According to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, “[t]he average processing time for [security advisory opinion] clearances has increased to 6-7 weeks.” The increased processing time will apparently affect U.S. Consulates worldwide because it is due to a shortage of personnel in Washington, DC.
As background, under U.S. immigration law, a consular officer should refuse to issue a visa to an applicant whom the officer has reason to believe may violate U.S. laws prohibiting export of sensitive goods, technology, or information. The â€œVisas Mantisâ€ security advisory opinion (SAO) is a check for potential export violators.
The State Department in conjunction with other U.S. government agencies maintains a â€œTechnology Alert Listâ€ (TAL). This list covers both military technologies and technologies with dual civilian and military uses. If a consular officer believes that once in the U.S. you may engage in activities related to a field covered by the TAL, then the consular officer must carry out an SAO unless you â€œclearlyâ€ will not violate export laws. The officer will consider your education, training, work experience, and stated purpose for travel.
Science and technology professionals, if possible, should apply for U.S. visas at least two months before they plan to travel. For more about SAOs, see our article: “The ‘Visas Mantis’ Security Advisory Opinio (SAO): An Overview for Science and Technology Professionals.”