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June 30th 2023

What is 221(g)? Common reasons for refusal, processing times, and reasons for delays

We explain the form 221(g) in further detail, including typical reasons for refusal, processing times, and delays in the case.

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Many foreign nationals who wish to travel to the United States need to get a visa to be allowed entry to the country. In some cases, the individual may need to go through an interview process conducted at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

During the visa interview, a consular officer will assess all of the required documents and information submitted by the applicant. After reviewing the documents and information, the consulate office may then determine if the applicant’s visa should be approved or rejected. 

Often, a form 221(g) will be issued during the visa interview process. This form indicates an applicant’s visa has been temporarily put on hold and that further processing is required. Below, we’ll explain the form 221(g) in further detail, including typical reasons for refusal, processing times, and delays in the case. 

What is form 221(g)?

This form usually indicates that an applicant’s visa has been temporarily refused until specific documents are provided to the consular officer. Should the applicant address the consular officer’s concerns and provide the required information and documents, the 221(g) refusal can be overturned and the visa will be issued to the foreign national.

Receiving the 221(g) letter does not necessarily mean that a visa application has been rejected, nor does it lower the chances of receiving your visa. It may simply mean that the officer is not able to make a final decision based on the documentation you have initially provided.

Along with the 221(g) letter, the consular officer may also supply the applicant with a form specifying the reasons why the visa application has been temporarily refused along with any further required action. 

Types of 221(g) forms: Reasons for refusal 

There are several different reasons why a visa may be temporarily refused and a 221(g) form issued. The color of the form helps the applicant to identify the type of 221(g) being issued and identifies the next steps to complete your visa application. 

The colors of the forms and their respective meaning are as follows: 

  • Blue form A blue form indicates that additional supporting documentation is required. Once the applicant submits the necessary documents, a visa officer will review the form and decide whether your visa application is approved or denied. 

  • White form. A white form usually represents 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 form. A pink form will be issued to applicants when a consular officer has concerns about  details provided in the application, such as the applicant’s work information, qualifications, or true purpose for visiting the U.S. 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. 

  • Yellow form. A yellow form indicates that the consulate requires additional time to review the documentation. The actual amount of time needed varies and may depend on the details of each individual case. General administrative processing is typically needed to validate the documentation that the applicant has supplied. 

There are a variety of reasons why a 221(g) refusal may be issued. Some of the most common reasons for refusal include: 

  • Additional supporting documents are required, such as proof of employment

  • All visa pages in the applicant’s passport have been filled

  • The photo supplied on the application does not meet the necessary 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)

What happens when a 221(g) is issued? 

When a temporary 221(g) visa refusal is issued, applicants can expect the following to occur:

  • Issuance of 221(g) form. The applicant will be provided with a color-coded form, with a unique case number. The color of the form will indicate the reason why the temporary refusal has been issued—see above for more details. 

  • Submission of documentation. If the 221(g) form indicates that additional documentation is required to process a visa application, the consulate will notify the applicant. You can typically 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.

  • Waiting period. Once the necessary documentation has been submitted, there may be a waiting period before the application is fully processed. The wait time usually varies from case-to-case and the applicant may not be required to take any further action within the waiting period. 

  • Submission of passport or visa decision. After processing has been completed and the applicant’s visa eligibility has been determined, the U.S. consulate will request that you submit a passport (if it has not been submitted already) and the visa consulate will stamp the passport with a U.S. visa. If it is determined that the applicant is ineligible for a visa, the documents you initially provided will be returned to you along with a denial letter. 

What is the usual processing time for a 221(g)? 

The processing time for a 221(g) form is case-dependent. In some cases, the processing may take weeks while for others it may take several months. If there are no additional documents needed and the consulate does not need additional information, the case can typically be processed and resolved within a 60-day period.

Visa applicants who have received a 221(g) temporary refusal form are usually asked not to inquire about the status of their case for a minimum of 180 days. However, they may follow up with their visa consulate or the U.S. Department of State if an emergency situation arises, such as the death of a family member or a serious injury. Should a case remain pending after a 180-day period, the applicant can typically check the status of their case by contacting the consulate where the visa interview took place. Applicants with pending cases after the 60-day period may also contact the visa application call center, but keep in mind that the call center may not be able to provide additional information regarding the status of the case. 

Reasons for 221(g) processing delays

While there are several reasons why the processing of a 221(g) case may be delayed, some of the common reasons for delays include: 

  • The consular officer assigned to the case may take a prolonged amount of time to verify information provided by the applicant such as employer-related information.

  • Information presented in the documentation contradicts information shared by the applicant during the visa interview. In this scenario, the consular officer may need to verify why the information given during the interview conflicts with the documents provided. 

  • An applicant’s name is on a watch list or is similar to someone else’s name on a watch list. In such cases, additional background checks may be required that can delay processing.

  • The additional documentation requested was not properly uploaded to the Petitioner Information Management Service (PIMS).

  • The additional documentation requested is incomplete or does not contain the necessary information. 

How to check the status of 221(g) processing time

Applicants who receive a 221(g) form may not check the status of their case before the 180-day waiting period has passed unless there is an emergency. 

After that period, an applicant can check the status of their 221(g) case in one of the following ways: 

  • Track of the status of a passport.

  • Track a unique case number. (every consulate will have their own process for updating their cases, and not all passports can be tracked here)

  • Contact the Department of State directly by email or by phone. With this method, expect to be provided with the same information found through the two previous tracking options.

Is there any way to expedite the process? 

Unfortunately, there is no way to expedite the processing time. 

While it may take a considerable amount of time to process a 221(g), a pending status does not necessarily mean that the application will be rejected. Should a visa application be rejected, the applicant will receive a written notification in the form of a refusal letter. 

Are there alternative options available? 

There are a few alternative options available for applicants who have received a 221(g) for their visa application. These include: 

  • Applying for a visa under a different category that the applicant previously applied under. This option may be used 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 via a different employer. Depending on the applicant’s existing petition, his or her employer has the ability to file a cap-exempt petition on the applicant’s behalf. When the cap-exempt petition is approved, the applicant may schedule another visa interview. The applicant is not usually required to withdraw his or her existing 221(g) application when applying for the same visa through a different employer. 

How are 221(g) rejections issued? 

Should the visa officer decide to deny a visa request after form 221(g) is issued, the following may likely occur: 

  • The visa consulate will submit the petition to the USCIS for reconsideration. The consular officer will include his or her comments pertaining to the case with the petition. 

  • The original documents that the applicant submitted will be returned, with the exception of Form 1-797, which will be sent to the USCIS. 

  • When the petition is received by the USCIS, a receipt notice will be sent to the petitioner. 

  • The petition will be reviewed by the USCIS (which may take up to 3 months). The USCIS will then issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) to the petitioner. The petitioner will then be granted a certain period of time to respond. The number of days will be highlighted on the NOIR or NOID form. 

  • Depending on the response from the petitioner, the USCIS will make the final decision to reinstate or deny. 

  • If reinstated, the USCIS will provide the consular officer with the necessary documentation. The applicant may then receive word from the consulate regarding when to make an appearance. 

Visa applications after a 221(g)

Whenever someone applies for a U.S. visa, they will be asked if they have ever been refused a U.S. visa in the past. The applicant must answer the question truthfully. It is usually imperative that applicants answer this question honestly and that they are prepared to explain why their application was refused, even if the 221(g) visa refusal was for something trivial. Failing to tell the truth about your previous visa applications can result in a denial. 

221(g) refusal assistance

Applicants who have been issued a 221(g) refusal may wish to consider seeking the assistance of an immigration attorney to avoid unnecessary delays or confusions when providing further documentation.

The takeaway

While the process of applying and obtaining the visa may appear daunting, this guide is intended to help simplify the process of starting your new life in the U.S. 

Once you get approved for your visa, you will need to figure out several other life logistics, such as where you’re going to live and how you will get started with the U.S. financial system. After you’ve moved, for instance, you will need a U.S. credit history to apply for credit cards, loans, apartment rentals and other essentials.

Fortunately, Nova Credit lets you use your foreign credit history from certain countries to apply for several of these essential products and services from our partners. 

This means that you can apply for great credit cards, phone plans, and more using your hard-earned credit history from back home—rather than starting from scratch. If you are approved for these products and manage them responsibly, you will start to quickly build a U.S. credit history.

Currently, Nova Credit serves individuals coming from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K.

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The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

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How to read the Visa Bulletin

How to build credit after moving to the US

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