H-1B 221(g) Administrative Processing waiting times

I’ve just finished this process for an H-1B visa from the US Embassy in London. The H-1B was allocated from the lottery by USCIS, but following the interview at the embassy I was handed a 221(g) form giving me notice of “administrative processing”. I’ve also previously been through this process for the F-1 student visa. For anyone else in this situation, this post should illustrate some of what’s going on and what you can expect.

WTH is going on?

Administrative processing is a massively vague term. What’s actually happening is that the Embassy is doing a background check on you. They don’t do it themselves – instead, they package your information and send it off to the FBI and other agencies, who are actually doing the checks.

How long should I expect to actually wait?

I waited 32 days for processing of my F-1. I waited 4-5 months for processing of my H-1B.

The London Embassy helpfully publishes the status of your application on their website. Even better – they don’t just publish yours, but everyone else’s information as well. So, I did some quick analysis on this data.

For everyone who’s still waiting (i.e. status = pending), here’s a frequency graph of waiting times.

H-1B waiting times

This analysis is based on data from 09.00hrs on 14th Sept 2010.

This means that, for example, about 52% of people who are waiting have been waiting more than 90 days. If the speed of processing at the Embassy isn’t changing over time, this means that your chances of hearing something before 90 days is about one in two.

I’ve also heard that the 90 day mark is used as an internal check, i.e. the embassy themselves will start chasing various agencies for the results of your check around this time. I’d expect to see an inflexion point in the chart if this was the case, but the data doesn’t seem to bear this out.

(Update: A reader wrote in to show their analysis of the US Embassy in Tokyo. It seems to indicate a 2 week backlog, and a faster average response.)

Is there anything I can do in the meanwhile?

If you want to speed it up, to the best of my knowledge there is precisely bugger all that you can do. To quote the London embassy:

Please do not contact the Embassy while your application is being processed as we will not be able to assist you.

You can only do two things that will yield you information for sure:

  • Obsessively check your email
  • Check the website if you’re applying through the London embassy

For some people (including me) that’s just not enough, and there is other stuff to do, but it’s all just a shot in the dark rather than anything definite. In each case, I’ll include what I did and whether it helped (spoiler: nothing helped for sure).

Your senator. Although this might seem strange to us Brits, you can contact your local senator for assistance. This is probably the most concrete and useful step here. Unsurprisingly, your senator isn’t required to assist you in any way, but you can ask. In my case, we contacted Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office. The money quote:

My staff will be happy to assist you in following up on the status of your pending name check if your case has been pending with the FBI for at least one year.

Our company lawyer drafted a letter to a contact of his in Feinstein’s office. This is one of the advantages of *having* a lawyer, although it’s certainly no guarantee. We did get a reply back, but by that time the case was already completed.

State department. You can contact the state department directly to find out what the heck is going on. There is a direct number floating around, which I won’t include for fear of inundating the polite chap I spoke to, but it’s around. I did this, and was told that my application was still pending processing (not exactly a revelation). However, they were able to look up my case, so I did now know it had actually made it out of the embassy.

Personal network. If you’ve lived in the states for a while, you may know people who can find something out for you. It turned out that I had an acquaintance at the DOJ, a friend whose colleagues knew some politicians, and a colleague whose wife’s mum used to work for the state department. All of them were wonderful, sympathetic and tried to help by contacting people they knew who might know something. Although noone was able to dig up information specific to my case, I did get back some useful advice (which is now in this blog post).

National Academies. You can fill in a questionnaire. I’m not sure if it helped, but I did get a followup automated email after I was approved to confirm that everything was received.

The embassy themselves. The 221(g) plainly says that you can’t call the embassy for any information until 90 days are up. I called on the 91st day, but it was absolutely no help at all.

Is there anything I can do to avoid this in the future?

If you’re lucky enough to be reading ahead and you’re a few months before your potential 221(g), keep reading. If you’re in the US at the moment, I understand that it’s possible for you to get a check run on yourself before you head out. It will take about 3 months, and your local police department & FBI can help you out with this. Once it’s done, administrative processing should go faster – plus, you can take the checking documentation to the visa interview and wave it at them to save everyone some time.

What should I expect to see when it clears up?

You should get an email, but it’s not guaranteed. I didn’t hear anything on phone or email once the processing had completed on the H-1B, but I did get an email for the F-1. Here’s the text of the email I received.

Dear Mr $applicantName,

Please submit your passport.

You must resubmit your passport via the Embassy-appointed courier service, Special Mail Services (SMS). Once you are prepared to submit your passport for visa issuance please contact SMS by telephone on 0870-950-1760 to arrange pickup of your passport and delivery back to you upon issuance of your visa. The courier service will not have any information about your visa processing.

Important Notice: Your application will take between 15-20 workdays to process once it has been received by the Embassy. Once processing is complete, your passport will be handed to SMS. A further one to two days should be allowed for delivery.

The Embassy cannot expedite your application once it has been received. Please do not call the Operator Assisted Information Line or email us concerning the progress of your application unless more than two weeks has passed since SMS collected your documents, as we will not be able to provide you with any information.

We strongly advise that you do not purchase any tickets for travel to the United States or make irrevocable travel plans until after you have been issued a visa and your passport has been returned to you.

If your travel dates have passed, you must submit a new itinerary. If you are planning to travel for the same purpose at a later date, we may well be able to issue your visa, however, if your circumstances have changed, we will have to do further processing.

Summary

Expect to wait. If it clears up quickly – thank your stars and head to the New World.

Please drop a note in the comments if this was useful or you have any other experiences that might help others.

Updated: I added in some extra information as I learned more about the process. My H-1B has been issued and I’m now back in the states. Best of luck to everyone waiting.

116 thoughts on “H-1B 221(g) Administrative Processing waiting times”

  1. Hi,
    First I’d like to thank Hussain and others for sharing their experience. However, I find it a bit annoying that some people come here and complain about the process, then disappear! I doubt that they haven’t received their visa after a few years!
    Nevertheless, my share:
    Originally from ME, with a very common Muslim name. Studied and worked in a couple of EU countries before finally settling in the UK, got British passport. Applied for visa (London) back in 2006 (didn’t have British passport at the time), was put on AP, and it took over one year to hear back from them. Didn’t even bother with getting the visa as I had no intention to travel anymore. Traveled to US with ESTA a couple of times later on. Applied for L1 visa in 2013 (London), and surprise surprise, AP again!
    Read this post and some others eagerly, was OK for the first 4.5 months but anxiety finally kicked in then. Called DOS a couple of times, usual response! Called them another time and a nice guy (presumably the same as mentioned above) told me that AP was over! Got really excited and called my attorney in Washington (company pays her fee), she dropped me an e-mail saying, no! Was really disappointed to say the least, but thought I misunderstood the guy on the phone. Two weeks later, got an e-mail to submit passport. Two more weeks and received the passport with visa.
    Good luck to people who are waiting.
    It’s easier said than done, but best practice is to ignore it and get busy with other things in life.

  2. Hello guys,
    I totally understand your pain. I am on administrative process for 3.5 months now. So bad! Firstly I cried for couple days and now start losing a hope…
    The thing is I was already living and working in US as I got my O1 status approved being in US, just got back home to Lithuania to get my visa into the passport so I could finally travel 🙁
    I stayed in US on M1 student visa and got my O1 status approved 2013 Spring.
    Was so happy !!! As it took me 8 months of waiting, stress and almost 8K $ fee to my lawyer.
    Really didn’t expect to get into such trouble because of the US embassy as I though US immigration has already approved it and I though am totally fine!:(
    My interview was super short like maximum 2 minutes … The officer just took my papers and asked to send the link to my website so he can be sure I am really a video artist O_O. From that time I call the embassy almost every week, but always the same answer – no decision yet. When it will be? – Nobody knows! So terrible!
    Firstly they told me it should take several weeks, later that it could take till 60 days, after till 90 days, ….till 6 months, and last time I have called they told it could be a year!!!! Omg I am totally lost and no idea what to do with my life now! My lawyer is trying to get a senator to contact the embassy but as I understood it from your blog doesn’t look like it will do a lot:((( All my friends got O1 visas after 2 minutes of interview in Italy. No clue why I got so unlucky, was living in LA for last 2.5 years still have all my stuff left there.
    Wonder can I cancel administrative process? and reapply for O1 status again? and if it gets approved just go to the embassy in a different country??

  3. oh and I forgot to mention I am female and not a muslim. Also the officer didn’t give me any document saying he is putting me on administrative process and actually didn’t even mention AP! Just asked to email my websites as he had to be sure I am an artist…
    Just finished reading all your stories and it is INSANE!!!! thanks god I have European Union passport and can work in all EU. Still though would prefer to be in sunny LA:((((((
    I feel like I totally don’t have any human rights in this situation, this is something that should be against the law!!! Damn it!

  4. Hi all! I left the US with a valid I_20 (F1 student ) after getting my H1 petition approval to have an appointment in US consulate of Dubai. I got a yellow sheet for administrative processing. After 10 days, the consulate asked me to submit some docs. Such as my employer`s tax refund,… regarding to section 221(g). I was informed that my docs. were received. Now is 2 months since my interview, and I have no idea what’s going on? I am afraid after all this wating, my case gets denied! Or i should wait for 6 months or even more….
    Anyone has any comments to share with me?
    Thanks.

  5. Hello Everyone,

    I interviewed in India for H1B in Feb 2013 and got a 221(g) white slip. VI was not so much happy from my response. I was not able to understand his words and I did not explain the things very well. I think, this was the reason for 221(g).

    Now, almost 10 months are over and there is no update on Ceac site and did not hear anything from them. I tried to call to local support center and DOS as well. Everyone saying your application is pending under AP. Please suggest me who can help me on this or how I know my exact application status? Your help will be appreciated.
    Thanks!

  6. Hi all,
    Nice to hear from all, I am also sailing in the same ship . I got 221 g white form from London .The VO asked few Questions on my job profile, client….etc ,last she gave 221 g form and said she need more investigation on the client ,no documents asked retained I797 form and client documents and returned the passport. On 221 g form she rounded the passport, ticked the dsc 160,passport size photos, this plus.

    I am an Indian working for an MNC company from 8 years, earlier I visited to US for 3 months on L2 visa , and 6 years
    back I got h1b stamped in delhi (did not went to USA on personal reasons).
    Still now no email nor my status is updated in pdf file.Still now I don’t know what they are want from me.Can anyone suggest me.

  7. I had a query regarding the FBI background check. Do they help during the interview or does it feel like attracting unwanted attention. I have a common Muslim name and believe this was the reason when I was issued a yellow 221g in 2010 when I had applied for my F-1 visa. I got the reply from Mumbai consulate after 45 days saying the processing was done and I should submit my passport. Now, after 4 years in the US obtaining a degree, I am now working full time on my OPT. My H-1B petition has also been approved and I hope to travel to India to get my H-1B visa stamped in October 2014. I am most certain that my name should come under the red flag hit which might make for another case of 221 g for me. What should be done in this case. Should I bring it to their attention that administrative processing was done before. Also, should I request for the FBI security check and take with me during my interview. Will it help?

  8. Hi, I know this may not be the right forum but I dint find any other. My brother went for a medical visa interview at the US embassy in yaounde cameroon on Oct 16, the CO just looked at his documents and handed him a green form 221 (g) with the “further administrative processing required” box checked. He is getting sponsored by a hospital in the US and the hospital sent all the paperwork. His condition is getting worse by the day, have you ever had a situation like this and how long it could take for this to be resolved? He has been sick for 4 years aND it would be very sad if some8bad happened now just when he had hope of getting treatment. What can we do?

  9. Hello all!

    I attended my H1B visa interview in London today and was given the 221G white slip…

    Although the VO was very kind and the entire interview was very clerical in nature, she said, “everything seems fine, we just need to do some background checks” and handed over the white slip to me. She also said, its not as scary as it seems (weird) but yes, she told this and retained my passport and informed me that I should receive my passport back in a couple of days.

    The entire interview was smooth and nothing like what I anticipated, no detailed questions, no questions about my project report or previous trips to the US (I have my B1 and have visited US twice between 2013 and 2014 on business).

    Now, my 221G white slip does NOT have a batch number. How do I track my passport and its status? Anecdotal experiences about the”white” slip is worrisome and I am not feeling too good…please share any of your experiences with a blank 221G …

  10. My husband attended H1b Visa interview in Singapore Consulate on January 2014 . He was given 211g Pink slip and they demanded few documents from the employer. He again attended interview with all the desired document on may 2014 . From May 2014 till now no answer from the Consulate. Its been 1 year now status is still pending not sure what exactly is happening. Are there any chances of getting visa approved after 1 year?

  11. Hi. I interviewed for an F1 visa in November 2014 in Nigeria.
    My case has been in Administrative Processing since then (7 months have passed).
    It makes me feel better to know that I am not the only person who is struggling with the administrative processing experience, but to be honest with myself this Administrative Processing is really killing and not helping one to think well..

    Thank you for sharing.

  12. Hello everyone i am still waiting for my passport to be issued now its been 60days what should i do im an fb1 applicant my med exam will expire this coming feb2015 and my application will expire on march anyinone can help an advise thnks godbess

  13. This is Gang in Toronto… I stuck in the same AP like you guys… now it’s almost three months… and just two weeks to my travel plan…..

    will come back and update again if there is any process…. hope I am lucky…..

  14. [H1]
    My interview was on 25th April 2016. Submitted required documents on 25th May 2016 and not heard from them since then.

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