The process of employment based non-immigrant visa stamping before a US Consulate abroad has experienced a revolutionary change–both procedurally and systematically–in the past decade by the US Department of State (“DOS”). These changes continue to evolve on an ongoing basis to improve security background measures and cross agency sharing of information. Such measures have caused consular processing to become more complex, and in some cases, time consuming. But on a positive note, the nonimmigrant visa application process itself has taken on a digital format. This digital format has streamlined the application process and caused an expeditious scheduling of the visa stamping interview. The DOS stated that its digital application process will enhance US national security and cause better cross agency communication. On another note, however, the revamped nonimmigrant visa application process and concerns for national security have caused a heightened consular practice and the issuance of letters of visa rejection pursuant to Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 221(g). In addition, some consular processes have exhibited heightened scrutiny of visa applications (especially in the H-1B and L-1 employment visa areas) which in some cases resulted in the consulate’s return of the underlying visa petition to the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (“USCIS’) with a request for revocation of the approved petition itself. In other cases, the visa application resulted in the launching of investigation by the USCIS field offices, or by the consulate itself.
What is a 221(g) Letter and What does it Mean?
When a non-immigrant avails herself to a consular stamping process, the US Consulate reviews the application and any other information available on the DOS intranet. Incidentally, that is the reason why our law firm always posts an additional copy of any nonimmigrant visa petition and any other responses to the Kentucky service Center for uploading on the DOS intranet. If the consular officer is not satisfied that she has everything in place to issue a visa, she is required by regulations to issue a letter explaining the reason for the denial, which invariably mirrors the language set forth in INA 221(g). The 221(g) refusal letter could also include a laundry list of documents that the consulate needs to make a final decision on the visa application. It is important to note that the applicant has one year to respond to the 221(g) letter with documents or information within one year from its issuance. Otherwise, the application will be deemed abandoned. In most cases, the visa applicant can submit the required information or documentation to the consulate by email.