A visa may be denied or delayed based on required security clearances. All nonimmigrant visa applicants are subject to security clearances as part of the process. The procedure requires consular officers to send the visa applicant's name to be checked against information in various security, law enforcement, and intelligence databases.
As an international student, you should be aware that each and every time you apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate you could potentially face a security clearance. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. Factor this extra time into your planned visa processing time if you believe you may belong to an affected group. Requests to expedite the security clearance process are rarely granted. Applicants may not inquire about the status of a security clearance until at least 60 days have passed since the date of the interview or the submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.
There are four common checks:
Condor - security check based on country of birth, citizenship, or permanent residency in a country that is known as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Mantis - security based on fields of study that appears on the Critical Fields List of the Department of State’s Technology Alert List.
Donkey - clearance based on a name match for non-criminal issues, generally because someone has a common name.
National Crime Information Center (NCIC) - clearance is based on a name for potential criminal issues such as a name on a terrorism watch list.
It is important to note that you will not be notified about the type of security check you must undergo; consular officers routinely refer to security clearance delays simply as “administrative processing.” For more information, please see this Department of State page on Administrative Processing Information.