Any person planning to travel to US has to go through an interview process at the US embassy/consulate, and as part of the interview process, the officer reviews all the submitted document and information and makes the call whether to approve or reject the visa. As part of the process, they often issue 221g when they want to do additional processing, and cannot make the decision at the time interview is being conducted.
Here, I will try to capture as much information on 221g to try to explain the process.
What is 221g?
When the consulate officer determines that additional processing is required before they can make the decision, they issue 221g.
When is 221g issued?
A person can be put under administrative processing, because of several reasons. Some of the most common reasons are:
1. Background check: This can happen if a person has a common muslim name, or is working in an industry like pharmaceutical, biotech, engineering etc that’s there on TAL (Technology Alert List); or has a name matching to an entry in alert list.
2. Employment check: This can happen if a person is working for a consulting company and the officer wants to ensure that the submitted client/project information is correct; or want to check if the employer maintains control over employee’s tasks and activities (employer-employee relationship).
3. PIMS: This can happen when the petition has not been updated at the KSC (Kentucky Service Center) and the officer puts the processing on hold until the information gets updated there.
What does the DOS do after 221g is issued?
Once your case is put under administrative processing, following steps happen:
1. A slip will be issued. Different color slips are issued for different reasons by different consulates. The slip will have the case number assigned to your stamping. The case number starts w/ the year of interview date and will be of the format 2012xxx-xxx-x or 2012xxx-xxx-xx (assuming the candidate went for interview in 2012).
2. If the consulate needs additional documents for the processing, they will ask you to submit the documents. These can be submitted electronically or at VFS drop-box. The issued slip will have information about the required documents and how to submit them. The processing will not start until all the documents have been submitted.
3. After this, you just need to sit back and wait for them to process your case.
4. Once the processing is complete and you are determined to be eligible for the visa, then you will be asked to submit the passport (if not already submitted) and they would stamp the visa in the passport. If you are not found to be eligible, then they would return the original documents (except for 797).
How long does it take to resolve?
There is no set timeline for 221g processing. It can take as little as a week, or as much as several months.
How to follow-up?
As per DOS “Before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants or their representatives will need to wait at least 60 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.” One can follow-up in following ways:
1. Track your passport on VFS website
2. Track your case number on concerned consulate website. Note that not all cases can be tracked electronically, and each consulate has a different method of updating the cases.
3. Call VFS (contact information available on VFS website). Note that they will not provide any more meaningful information than what’s already available from (1) and (2)
4. Email concerned consulate (contact information available at respective consulate website). Note that they may not be very good in responding.
5. Email or call Department of State in Washington DC (contact information available on DOS website). Note that they will not provide any more meaningful information than what’s already available from (1) and (2), and may be short in conversation.
6. If you were working in US, then you can email your Senator and ask them for help. However, this should be done only if it has been pending for more than 60 days.
Can I expedite 221g processing?
There is no way to expedite the process.
Does delay mean rejection?
Not necessarily. Unfortunately, administrative processing takes time, and one needs to remain hopeful. If one has been asked to submit the passport, then that’s definitely a positive sign. However, if one has not been asked to submit the passport, then it’s not necessarily a negative sign.
Are there any alternates to this?
There are not many alternates, but the few ones available are:
1. Apply for visa in another category. This can be done as long as you are eligible for that visa category. One doesn’t need to withdraw the pending 221g application.
2. Apply for same visa but through another employer (applicable more to H-1 applicants). Based on your current petition, an employer (same or different) can file cap-exempt petition for you. Once it is approved you can re-appear for visa interview. Again, one doesn’t need to withdraw the pending 221g application.
What happens in case of rejection?
In case the stamping request is rejected after the processing:
1. Consulate will send the petition back to USCIS for reconsideration along w/ their comments
2. All your original documents will be returned to you, except for 797 which is sent to USCIS
3. Once USCIS receives the petition, they will send a notice of receipt to the petitioner
4. USCIS will review the petition (this could take 2-3 months) and either issue NOIR (Notice of Intent to Revoke) or NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny). The petitioner will be given certain days (30-60 days, actual days given is mentioned in the NOIR/NOID) to respond.
5. Based on petitioner’s response, USCIS will finally reinstate the petition or deny it
6. If it’s reinstated, then USCIS will send the document to the concerned consulate, which in turn will get in touch w/ you to appear at the consulate.
[As I get more information on 221g and based on most commonly asked questions in the blog, I will continue to update this post]
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