I appeared for the visa interview at the US consulate in Ottawa on the cold morning of February 2nd. On the evening of February 6th I picked up my passport with a stamped visa from a courier service on the outskirts of the city . The surprising part is that a year passed between these events (2012-2013). On the day of the interview I was put under section 221(g) and my application was sent for administrative processing, with the consular officer informing me I was in for a long haul.
The first time I applied for a United States visa was in 2003 to pursue my undergraduate studies. I was an anomaly amongst international students who usually pursue graduate studies in US, so much so that I was the only one in my category on that day applying for the visa at the consulate. I was still a minor (not yet 18) then but it did not matter as the consulate still gave me 221(g) and sent my case for administrative processing which almost cost me a semester. Finally the visa was issued after 3 and half months and I made it to US on the last day to register for classes so that I don’t lose my scholarship. During the 6 years of studies (BS and MS) I visited home twice thus living out most of the that time in US. After my MS I continued with optional training work followed by full time work in a major company in RF industry, who filed for my work visa (H1B). And then a family situation required me to travel back home and I appeared at the consulate to get the visa for the approved petition to be stamped to my passport. Having been through 221(g) before I knew of the possibilities that lied in store.
Usually 221(g) puts the applicants in limbo as they wait for the result of an opaque system, with no specific timelines and no real updates as to what is going on with their case. But the year long wait was far from dull. It had a mix of confusion, anxiety, worry, frustration, expectation and hope. This involved keeping up with my job on other side of the world, working remotely, staying up nights to manage the time space continuum between my home country and US, letting down teams in several projects with the news that I wont be able to join them for the execution phase, traveling to 3 cities for office space, experiencing a Canadian winter all of which was quite a test. But that is not the full story I had one of the most supporting managers who stood up for me for the entire year, several colleagues who accommodated me, finally after 9 years I was able to spend some much needed time with my family, met several individuals in similar situation as me and had waited longer with a less helpful job and got introduced to refugees in Canada who were trying to forget the only place they knew as home and live in the new place even though they barely knew the language of their adopted home. Thus every time an avenue closed another opened (Indeed with every difficulty is ease).
From outside 221(g) is a very broken system with too many loopholes, with a random selection criteria, rampant miscommunication between agencies (sometimes upon query they respond saying the officer has not responded to our update message) and no real cross checks. On several occasions I searched Google to find out about 221(g) and what can be done either to assist with the process or to expedite it or to change it. I had to maneuver through several staggered forums, discussion threads, blogs before finding any relevant information. This blog is an attempt to collect and present information on 221(g) in a simple format.