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U. S. Visa Applications: Extreme Vetting And The 221(g) Process

To implement the new administration’s “extreme vetting” policy for increased scrutiny of U.S. visa applicants, the U.S. State Department recently published a list of new questions U.S. consular officers may ask visa applicants at their U.S. consular interview abroad. In the opinion of most immigration attorneys, vetting of green card applicants at U.S. consular posts abroad has always been very thorough, especially in cases where a post-interview security check is performed. Known as the “221(g)” process, there has also recently been an increase in post-interview additional vetting at U.S. consulates. Here, we explain the 221(g) to help clarify why, after years of applications and vetting, an immigrant visa may be withheld further following the consular interview.

In certain cases, an immigrant visa applicant will receive a notice at the conclusion of the consular interview informing them that their case has been placed on hold pending administrative processing under section 221(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. Why do cases go through administrative processing and what does this mean for visa applicants?

A 221(g) notice is issued when additional information, documents, or background checks are necessary to determine visa eligibility. Before issuing a visa, consular officers must check the information in the visa application against many databases for potential risks, security concerns, and other information that may make an applicant ineligible to receive a visa. Examples of information that can lead to administrative processing include past criminal history, ties to terrorist organizations, current and past membership in a Communist party, previous immigration violations, and discrepancies with information provided in previous visa applications. A 221(g) notice may also be issued in the case of an unprepared applicant who fails to bring police certificates and other civil documents in accord with the interview instructions. Note that this list is not exhaustive. If any information shows up in the databases that leads the consular officer to believe the applicant is ineligible for the visa, the case will be placed in administrative processing until a determination on eligibility can be made.

If additional information or documents are needed, the notice will list the documents or information that the applicant must submit in order for the consular officer to proceed processing the visa application. The notice should also contain instructions on how to submit the additional evidence. In certain instances, the applicant will not need to provide any additional materials but must wait for other security clearances. Applicants who are issued a 221(g) can request the return of their passports during the post-interview waiting period, and can monitor their accounts on to know when the consulate reaches a decision.

If an applicant’s case is placed in administrative processing, the entire visa application process will take longer than average. According to the U.S. Department of State, most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the interview date. However, each consulate and case varies on the amount of time required to complete administrative processing. Generally, consulates require applicants to wait about 60 days from the date of the interview or the date of submission of additional documents, whichever is later, before contacting the office about the status of the case.

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About this Author

Sandra Bruno, Miller Mayer Law Firm, Immigration Law Attorney

Sandra Bruno is an Associate in Miller Mayer’s Immigration practice group.

Ms. Bruno practices immigration law, with a focus on employment-based immigration exclusively. She assists employers in obtaining non-immigrant and immigrant status for their employees. She has extensive experience working with post-doctoral researchers, professors, engineers, scientists, scholars, and individuals of extraordinary ability. Ms. Bruno also represents individuals on a variety of family-based immigration and naturalization matters. Prior to joining Miller...