221(g) Visa Stamp is Considered a Visa Refusal

When an individual applies for an F-1, H1B, or other nonimmigrant visa at the U.S. consulate abroad, it can be fairly common to be refused initially under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This broad section applies to a wide variety of visa application issues, including some that are fairly minor and temporary. However, as explained here, the INA 221(g) outcome is categorized as a visa refusal. This clarification is important for future visa applications, as well as for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers.

221(g) Allows Consular Officer to Request Further Information

INA Section 221(g) is a fairly broad, generic provision covering denials of visa applications. It directs consular officers not to issue a visa if it appears that the applicant is not eligible under any section of law. In practice, it is often used when there is any problem or additional information required in a case, even if the matter is minor or temporary. It allows the consular officer to ask for more documents, or otherwise review the case in more detail. It includes cases that cannot be approved because, for example, the employer’s petition approval is not yet in the Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) system. It also applies to those cases that need to undergo further security checks.

Cases Can be Approved After 221(g)

Since INA 221(g) is so broad, there are many visa applications that are approved following the issuance of an INA 221(g) refusal. Security checks can clear, PIMS can be updated, and missing documents can often be provided. Thus, there are many who have received INA 221(g) refusals at some point, but, ultimately have been able to obtain their visas to enter the United States.

Separately, an INA 221(g) refusal does not mean that an applicant potentially is not eligible for a different visa. There are many situations in which, for example, the consulate will not issue an H1B visa to an individual because the company sponsor cannot provide the requested proof. Such individuals might be eligible for different visas through new employers or for H-4s, for example, through their respective spouses.

221(g) Must be Revealed on Future Visa Applications

On the visa application form, each applicant is asked whether or not s/he has ever been refused a visa. The answer to this question is “yes” whenever there has been an INA 221(g) refusal. This is the case even if the matter that created the INA 221(g) refusal was overcome, and the visa was finally issued.

VWP Traveler May Need a Visa Stamp after a 221(g) Refusal

The same principle holds true for a VWP traveler processing under the ESTA application. S/he must reveal the INA 221(g) as a denial when asked whether a visa application has ever been denied. An individual who answer “yes” to this question may have to apply for a visa at the appropriate consulate, rather than using the VWP program.

What if Answered Erroneously but Innocently?

This has been a source of confusion for many. It is important to answer such questions correctly in the future. If an issue arises regarding prior, incorrect answers, it may be forgiven if this was a genuine mistake, rather than an effort to provide incorrect and misleading information.


This is yet another example of how important it is to understand the questions that are asked on immigration-related forms. One should not guess at the meaning of a question that uses technical or legal terminology. If anything is unclear, it is best to get proper legal advice to avoid potential problems. We at the Murthy Law Firm can help and advise individuals applying for visa stamps at any consulate abroad. Also, the team at Murthy Immigration Services, Pvt, Ltd, our affiliate in Chennai, India, can help individuals completing visa applications.

While some aspects of immigration have changed in significant ways in the years since MurthyDotCom began publishing articles in 1994, there is much that is still the same. From time to time, clients of the Murthy Law Firm are referred to articles, like this one, which remains relevant and has been updated for our readers.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.