Addressing Visa Delays and Problems

Please review the information provided to avoid visa delays and find resources if your visa has been delayed.
A visa document

Through our visa resources, APS hopes that international attendees can easily prepare for their visit to the United States.

Letters of invitation for APS and unit meetings

APS encourages international attendance at March and April Meetings as well as unit Meetings, as physics is a global enterprise that benefits from the collaboration of scientists worldwide.

Request a visa letter of invitation

If you have visa problems

The National Academies’ International Visitors Office (IVO) is a valuable resource on visa-related issues for scientists. The IVO can inquire at the U.S. Department of State about the status of certain U.S. visa applications that are delayed.

Complete the IVO visa questionnaire

Excessive delays

You can report to excessive delays encountered in the visa application process to the IVO if:

  • You are a student, scholar, or professional in the sciences and applied for a non-B1 visa to come to the UnS for a science-related activity and your application has been undergoing administrative processing for 60 days since your visa interview
  • You applied for a B-1 visa to come to the U.S. for a science-related activity and your application has been undergoing administrative processing for at least 30 days.

Avoiding visa problems

The information on this page is given in good faith, but regulations may change. The only authoritative sources of information are U.S. government websites.

APS cannot intervene with U.S. Embassies or consulates abroad or with the U.S. State Department on behalf of any member or APS meeting attendee.

The best way to avoid visa issues and delays is to:

  • Plan ahead
  • Apply early
  • Bring a copy of your curriculum vitae (CV) to the visa interview

Estimate how long the application process will take

The Bureau of Consular Affairs provides estimated visa wait times for interviews and non-immigrant visa processing at every U.S. Consular office worldwide.

View estimated visa appointment wait times

Applying as a Third Country National

If you apply for a visa in a country other than your home country, you are considered a Third Country National (TCN). TCN applications require additional resources and time to process; sometimes consular officers are unable to properly adjudicate the application. As a result, TCNs have a higher rate of visa denial, so we strongly recommend that you apply in your home country. If this is not possible, be extra diligent about providing evidence of your ties to your home country. Assume that your application will take longer to process and plan accordingly.

Visas Mantis

Some applicants experience delays beyond the estimates posted on the visa wait times website due to a security review process known as "Visas Mantis." This is an additional processing step for applicants with a background in one of the technologies on the Technology Alert List (TAL).

A Visa Mantis review will delay the processing of your application. To facilitate this review, bring a copy of your CV to the visa interview and apply early to avoid a delay in your travel to the United States. Many visa applicants who have previously been approved under the Visa Mantis process may not need to undergo another review when they reapply for a visa if they are returning to the same program and position.

The TAL is used by Consular Officials to determine the "ineligibility [of] aliens who are coming to engage in an activity involving one of the scientific or technical fields on the TAL. Such activity includes graduate-level studies, teaching, conducting research, participating in exchange programs, receiving training or employment, or engaging in commercial transactions."

Retaining your passport

Applicants for U.S. visas do not need to leave their passports with the U.S. Consular Office. There have been many reported instances of physicists applying for a U.S. visa and being unable to travel for long periods because their passport is retained at the U.S. Consular Office while their visa application is processed.

Amy Flatten, APS Director of International Affairs, met with Tony Edson, then deputy assistant secretary for visa services of the U.S. Department of State, to discuss this problem.

Edson clarified the U.S. visa application procedures:

  • Consular officers do not need to retain an applicant’s passport.
  • Visa applicants should feel free to ask for their passport instead of leaving it with the consular officer.
  • Requesting one’s passport will not delay visa processing.
  • Any delay would only involve the applicant transporting the passport back to the Consular Office (in person, via courier, etc.) to have the visa inserted.

APS and US Department of State communications

Edson emphasized that an email exchange between him and Flatten to clarify these policies could be posted on the APS website. Applicants for a U.S. visa may find it useful to bring a copy of the exchange with them to their visa interview. While the communication below is dated from October 2006, the information remains accurate according to information that APS has received from the Department of State.

If you are applying for a U.S. visa, please download and print the email exchange between APS and the U.S. Department of State and provide it during your visa interview.


People in an airport

Find information for US citizens, US visitors, and residents about traveling outside of the US.

A woman participating in a meeting by writing on a Post-It note on a whiteboard

Organizing an international physics meeting in the United States will need planning ahead to ensure the attendance of international participants.

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APS provides general visa and related information for physicists traveling internationally to attend scientific meetings and other events.

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Through our international outreach activities and worldwide membership, APS serves as a welcoming global hub for physicists from around the world.

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