Any person planning to travel to US has to go through a visa interview process at the US embassy/consulate, and as part of the interview process, the consulate officer reviews all the submitted documents and information and makes the decision, whether to approve or reject the visa for that individual. As part of the visa interview process, they often issue 221g form, when they want to do additional processing and cannot make the decision at the time interview is being conducted. Let’s look at the details regarding 221g and some of the process steps for 221g situations, what happens after that in this article.
What is 221(g) in context of US visa Stamping ?
When the US consulate officer determines that additional processing is required before they can make the decision on your US visa issuance, they issue 221(g) form. It is a basically a piece of paper and it can be in various colors, depending on the consulate and processing they would like to do or information they need to verify.
When is 221g issued ? What are the common reason for 221g ?
A person can be put under administrative processing,also called as 221g, because of several reasons. Some of the most common reasons are:
- 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.
- 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).
- Petitioner Information Management Service(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 Department of State (DOS) do after 221g is issued?
Once your visa stamping case is put under administrative processing using 221g, following steps happen:
- Issuance of 221g a Color Slip : A slip will be issued to you as the visa applicant by the US Consulate officer. 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).
- Submit Documents, mentioned in 221g Slip : 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.
- Waiting time : After you submit the documents, if requested in the slip, you just need to sit back and wait for them to process your case. There is nothing you need to do, just need to wait…It can be long at times…
- Submit Passport or Visa issuance Decision : 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) and give a denial letter. Check out Sample 221g US Visa Denial Letter.
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How long does 221g processing take to resolve and come to a decision ?
There is no set timeline or SLA for 221g processing. It totally depends on the case and it can take as little as a week, or as much as several months. It is very hard to know how much time it will take for them to come to a decision on your visa stamping case. As per US Travel Docs Website, they say that most of the administrative processing cases resolve typically in 60 days, but there is no SLA as such. See below.
When can you follow up on 221g with Consulate or US Dept of State ?
As per US Dept of State, unless it is an emergency like injury, death of family member or something critical, you should not contact them regarding administrative processing before 180 Days. It is kind of long, but that’s what it is.. See below from Dept of State website.
How to follow-up on your 221g processing ? What are the options to check your 221g case ?
As per US Dept of state guidance, you cannot reach out before 180 days, but users can still track their case online using the options provided and sometimes, they can call as well. Below are the various options to follow-up on your 221g case :
- Track your passport on US Travel Docs Website
- Track your case number on US Department of State Visa Status Page. Note that not all cases can be tracked electronically, and each consulate has a different method of updating the cases. You should check your country’s US Travel Docs website to know where to check.
- Call customer service using contact us on US Travel Docs Website. There are options for live chat, Skype calling and other options. Note that they will not provide any more meaningful information than what’s already available from (1) and (2), but you can always ask more.
- Email concerned US consulate (contact information available at respective consulate website). Note that they may not be very good in responding, but you can try it.
- Email or call Department of State in Washington DC (contact information available on Department of State 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. As they mention, you need to wait for 180 days before reaching out to them. In the past it was 60 days, but now it has gone up.
- 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 180 days or more. Again, there is no guarantee. In the past we had the 60 days guidance to reach out on VFS website, but now it is different and the the guidance on Dept of State website is 180 days to follow-up for non-emergency cases. .
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Can I expedite 221g processing? Is there premium processing for US Visa Administrative Processing ?
Absolutely no premium processing or way to expedite the process, unless it is an emergency as indicated. You just need to wait. The wait can be long, but it is what it is…
Does delay in 221g processing 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 alternatives to 221g situation for your US Visa?
There are not many alternates, but the few options available are:
- Apply for US 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 with US consulate.
- Apply for same visa but through another employer (applicable more to H1B 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 with 221g ?
In case the US stamping request is rejected after the administrative processing:
- Consulate will send the petition back to USCIS for reconsideration along w/ their comments
- All your original documents will be returned to you, except for I-797 which is sent to USCIS
- Once USCIS receives the petition, they will send a notice of receipt to the petitioner
- 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.
- Based on petitioner’s response, USCIS will finally reinstate the petition or deny it
- 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.
Again, this is a very lengthy process and can take time. Some of these steps would happen during the administrative processing as well.
We continue to update the 221g article, based on most commonly asked questions in the blog.
Also, you can check out our 221(g) tracker that has anonymous data with users like you, who added the details for community benefit. Waiting for the 221(g) response from US Consulate can be very painful…To help everyone be informed on average processing time and other similar cases, we have built an easy way to track for users their 221(g) status and let the community have an idea on the timeline as well. It is fully anonymous. Please add your case to the 221(g) Tracker.
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