Integrity Legal - Law Firm in Bangkok | Bangkok Lawyer | Legal Services Thailand Back to
Integrity Legal - Resources 

Research & gain insights into Thai, American, and International Law.


Contact us: +66 2-266 3698

ResourcesVisa & Immigration LawVisa NewsUS Visa Application Processing: Issues Associated with DOS Staffing

US Visa Application Processing: Issues Associated with DOS Staffing

Transcript of the above video:

In this video today, we are going to be discussing the future of US visa processing at US Embassies and Consulates abroad. I have discussed this in the context of other matters but I wanted to make a specific video on this because I think it’s important for folks to understand what we may  be looking at moving forward.

There is a recent blog post from a colleague of mine named Steven Pattison. The post is dated November 14, 2017. Mr. Pattison is also a fellow immigration attorney; he is also a former consular officer, a Foreign Service officer who dealt with visa processing at various embassies and consulates outside the United States. So to quote directly from his recent blog post ‘Sounding the Alarm on State Department Staffing’ which can be found at and the title again is ‘Sounding the Alarm on State Department Staffing’.  To quote him directly, “the President of the Foreign Services Association, Ambassador Barbara Stevenson, has sounded the alarm over what she describes as an effort by the Trump Administration to weaken the Department of State by slashing staffing leaving senior management positions unfilled and freezing hiring for new entry level officers. This will severely undermine States ability to represent America’s interest. Is it any wonder, as Investor Stevenson points out, that in 2017 only about 8,000 individuals took the challenging foreign service exam, less than half the number (more than 17,000) who took the same exam in 2016”.  I want to stop this quote here and really point that out.  So in 2017, 8,000 took the Foreign Service exam. In 2016; in 17,000 took the exam. We are not talking about hirings; we are talking about who took the exam, to be hired. Quoting further, “if we are honest with ourselves, we should respect and admire the work that visa officers and managers perform under difficult and sometimes dangerous high stress conditions. We may not always agree with the visa decisions Consuls reach but most of us would prefer those decisions to be made by highly talented, intelligent, dedicated foreign service officers than by anyone else.”  I would tend to agree with those sentiments. Quoting further, “that’s why Ambassador Stevenson’s column should set off all kinds of alarm bells for us as she points out the ability of the US to carry out one of its core objectives, administering the visa process, has been fundamentally weakened by the Administration’s effort to reduce the agencies staff, importance and influence. The evisceration of the agency in the name of greater operational efficiency will not achieve that goal. In fact when it comes to the visa function, it will have the opposite effect. Make no mistake about it, when it comes to our clients will suffer from a diminished Department of States.  This is already happening. Fewer newer officers to adjudicate visas means longer waits for visa appointment. Fewer skilled consular managers means less oversight and more cursory adjudications by vice consuls who may feel empowered to play a law enforcement role rather than the administrative and diplomatic one. Vacancies in top management positions and bottom mean the visa policy discussions and decisions in Washington will be dominated by those in other agencies who believe that US interest are not served by facilitating legitimate travel but by restricting it.” Now, some of this gentleman’s comments, I don’t know that I totally agree with, for example “will it overnight become, will there be a change in paradigm to a sort of dogmatic law enforcement approach to visa processing?  I can see it happening in a longer term sort of context but if that’s going to happen tomorrow, I don’t think that’s probable. But that being said, a lot of good points are raised in this, most notably as I pointed out, half the people who took the Foreign Service exam, it’s half the number than it was last year of people who took the Foreign Service exam.

Meanwhile, and this was something I brought up when I started discussing things like Trump’s extreme vetting protocols and some of these new policies being instituted, I got some, I won’t say “flack” but let’s say negative feedback from some commentators on the internet who basically said, ‘well ,what does that have to do with you? You are just bringing this up to be kind of, I think that at root, the criticism was kind of based on, it was a bit sensationalistic to even bring it up. My point at the time, which remains my point at the time of this filming is, these policies don’t occur in a vacuum and some of these policies become very broad and they become “baked in” if you will, into the institutional hierarchy and the administrative processing functions of these agencies. So, these policies that have been instituted by Trump that are extensively for things along the Southern border or extensively  involving countries in the middle east, can have a broad impact is what I am trying to say, and they clearly are. This! The Trump Administration does not let’s just say they don’t place a priority on filling vacancies in the State Department or at least they do not seem to at the time of this filming. Whether that is right or wrong is not for discussion in this video. It is what it is. I am simply here to provide some insight into how this could probably impact future visa applications and visa processing and I think one of the most succinct things to take away from this video is the following. I think the visa application process, if things continue the way they are with respect to resources and staffing, I think that is fairly safe to say that you are going to see future delays in how visas are processed at US Embassies and Consulates abroad. There is no blame on anyone working inside these facilities for this; it is simply a fact. If fewer resources are allocated for visa processing or adjudication of visa applications, it stands to reason that a fewer such cases are going to get processed through. It seems to be logical to infer that backlog of visa applications is going to be forthcoming. So the thing to take away from this video is, those who are thinking about eminently doing their visa application maybe make it more eminent; maybe it’s time to seriously think about moving up that timetable. Again, I’m not saying that tomorrow all of this is going to radically change but I think that 2, 3 years down the road which you’d be surprised, in the immigration world 2 or 3 years, you know, it can move fairly quickly. I think we could see, not a C change, but I think that there could be some fundamental differences between the US visa process as it sits right now and  the US visa process as it will sit in a few years.