What Is Administrative Processing

What does 221(g) mean on a visa application?

My name's Joshua Goldstein and I am an immigration lawyer near you. I've helped families across the country and around the world get their visas out of administrative processing.

I've been involved in countless lawsuits: in federal court, against the state department, and against various consulates around the world. I've been doing this for years, so I probably know as much about administrative processing as any lawyer out there. And today, I'm going to explain to you what it is.

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What Exactly is Administrative Processing, and What's 221(g)?

Let's say you go to a consulate for a visa interview. It could be a non-immigrant visa, like a student visa or a visitor visa, or it could be an immigrant visa. Maybe you're married and someone applied for you. Perhaps a family member applied for you, or you have an employment-based case.

Regardless of the type of visa, when you go to the interview, the consulate may not give you the visa. They don't deny the visa. Instead, they give you a colored piece of paper that says, "221(g)." It's called a refusal.

Refusal Versus Denial

First of all, the word "refusal" is actually confusing. Refusal does not mean the same thing as denial. Denial means you don't get the visa. Your visa was rejected. Refusal is a temporary hold that they put on your application, and they put you in what's called administrative processing. Administrative processing and 221(g) essentially mean that there is additional processing time that's required after the visa interview. That's the official definition.

Things We Don't Know

But let's step back for a minute and ask a few questions. First of all, from that definition, there are some things that we don't know. We do not know why your visa was put in administrative processing. Rarely do they tell you the exact reasons why your case was put in administrative processing.

If you're stuck in administrative processing or in the background check process, you probably have a friend or you know someone who had a case that seemed very similar to yours. So, why was your friend's case approved, while your case is still stuck in administrative processing? That doesn't make any sense. You don't know why your case was delayed, and why it is stuck in administrative processing or administrative clearance.

What Are They Checking?

The second thing you don't know is what they're actually checking. Are they actually examining some aspect of your case? Is there a security check? Do they need additional documents? They never really explain the nature or the cause of the delay.

How Long Will It Take?

The third thing that we don't know is how long the administrative processing is going to take. Maybe they give you some boilerplate documents and tell you to check back in 30 or 60 days. But they never really tell you how long it's going to take.

As a result, you don't know why you were put in administrative processing. You don't know how long it's going to take. And you don't know what, if anything, they're checking. When you add up all the things you don't know about administrative processing and 221(g), it really starts to look very mysterious.

There's a story that I tell people when I want to explain what 221(g) and administrative processing is all about. This is the story that I think perfectly illustrates it.

A Story

Many years ago, I represented a woman whose visa was stuck in administrative processing. And she said to me, "I know why I'm in administrative processing. I know." And I said, "Really? Well, why don't you tell me? Why are you in administrative processing?" She said, "Well, it has to do with mangoes." I said, "Really? Mangoes?" She said, "Yeah."

She continued, "In my home country, we have the most delicious mangoes. They are amazing. They're so juicy and so tasty and I love mangoes. And, you know, there's that sign at the airport that says, 'Don't bring any fruit or vegetables into the U.S.' Well, I had a mango in my bag and the customs caught me with the mango. And they made me give it back to them. So that's why I'm in administrative processing."

That was her way of trying to understand why she was stuck in administrative processing. She thought it had to with the mango. In fact, it probably didn't have anything to do with the mango. Who knows why she was stuck in administrative processing.

I do know that I was able to help get her out of administrative processing. It took a few months until we got her out. But in all my dealings with the state department and all the consulates around the world, I've never had them explain what they're checking, why they're checking it, or what information, if any, is important to them. It's just this mysterious black box.

It's An Excuse For Delay

Administrative processing is really an excuse. It's an excuse for delay. It's something they tell you when they want you to go away. They just say, "Okay. We're going to put your case in administrative processing."

It's a grave injustice, and my heart goes out to all the people who are stuck there. I have devoted my career to helping people who are in administrative processing.

And if you are stuck and or need help and are looking for a visa lawyer near you, I want you to get in touch with me. Put your question in the comments below or email me. Get in touch and I'll help you out.

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