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Visa Denials Under Section 221(g) of the Immigration & Nationality Act

May 28, 2019
Zeena Barazanji

When a foreign national applies for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa to the United States, he or she must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. During the interview, a consular officer will review the visa application and supporting document and ask the applicant questions regarding those documents.  After the interview, the officer will either grant or deny the visa application.  However, not all denials are created equal.

What is a Section 221(g) visa denial?

 A denial under Section 221(g) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (“INA”) is just one example of a denial an applicant may receive. This can occur at the completion of the interview, with the consular officer issuing a decision notice stating the visa application has been denied, refused, or held for administrative processing under INA §221(g).  Generally, Section 221(g) is triggered in two scenarios: when an application requires additional documentation or further administrative processing.

What if my visa application is denied under Section 221(g) due to documentation issues?

If the officer finds that a visa application is incomplete and/or additional documentation is required, he or she may deny the visa application under Section 221(g). The language may vary by Consulate, where some refer to it as a denial and others a call it a refusal.  If additional documents are required to complete the application, this denial can usually be overcome.  The consular officer should issue a notice stating the reason for the denial, what documents are requested, and instructions on how to submit the requested documents.  Once the documents are submitted, the officer reviews them and issues a final decision granting or denying the visa.  Immigrant visa applicants are generally allowed twelve months to submit the additional documents without having to pay a new visa application fee.  After twelve months, the visa is terminated, and the applicant must reapply and pay the visa fees again.

What if my visa application is denied under Section 221(g) for further administrative processing?

When an application is held for further administrative processing, the timeline is less clear. The officer should inform the applicant at the end of the interview that the application is being held pending further administrative processing.  This can mean the applicant requires additional background checks or the officer believes the application requires additional scrutiny.  The processing time varies based on the Consulate and the specific facts of each case.  Once the administrative processing is complete, the applicant will be notified whether they are now qualified or remain ineligible for the visa.

What kind of visa applications can receive a Section 221(g) denial?

 Both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications may be denied under Section 221(g). For example, a nonimmigrant H-1B visa application may be held pending further review of the proposed employment.  A family-based immigrant visa application may be denied pending the submission of additional financial documentation for a sponsor or denied pending the filing and approval of a waiver of inadmissibility.

What are my options?

Visa denials under INA §221(g) can result in significant delays and may have lasting consequences for visa applicants. Applicants should consult with an attorney to consider the risks of consular processing and ensure they are adequately prepared for their interview.  If you have questions about preparing for a consular interview or overcoming a visa denial under INA §221(g), please contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. to schedule a consultation.

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