Are you a foreign national planning to fly to the United States? Be it to visit or start a career there to fulfill your dreams, you’ve to go through certain formalities to be granted a visa. The visa interview process can be daunting as there are chances that the consular officers can put your case on hold or deny your visa. The issue of Form 221(g) is an uncertainty that one has to deal with during the process.
This article discusses form 221(g), typical reasons for visa refusals, processing times, and delays in the case.
What is Section 221 (g)?
Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits the issuance of a visa when an otherwise qualified visa applicant is found to be missing a specific document, or when a consular officer decides that additional “security clearance” is required. 221(g) is mainly used by consular officers as a way of providing the visa applicant with another opportunity to supplement their applications to address the insufficiencies in the initial application. Once that is addressed, they overcome the 221(g) refusal and the visa may be issued.
Generally, 221(g) is issued for one of the following reasons:
• Incomplete application and/or further documentation required: If further documents are required to complete their case, the applicant will be informed of what is needed and how to provide it to the embassy or consulate.
• Administrative processing: This is required before a decision can be made regarding the eligibility for a visa. The applicant will be given a letter stating this and next-step instructions after the administrative processing is complete.
Receiving the 221(g) letter does not necessarily mean that the visa application has been rejected or the chances of getting the visa are slim. Along with the 221(g) letter, the consular officer may also supply the applicant with a form that specifies the reasons for the refusal and what further action is required.
The officer will likely reconsider the visa application at a later date, based on supplementary information or upon the resolution of administrative processing, and determine that the applicant is eligible.
Refusal under Section 221(g)
An application may be denied because the consular officer cannot determine the applicant’s eligibility to receive a visa since they don’t qualify for the visa category for which they applied, or because the information reviewed indicates the applicant falls within the scope of one of the inadmissibility or ineligibility grounds of the law.
The applicant will have one year from the date they were refused a visa to submit the additional information. If they fail to provide the required additional information within one year, they must reapply for the visa and pay another application fee.
Reasons for Refusal
A visa may be temporarily refused and a 221(g) form can be issued due to several reasons. Some of the most common reasons for refusal are:
- Additional supporting documents are required such as proof of employment.
- The applicant is employed in a field listed on the Technology Alert List (TAL) and the consular officer requests a Visas Mantis Security Advisory Opinion or has a name matching to an entry in the alert list.
- All visa pages in the applicant’s passport have been filled.
- The photo supplied on the application does not meet the requirements.
- A visa officer has asked for an advisory opinion regarding the relevance of inadmissibility grounds.
- The petition approval of the applicant has yet to be listed in the Petition Information Management Service (PIMS).
Types of 221(g) Forms
The color of the form helps the applicant identify the type of 221(g) issued to them and take the next steps to complete the process.
The colors of the forms and their corresponding meanings are as follows:
Blue: Indicates that additional supporting documentation is required. Once the applicant submits the necessary documents, the officer will review them and decide whether to approve or deny the visa application.
White: Signifies a complex 221(g) category. It indicates that the application requires additional processing by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The decision for approval or refusal of the application is usually based on the information obtained by the USCIS.
Pink: Issued to applicants when a consular officer has apprehensions about the details provided in the application such as the applicant’s true purpose for visiting the U.S., work information, or qualifications.
Yellow: Indicates that the visa consulate requires additional time to review the documentation. The actual amount of time needed may depend on the details of each case. General administrative processing is typically needed to validate the documentation that the applicant has supplied.
Note: When a pink form is issued, the application usually requires further administrative processing. Applicants who receive a 221(g) pink form may also receive a reference ID to track the status of the application.
What Happens After 221(g) is Issued?
If the Department of State issues an applicant a 221(g), they will be provided a slip with an assigned case number to their stamping. Usually, the case number starts with the year their interview took place and is followed by their assigned case number. Depending on their case, they will have to submit the respective documents needed to get through their visa application process.
If the form designates that additional documentation is required to process a visa application, the consulate will notify the applicant. They can usually submit the requested documents to the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) electronically or at an appropriate location indicated on the 221(g) form. Processing for the visa may not proceed until all the requested documents and information have been received.
Once the necessary documentation has been submitted, there may be a waiting period before the application is fully processed. The wait time typically differs from case-to-case and the applicant may not be required to take any further action within the waiting period. A longer 221(g) process does not mean the applicant will get rejected. Some cases take more administrative work than others due to the complexities involved.
After the processing gets completed and the applicant’s visa eligibility is determined, the U.S. consulate will request that they submit a passport (if it has not been submitted already) and the visa consulate will stamp the passport with a U.S. visa.
In case the US stamping request is rejected after the administrative processing, the consulate will send the petition back to USCIS for reconsideration along with their comments. If it is determined that the applicant is ineligible for a visa, the documents they initially provided (except for 797) will be returned along with a denial letter.
Once USCIS receives the petition, they will send a notice of receipt to the petitioner. USCIS will review the petition (usually takes 2-3 months) and either issue NOIR (Notice of Intent to Revoke) or NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny). The petitioner will be given a certain period to respond. Based on the 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 with the applicant to appear at the consulate.
Follow Up on 221(g)
There are different ways to follow up on the process, but one should wait at least 60 days before making any inquiries. Here are some of the ways to follow up:
- Check out the VFS website: The first option for an applicant is to check out the website of the consulate and track the passport or case number electronically. It should be noted that only some consulates offer electronic tracking and that not every consulate offers this service.
- Call the consulate: If required, the applicant can give the consulate a call to find out where their paperwork lies in the process. However, they probably won’t be able to give the applicant specific details on the case.
- Send an email: Send the consulate an email requesting more information. This option does not guarantee extra information on where the applicant is at in their process.
Note: As per the US Department of State, an applicant should not contact them regarding administrative processing before 180 days, unless it is an emergency like injury, death of a family member, or something critical.
Alternative Options after Visa Rejection
Regrettably, there are not many alternatives to obtain another visa once a visa gets rejected. These are the two options available:
•Apply for a visa under a category different from the one the applicant previously applied under. This is possible only if the applicant is eligible for an alternative visa category. In this case, the applicant may not be required to withdraw his or her pending application.
•Apply for the same visa that the applicant previously applied for, but with a different employer. Based on the applicant’s existing petition, their employer can file a cap-exempt petition on the applicant’s behalf. If the cap-exempt petition is approved, the applicant may schedule another visa interview. The applicant is not usually required to withdraw their existing 221(g) application when applying for the same visa through a different employer.