“So you’re a rocket scientist? That don’t impress me much!”

– Shania Twain

In a post 9-11 era, it’s all about security. The Technology Alert List or “TAL” is, amongst other things, a laundry list of technology and science “critical fields” that serve as guidance for consular officers when adjudicating visa applications. TAL’s purpose is to prevent the illegal export of goods, technology, or sensitive information via foreign nationals who may be involved in or exposed to TAL critical fields as part of their proposed studies, research, work, training, or business travel to the United States.

I’ve been “TAL’d”

If you’ve been TAL’d, you’ll know it. At the time of your visa interview, you will receive a list of additional information that you’ll be asked submit to the US Embassy, including details of your work, education, research, and travel history. Following submission of the additional information, you will need to wait until administrative processing is complete, and you are contacted by the Embassy. TAL processing can take anywhere between 4-8 weeks, or even longer in some cases.

Navigating TAL 

For some, a TAL check may be an inevitable consequence of a particular professional or academic background. For others, it may simply be a result of something in the applicant’s background that sounds like a TAL critical field (a consular officer’s decision to request a TAL check is discretionary).

So whether you’re a mad scientist, or just the average high-tech Joe, the following tips may be helpful to consider before, during, and following your visa interview:

  1. Apply early. If required, a TAL check can take several weeks or months to process. The earlier you apply, the better the chances you’ll be able to travel to the US as planned.
  2. Do your homework. Prepare the information in advance, and be ready to present it at your visa interview.
  3. Keep it simple. We know your technology rocks, but the consular officer may not be a tekkie like you. Be ready to reduce your technical expertise to digestible terms.
  4. Don’t be a nudge. If you’ve been TAL’d, you will need to wait patiently until the additional processing is complete. The Embassy cannot provide information about your case or expedite processing no matter how many times you email them. 
  5. Track it. Following your interview, the US Embassy will provide you with an ID number so that you can track the status of your application online. This is the best source of information while your application is pending.

Jen’s Stats

Over the years, I’ve prepared hundreds of high-tech clients for their visa interviews. Some have been TAL’d, but the overwhelming majority have not. Out of the clients who were TAL’d, 99.9% were ultimately issued visas.

For more on TAL procedures at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=megTaZoCtlo