Administrative processing delays can be a problem for any visa applicant, and although some of the reasons below may apply to other visa categories, this article is specifically written with H-1B visa applicants in mind. This article in no way attempts to cover every possible scenario for administrative processing, but seeks to hit the most common reasons a H-1B visa case gets stuck at a U.S. consulate or embassy around the world.
1. Consular officer needs to verify employer and/or job-related details
At the interview, the consular officer may have issued a 221(g) notice. 221(g) refers to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 221(g). If you have received a § 221(g) notice, it is considered a visa denial. However, it does not necessarily mean that the decision is final. For future reference, if you have ever received a § 221(g) visa refusal it is a technical visa denial, so if you are asked in the future if you have been denied a visa, the answer is yes. Just provide an explanation as to being placed in administrative processing. A § 221(g) notice may or may not ask for additional information or documentation. If you received a § 221(g) notice and your notice does not request anything from you or your petitioner, don’t panic. The consular officer can request documents later on as well. Sometimes they issue a notice requesting additional documents/information at your visa interview. Sometimes they email a request for additional information soon or even many months after your interview. Other times, they won’t ask for anything at all. There isn’t a one size fits all, so if you heard from a friend of a friend that their case went one way, it doesn’t mean your case will follow the same path. It is not unusual for the consular officer to request documents previously submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They may even ask for something that was not previously submitted to USCIS. If your case is in administrative processing because the consulate needs to verify your petitioner and/or job-related details, coordinate with your petitioner to respond to any requests from the consulate in a timely manner.
2. Information obtained from you during the interview contradicts facts in the H-1B petition
Being nervous at your visa interview is normal. Not knowing the specific job title in the petitioner’s H-1B filing, or where you will be working, or what you will be doing, and how much you will be getting paid to do it, is absolutely – unequivocally, not normal. You must know the specifics of your job and they must match the details in the approved H-1B petition. In addition to the above, you must be able to confidently answer questions about how you applied for your job; what the job interview process was like; who you will report to at your H-1B employer; and what your qualifications are. There is no excuse for not knowing those details. The consular officer’s job is to make sure that you are who you say you are, but also to confirm the underlying facts of the USCIS approved I-129. If during the visa interview the consular officer discovers information that contradicts the content of the previously approved H-1B petition, your case will end up in administrative processing. If the contradiction cannot be cured, the consulate will deny your visa application and send the approved H-1B petition back to USCIS with a recommendation that your H-1B approval be revoked. If you leave the consular officer confused, the chances of curing the confusion before the case is sent back to USCIS for revocation is slim. If you’re a person that doesn’t interview well, practice before you go. Think of all the different types of questions you could be asked at your interview, and write out responses so you can get your thoughts together. Read over your notes several times before your interview day. Preparation is the mother of success. And no, you should not take your notes to the interview.
3. You have a DUI or other criminal law violation
If you have an arrest record, anywhere in the world (not just in the U.S.), it can delay or even prevent visa issuance. You do not need a conviction to encounter issues. An arrest may be enough. Some crimes might just delay your case while others will prevent visa issuance all together. Some crimes may require a waiver. Drug use, whether you were arrested or not, can make you inadmissible. FYI, the personal use of marijuana is not legal in the U.S. on a federal level. Even if you smoke marijuana in a particular State that has legalized marijuana use, you are still violating federal law. As a non-US Citizen, do not use marijuana even if the State in which you live has legalized it.
4. You have a common name that could be confused with someone else
The consulate will perform a background check every time you apply for a visa. When performing a namecheck, if you have a name that is the same or similar to someone on a watchlist, it may delay your visa issuance until the consulate can verify that you are not the same person on the watchlist.
5. Your H-1B petition documents were not uploaded into PIMS before your interview
We’re currently in 2019, and one would think the Government would have figured out a more efficient way of sharing information across departments and agencies. But alas, it has not. If your H-1B petition documents are not uploaded into the Petition Information Management System (PIMS), a consular officer at a post around the word will not have access to documents the consulate needs to verify petition information. How do you upload documents into PIMS? Well, you don’t. The USCIS requires that the petitioner mail a duplicate copy of the entire H-1B petition packet at the time it files the application. If the petitioner does not send a duplicate copy, it won’t be uploaded into PIMS. But it doesn’t stop there. The duplicate copy is forwarded by the USCIS service center that received the initial filing to the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC). The KCC then uploads what it feels is pertinent into PIMS. Yikes! If you attend an interview and the consular officer tells you that they don’t see the H-1B approval information in PIMS, they will not be able to adjudicate your case until they make an internal request for KCC to upload the information. It doesn’t take long for the upload, but it will delay your case till the consulate gets around to looking at your case again.
For more on administrative processing, check out the article: “Why administrative processing can suck the life out of you and how to keep your sanity.”
Also see our Top 10 interview tips.
Sunil C. Patel is an experienced immigration attorney and himself a first-generation immigrant. Formerly a managing attorney with a multinational immigration and corporate law firm, he now focuses his practice exclusively in immigration law at his own law firm, Sunil C. Patel Immigration Law, LLC. To schedule a consultation, please call (770) 756-6056 or visit www.sunpatlaw.com. You can also schedule an appointment by selecting an available time on his calendar.