a timeless time of waiting. Here are some reasons for delay:

1. Errors in the visa submission : The US Embassy from the country you are applying might mistakenly submit your information in a wrong format (different from what the agencies want), so the agency returns the data to the embassy. This obviously prolongs the security check and approval process. This situation happens every now and then, but it seems that the various agencies are working to standardise the submission format, which would help reduce such mistakes.

2. False Hits(Especially for Visas Mantis and Visas Condor): If your name matches that of someone on the FBI’s (or any other agency’s) list, you will be subjected to more scrutiny till you are either cleared or marked as a concern to security. Imagine if you are from a country with many identical names, this process will take much longer for you, and this accounts for most of the average processing time differences across various countries.

3. Visa Burden: If you apply at a peak time, when a lot of people are seeking to travel, this process will obviously take much longer. The agencies do not have enough personnel to deal with the spike, so they just do the best they can. Sometimes there are even backlogs, and this is why some people don’t get their visas for more than a year. More so, the agencies prioritise certain visa classes, therefore when there is an overload, certain requests are sidelined. For example, the FBI prioritises Visas Condor and Visas Mantis.

4. Hits: If your name and information submitted by the Embassy matches the one in any agency’s database, then you might want to forget about travelling any time soon because they will resort to fetching as much information as they possibly could. This would take a long time since they might have to request information from other non-related sources– sometimes this could require judicial approval. In addition, some agencies are yet to centralise their information storage systems, which means that it could be necessary to request paper files from branch offices. If you are considered a security threat, the agency will write a security advisory opinion on you and then send it back to the State for Visa Services, who then revokes your visa.

For example, Condor Checks, are required for specified individuals. The exact criteria for which applicants this Check applies to are confidential. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that any one of a number of factors may trigger the need for Condor Clearance:

  • Travel to predominantly Muslim countries
  • Prior foreign military service in certain countries
  • Prior employment in sensitive sectors
  • Specialised training that may have military, intelligence or security implications
  • Birth or residency in certain countries, not limited to Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen., Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria.

The U.S. Department of State reports that approximately 80% of Condor clearances are completed within 30 days. 

Visa Donkey Checks are based on a “name hit”, meaning a name is similar to an individual of interest to U.S. authorities. In theory, the name hit is non nationality-specific. However, male applicants from Middle Eastern countries are most often subject to this type of check. Processing estimates for most Visa Donkey clearances take between 2 to 4 months, although long delays are no unheard of for a select few.

The names are searched in a multitude of combinations, switching the order of first, last, middle names, as well as combinations with just the first and last, first and middle, and so on. It also searches different phonetic spelling variations of the names, especially important considering that many names have been transliterated from a language other than English.

Mantis Checks are required for individuals who are involved in any of the technologies included on a list of 15 areas. The Critical Fields List (CFL) of the Department of States Technology Alert List is very comprehensive and includes almost any field relating to military, weapons technology or intelligence. This includes biochemistry, chemical engineering, and certain medical research specialty fields. For example, a high school chemistry teacher from France intending to visit the U.S. could be subject to a Mantis Check. Most Mantis checks are completed within 10 weeks from the date of request by the consular officer.

Routine Criminal Checks are performed by immigration officials by using the Consular Lookout and Support System (also known as “CLASS”). This system contains information on criminal convictions, FBI records, and terrorist watch lists. The system is updated very regularly, and is a valuable tool of national security to immigration officials.

The biggest problem of the waiting process is that you do not have any access to the nature of the delay. You could call the consular a million times, and they would say the same exact thing– “your application is undergoing administrative processing…”