Travelers applying for a visa to travel to the United States are not required to leave their passports with the U.S. Consular Office while waiting for visa processing. This is a clarification, not a change in the regulations.
APS has heard of instances where physicists have been unable to travel for long periods while their passport is held at the U.S. Consular Office during the visa application process. Amy Flatten, APS Director of International Affairs, has now obtained clarification of the procedure from a State Department official.
According to the State Department, passports must be submitted when applying for a visa. In some cases, the consular office retains the passport while the visa application is being processed so that the visa may be issued as soon as any required clearances are completed. However, this is not a requirement. Consular officers do not need to keep the passport during visa processing, and travelers should feel free to ask for their passports back. Visa applicants would then need to return their passport to the consular office once they are cleared so that the visa can be issued. Requesting one’s passport back will not cause any delay in visa processing, and there is no reason a traveler should defer or miss travel while their visa is being processed. Physicists who want documentation of the regulations to bring to their visa interview can visit www.aps.org/programs/international/visa/passport.cfm