Sawahreh v. United States Department of State

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA MOHAMMAD YOUNIS ABDULSALAM SAWAHREH, Plaintiff, v. Civil Action No. 22-1456 (JEB) UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION Plaintiff Dr. Mohammad Younis Abdulsalam Sawahreh, a physician, is a Jordanian citizen who resides in Qatar. He awaits a decision on his application for a J-1 visa, which he requires to enroll in a pediatric residency program to which he has been accepted in the United States. He interviewed for the visa on April 27, 2021, at the U.S. Embassy in Doha but has not yet received his visa nor had his application finally refused. Plaintiff contends that the fifteen months that he has now waited for a final decision constitutes an unreasonable delay under the Administrative Procedure Act and asks the Court to order the Government Defendants to act. Defendants now move to dismiss. Because the Court finds that a decision on Sawahreh’s visa application has not been unreasonably delayed, it will grant the Motion. I. Background The Court begins with an overview of the process for obtaining a J-1 visa and then turns to the background of Plaintiff’s claims and the procedural history of the case. 1 A. J-1 Visas The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant “exchange visitor” visa that allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States in order to teach or study. See U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., Exchange Visitors (April 22, 2020), (USCIS J-1 Visa Information); 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(J). As the J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, J-1 visitors must return to their country upon completion of their program. Id. The Department of State administers the J-1 exchange-visitor program by designating various public and private organizations as sponsoring entities. See USCIS J-1 Visa Information. To obtain a J-1 visa, an applicant must first “apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization in the United States.” U.S. Dep’t of State, Exchange Visitor Visa (last visited Sept. 12, 2022), Upon acceptance to an approved program, she must then complete Form DS-160 (the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application), submit biometric data, and attend an interview with a Department of State consular officer to determine eligibility for the visa. Id.; see 8 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(B); 22 C.F.R. §§ 41.102, 41.103. Once an applicant has properly completed each of these components, a consular officer “must issue, refuse the visa, or,” in circumstances inapplicable here, “discontinue granting the visa.” 22 C.F.R. § 41.121(a). The officer need only make an initial, rather than final, determination about an applicant’s visa eligibility. In other words, under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an officer can temporarily refuse to issue a visa in order to allow for further administrative processing of an applicant’s case if the officer needs more information or time to determine eligibility. See 8 U.S.C. § 1201(g); U.S. Dep’t of State, Administrative Processing Information (last visited Sept. 12, 2022), The 2 Department of State publishes visa-application statuses …

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