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Security Advisory Opinions

Prior to issuing a visa to a foreign national at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy, Consular Officers must first determine if the applicant meets the eligibility requirements of the visa. While Consular Officers are trained in making most of these eligibility determinations, they are not always able to make a determination based on security concerns. Therefore, if a Consular Officer knows or has reason to believe an applicant may pose a threat to the security of the United States, the Consular Officer must defer to the U.S. Department of State in making the determination of the applicant’s eligibility to enter the U.S. based on security-related concerns about the applicant. In these circumstances, the Consular Officer will make a request to the Department of State for a Security Advisory Opinion.

What is a Security Advisory Opinion?

Security Advisory Opinions are issued by the Department of State in response to a request from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy when a Consular Officer knows or has reason to believe the applicant may pose a security-related concern. A Security Advisory Opinion is a security clearance investigatory process that is used by Consular Officers when deciding whether to grant or deny a visa to enter the United States to certain visa applicants. The Security Advisory Opinion provides in-depth background security information pertaining to a foreign national who is applying for a visa to enter the United States based on an investigation in the applicant’s background for possible security-related concerns relating to espionage, sabotage, intent to undermine or overthrow the U.S. government, unlawful export of sensitive information, technology or goods, terrorism, or other illegal activities.. The Department of State collaborates with several different U.S. agencies to determine if there are any security concerns with the particular applicant. Based on the findings of each agency, the Department of State will issue a Security Advisory Opinion to the Consular Officer, which will enable the Consular Officer to render a decision on the application.

When is a Security Advisory Opinion Triggered?

Although Consular Officers have discretion as to when to request a Security Advisory Opinion, unless it is clear that no security-related concerns are present in the case, the Consular Officer will request a Security Advisory Opinion. There are certain circumstances that trigger a Security Advisory Opinion.

When a foreign national seeks to obtain a visa for entry into the United States at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy, the applicant’s name is entered into the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) in order to provide a quick name-check of the applicant. CLASS provides any known background information about the applicant and flags applicants who may have anything of concern in their record. If the applicant’s name is flagged in CLASS, the Consular Officer will suspend the case and submit a SAO request.

In addition, if the applicant has ever previously received an unfavorable Security Advisory Opinion, the CO will then have reason to believe that the applicant poses a security-related concern and will request a new Security Advisory Opinion.

A Security Advisory Opinion will be requested for applicants who are nationals of certain nations. For instance, a Security Advisory Opinion request is mandatory for applicants who are nationals or employees of states that sponsor terrorism. Currently, these nations are: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. In addition, a Consular Officer will issue a Security Advisory Opinion for applicants who are nationals of or have strong connections with a nation included on the “List of 26.” While the list is classified, secondary sources have reported that the list includes the following nations: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Dijbouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Finally, if the Consular Officer knows or has reason to know that the applicant poses a security-related concern as defined in Section 212(a)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Consular Officer will likely issue a request for a Security Advisory Opinion unless it is clear that the applicant does not pose a security-related concern. Section 212(a)(3)(A) deems inadmissible those foreign nationals who seek to enter the United States in order to participate in unlawful spying or sabotage, unlawful export of goods, technology, or sensitive information, activity aimed at toppling the U.S. government, or other unlawful activity.

What happens if the Consular Officer Decides to Request a Security Advisory Opinion in My Case?

When a Consular Officer requests a Security Advisory Opinion, the Consular Officer may not issue a visa until the Security Advisory Opinion is issued from the Department of State. Thus, the applicant must wait until they are cleared by the Department of State before they may receive a visa.

What is the Wait Time for a Security Advisory Opinion?

The length of time it takes the Department of State to issue a Security Advisory Opinion varies depending on the type of security-related concern involved. For instance, most Security Advisory Opinions for foreign nationals of the “List of 26” counties (Visa Condor) or foreign nationals from states that sponsor terrorism (Visa Eagle) take between two and eight weeks to process. However, cases involving foreign nationals who are flagged in CLASS (Visa Donkey) may take several months to be cleared.

What Happens after a Security Advisory Opinion is Issued?

If the Security Advisory Opinion is issued to the Consular Officer and reports that the applicant does not have any security-related concerns, the Consular Officer may then proceed to adjudicate your case and issue a visa if you are eligible. If the Security Advisory Opinion indicates that there are security-related concerns in your case, the Consular Officer will deny your visa application.

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