Applicants for US Visa Do Not Need to Leave Their Passports

APS Meeting with State Department
There have been many reported instances of physicists applying for a US visa and being unable to travel for long periods because their passport is retained at the US Consular Office while their visa application is processed.

Amy Flatten, director of international affairs for APS, met with Tony Edson, then deputy assistant secretary for visa services of the US Department of State, to discuss this problem. Edson clarified the Department of State visa application procedures.

US Department of State Application Procedures

  • Consular Officers do not need to retain an applicant’s passport
  • 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 - Department of State Email Exchange
Edson emphasized that an email exchange between him and Flatten to clarify these policies could be posted on the APS website. Applicants for a US 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 US visa, please print this email exchange between APS and the US Department of Stateformat_pdf and provide it during your visa interview.