221(g) can be broadly classified into four categories, based on the kind of additional processing needed:
1. Administrative Processing – 221(g) is given in this category when visa officer wants to check something in your background. The case is sent to an agency in Washington, D.C. for further handling to establish the applicants eligibility for the visa. A clearance by this department or agency is required for issuing the visa. Usually the consulate mentions to the candidate that they are sending the case for administrative processing when they give them 221(g) in this category. Name Checks, Security Review, TAL etc, fall in this category.
Standard Statement on 221(g) letter: Your application for a non-immigrant visa has not been refused. At present, your application must be suspended under section 221g of the immigration and nationality Act. Embassy xxxxxx will resume action on your application after we are informed that this review is completed. Please be advised, however, we do not control the pace or scope of this review.
- Administrative processing “
Once the application in held under this category the some of the following steps usually happen:
- Extensive Name Check – For common name hits that occur at the consulate further investigation is carried out to ensure the identity of the individual
- Finger Prints Investigation- Finger prints taken at the interview are forwarded to FBI for cross checking against records
- Condor Checks: This happens to check on the following items
- Travel to predominantly Muslim countries
- Prior foreign military service in certain countries
- Prior employment in sensitive sectors
- Specialized training that may have military, intelligence or security implications
- Birth or residency in certain countries
- Mantis Check – Conducted on individuals involved in one of the 15 fields in critical fields list on the Department of State Technology Alert List
- NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Lookup: For checking on any previous criminal records
- Consulate Consolidated Database (CCD) check – for all previous applications and records with US consulates
- Checking in any of the alert systems: IBIS (Interagency Border Inspection System), NIIS (Non-Immigrant Information System), CLASS (Consular Lookout and Support System), TIPOFF (Classified DOS Bureau of Intelligence database), NAILS (National Automated Immigration Lookout System), TECS II (Treasury Enforcement and Communucation System), TSC and TTIC databases (DOS Terrorist Screening system)
Further information about administrative processing, processing times and issues can be found on:
2. Further Consulate Review – 221(g) of this type is issued when the visa officer wants to further investigate your application file. The case is held at the consulate for additional time to carry out this investigation. The consulate officer gives 221(g) in this category as supporting documentation or information to clear these cases is not immediately accessible, so they put the visa on hold at the consulate till that missing piece is available. It also can happen when your case is being more closely scrutinized for accuracy. They mention to the candidate that everything is fine with their application but the consulate needs more time to process the application.
Sample Statement on 221(g) letter: “Your application for a non immigrant visa has been placed in our pending category. Per section 221(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act further documentation or processing is needed before we can make a final determination on your case.
____When the processing is complete on your case, someone from the consulate section will notify you and ask you to return the Consulate General on any workday”
Usually in these cases the resolution time is quicker as the the case is being verified by the consulate itself unless it is further reclassified into other categories of 221(g).
3. Missing information or documentation: When the visa office discovers that the applicants file is missing some document or information, the individual is given a sheet of missing documents and informed that their application is suspended under 221(g) until the documents are submitted. The applicant has a time period depending on the consulate to submit the missing document. Upon submission the case is reconsidered.
Sample Statement on 221(g) letter: “Further action in your case has been suspended under Section 221(g) of the United States Immigration and Nationlity Act, pending the receipt and review of the information and documents below”
Submit the requested documents as soon as possible.
4. Employee Employer Relationship(EVC/EC Model) – This applies to H1B holders only. The visa officers has concerns with the nature of employment so 221(g) is issued. The case is sent back to USCIS as the consulate sees mismatches with information within the PIMS (Petition Information Management System) conflicting either the employee-employer relation or issue with one of the companies in the relation. The USCIS needs to check and validate the employee relation is genuine and the companies are not under scrutiny for any violations. In a employer vendor client (EVC) model or employer client (EC) model if the candidate is missing essential documentation (such as Client Letter) or provides mismatching information the consulate sends the cases back to USCIS to verify the initially approved application. If the USCIS reaffirms the approved visa application the consulate can either accept that decision or invite the candidate for another interview to further clarify any questions regarding the application.
Sample Statement on 221(g) letter: “Your case has been suspended under section 221(g) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. We have returned your application and petition to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).”
The application is forwarded to USCIS with a memorandum explaining the case as presented at the time of the interview. The consulate does not handle the case any further until a clearance is obtained from USCIS.
The guidelines used for determining are mentioned in the USCIS link below and the validity of employee employer relation guidelines in a USCIS memo (Use it in preparing your application and interview)
The following are the next steps that take place
- Petition is returned to the United States by the interviewing consulate for “further review” in what is called a diplomatic pouch.
- Returned petition is received by the NVC. It is reviewed and entered into the fraud database by fraud management.
- Returned petition is sent to the local USCIS service center where the petition was originally filed and approved.
- Local service center receives returned petition.
- Local service center who processed the original petition sends a notice of receipt to the petitioner.
- Local service center reviews the returned petition and consular officer notes on the case.
- Local service center then sends either a NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny) or NOIR (Notice of Intent to Revoke) to the petitioner also asking for more proof of the relationship, many cases have specific consular objections to rebut.
- Petitioner is given 30-60 days from date of NOIR/NOID (depending on the service center) to respond with additional evidence of the relationship or other specific evidence. The timeframe to respond will be provided in the letter.
- Local service center receives evidence…if in the timeframe given (30-60 days) the case is reviewed and either original approval is reaffirmed or the petition is officially denied.
- If the petition is denied the local service center sends the petitioner an ‘official’ denial letter. This can be officially appealed if the denial letter states such.
- If the petition is reaffirmed the local service center sends the petitioner an official notice of reaffirmation.
- Local service center sends the reaffirmed petition AND its evidence provided in the rebuttal directly to the consulate along with a recommendation to issue a visa.
- Consulate notifies the beneficiary of a new interview date.
- Beneficiary has interview for the reaffirmed petition and the visa is either issued, or the case in placed in Administrative Processing which after cleared a visa is issued, or worst case scenario it is denied via Section 221(g) and returned again to the USCIS with a recommendation for revocation.
The U.S. consulate hands out a colored paper to the applicant they give 221 (g). The meaning of the color scheme varies according to the consulate and indicates different types of actions or information needed to clear the 221(g) status. In general though color schemes do not give enough information about what is needed to clear 221(g).
Some information on the nature of color coding can be found on the website: http://jakarta.usembassy.gov/visa/visa_ineligibilities.html
There are some common recurring reasons as stated by the consulates to why 221(g) was issued. So here is a list of usual reasons the consulate officer gives an applicant 221 (g) with the most probable color.
1. Name check, background check (Blue, Yellow a Green)
An applicant is put under administrative processing in this category
- If there is a name hit with the database. Common last names sometimes can be the reason for this and the consulate forwards the case to an agency to clear or establish the applicant’s identity.
- If the applicant overstayed a previous stay in US or violated the rules of a previous visa. This includes individuals who went out of status for a short term due to an expired visa while a new visa a filed.
- Some common religious last names
- The employee educational background does not match with the job description or employee does not have qualifications for the job
2. Security review, background check (Blue)
This is given to an applicant when:
- There is name hit in the security database
- Admissibility issues due to security, legal or criminal concerns (such as pending traffic tickets, guilty ruling in a criminal offense etc)
- Previous relation or visit to a unfriendly country
- Work background in restricted technology areas on the Technology Alert List
- Suspicion of document forgery
3. Application needs additional information (Pink, White)
The application is put on hold through 221 (g) and additional information is requested when
- Vital information is missing from the application
- The information provided during the interview conflicts with the information provided on the application
- Not enough information to establish that the visa can be granted
- Validating host – sponsoring company, university, relation
- Not enough information or supporting documents from employer
4. Not enough Supporting documentation (Green, Yellow)
Additional documentation is requested through a 221(g) when:
- Additional documents to ascertain the legitimacy of the application beyond the primary proof (marriage certificate for H4, employment letter for H1, admission letter for F1, supporting letter for visitor etc.) to establish the need for the visa
- Financial information to establish supportability – bank statements, tax filings, payments
- To ensure the correct credentials – the job profile matches the educational background, the business credentials qualify for B1 etc.,
- Unclear relationship- employee-employer (EVC model), family, relationship with a sponsor etc.,
5. Document and information validation (Yellow)
In cases where the documentation provided is not able to be verified immediately the consulate issues 221 (g) until the supporting documents can be checked. This might include:
- Calling the organization (School, University, Company, Financial institution) that issued the document
- Using an agency or third party of verify the documentation
- Request to provide further documentation
6. EVC Model, Employee-employer relation (Green, Yellow, Pink, Blue)
Usually issued when the applicant is working at a vendor other than the employer. The following are the reasons:
- The application is sent to USCIS for verifying the eligibility of the candidate
- The employee-employer relation not properly established
- Job duties have changed significantly with the vendor and no amended petition was filed
- Not enough information about the vendor or the client
- Job profile does not match with employee background
7. Verifying legitimacy of the candidate for the visa type (Pink, Blue, Yellow)
Sometimes when the consulate feels the candidate may not be fit for the visa applied they issue 221 (g) to ascertain the eligibility. This applies when:
- Applicant does not seem to have qualification for the visa type
- Suspicion the applicant would not leave US after the visa period