Visa Approved, Why Was I Placed On Administrative Processing 221(g)?

If there is one thing that almost all immigrants dread, it’s Administrative Processing (AP). Did you know that USCIS uses administrative processing as a catch-all phrase when a case needs additional review? Sometimes you won’t know the specific reason for administrative processing unless you’re told after the interview. I read somewhere on the state.gov website where they tell you not to sell property or quit your job until you have the visa in hand.

This is a great piece of advice because until you have the visa, you can’t assume you can immigrate.

So, is it possible for them to approve a visa and then place you on Administrative Processing? Absolutely! Remember, USCIS uses AP to finish some final reviews before issuing a visa. The review process can mean different things and it depends on the circumstances of your case, but you can assume it’s one of the following:

  • Addition review of your documents/case
  • FBI name and background check
  • Criminal background check
  • Suspicion of immigration fraud
  • Review of prior visa applications and overstays
  • Review of previous visa denials

Here’s where things get interesting. USCIS won’t tell you they suspect you’re committing immigration fraud so you begin to worry. I come across a lot of people who panic when placed in administrative processing because they think of the worst possible outcome. Guess what? It may just mean that they need to review your documents and the answers you’ve given at the interview.

Most people who are put into Administrative Processing get their visa within 2-6 weeks.

Administrative Processing After A Visa Is Approved

A visa approval still isn’t a guarantee that you can immigrate to the United States. I’m sure you’ve seen the hysteria caused by President Trump when he denied people with valid visas into the country. The visa is the first step that allows you to ask for permission to enter the U.S. at the port of entry. It’s actually Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that has the authority to let you in.

But, if a visa is approved there’s a good chance that administrative processing is for general review and final processing. It’s not something to worry about unless it is taking longer than 60 days to complete. A new piece of information about your background can be dug up which can cause the consular officer to reconsider their decision. Up until you enter the U.S. there’s always a chance of your visa being revoked. If you keep this in mind, you won’t be disappointed if something goes wrong along the way.

Case Example:

Amir had his CR1 spouse visa interview at the Egypt embassy and he felt like it went really well. He answered all the questions the consular officer asked with confidence. At the end of the interview, the consular officer told him that the visa was approved. A few days later, Amir checks his case status and it showed “administrative processing” and the last update was on the day of the interview.

In the case above, administrative processing is probably due to additional review of paperwork. Consular officers try not to tell someone their visa is approved unless they believe your are eligible. Wait 60 days before contact the consulate or embassy as this is the amount of time they require to complete AP.

administrative processing

Reasons Your Case Is In Administrative Processing

  • Not enough evidence of eligibility for the visa

    • The term “bona fide relationship” means that you are in a real relationship with your fiance or spouse for love and not to gain immigration benefits. USCIS is aware that marriage is the easiest way to a green card and they must determine which couples are sincere and which ones are trying to game the system.
    • If your relationship is real, then you should be able to get through administrative processing without an issue. If you are sent a request for evidence (RFE) make sure to reply to it as soon as possible to avoid denial due to abandonment of your petition.
    • If you are applying for a nonimmigrant visa such as visitor, student or work visa, you need to provide evidence that you stay in the U.S. will be temporary. That means showing strong ties to your own country. If you don’t provide enough of this evidence, they will run additional background checks and may ask you to submit additional documents.
  • Can’t prove adequate income and no joint sponsor
    • If your applying for a family based visa. the US citizen partner need to make enough money to support you. If money is short, then you will need a joint sponsor. However, many couples have difficulty finding someone willing to be a joint sponsor because it means a legally binding contract with the US government. In this case, your petition will be placed in AP until you can prove the intending immigrant will not become a public charge.
    • For nonimmigrant visas (except work visa) you need to show that you have enough savings to last you the entire stay in the U.S. A tourist or student visa doesn’t give you permission to work so you are expected to bring enough money with you so you won’t need to work.
  • Previous visa denials on your record
    • Any prior visa denials will make it more difficult for you to get a K1 visa or a CR1 visa. The only thing you can do to improve your chances are to be honest and upfront about the reason for denial. There are many couples who have been denied a K1 visa and turn around and apply for a CR1 spouse visa that are are approved after being placed in AP.
    • If you have ever been petitioned for a K1 visa or CR1 visa by another US citizen, your case will be looked at more closely. USCIS is actively looking for marriage fraud so if you’ve had a different U.S. citizen petition for you in the past, it will raise red flags. Be careful about lying on any visa applications and to your partner because detailed questions will be asked at your interview.
    • For nonimmigrant visas, previous denials will increase the odds that this visa will be denied unless you’ve overcome the reasons for denial. For example: if you were denied a F1 student visa because you couldn’t prove you could financially support yourself but now you have 4 years of savings in the bank, you have nothing to worry about.
  • Extensive criminal background
    • Having minor criminal convictions will not block you from being approved for a fiance or spouse visa, but it may cause a delay due to the extra background checks. Make sure that you answer honestly about your entire criminal history and not just your convictions. USCIS can find information about convictions that were expunges or sealed.
    • Some immigrants have very common names and this can cause you to be placed on administrative processing. Your name may be flagged by the FBI because it matches a known terrorist. It will take time for the consulate or embassy to confirm that you are not an actual terrorist but share a similar name.
  • Immigration or marriage fraud
    • I probably don’t need to go into detail about what marriage fraud is, but for those who don’t know, it’s a marriage only to gain immigration benefits. Although the vast majority of couples are truly in love, there are those who know how to scam the immigration system and this causes delays for everyone. Many US citizens are tricked into an engagement or marriage thinking that their partner loves them only to find out once they are in the US that it was all a lie. Protect yourself, your children and your assets and make sure that your relationship is genuine.
    • There are “organized groups” out there that make a lot of money by charging immigrants who want to marry a US citizen to receive a green card. In this situation, the US citizen is aware of the scam and will be paid. These types of scams can sometimes be difficult to find but there are tell-tale signs of immigration and marriage fraud. If you are caught in this type of scam, you can expect a lifetime ban from the US with no waiver options.

green card fraud

Final Thoughts on Administrative Processing After Visa Approval

Telling you to relax and not panic about administrative processing is easier said than done, right? I remember my own case status being administrative processing for 1 week before it was issued and mailed to me. I know 1 week is not a very long time and many of you are facing months of not know what’s going on, but it’s the uncertainly that is really difficult.

So, I’m hoping this post has put you at ease and gave you some insight on what happens behind the scenes. Continue to check your case status to see when the visa is issued and mailed to so you don’t miss it. https://ceac.state.gov/CEAC

If 60 days have gone by without an update, you should contact the Department of State (DOS) at 202-485-7600. You’ll need to provide your case number for them to pull up details on your account. Be warned though that the representative you speak with may not give you the answer you want to hear. Often times they just let you know that your case is still being processed and to wait another 2-4 weeks.

Ultimately, if the visa is denied after AP, you won’t be able to appeal the decision. Your only option would be to reapply for the visa with more evidence. This normally means you have to submit a new application and visa fee except if the denial related to 221(g). If you were found ineligible for the visa under section 214(b), you should be able to submit additional evidence without reapplying.

Was your case placed in Administrative Processing? How long did you wait for your visa? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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