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I am in the process of applying for a J1 visa from Germany. I automatically qualified for the "mail-in program" where one does not need to come in for an interview to get a J1. I was refused and invited for a personal interview, and my sponsor in the US says this was expected since I was born in Russia. I have held a German and a German only passport for the last ten years. It was not possible to schedule an interview from the beginning even if I had wanted to because the system had not let me.

In other words, by deciding to do an internship in the US and having to apply for the J1 visa, and due to their system of not being able to schedule an interview, BUT them requesting an interview from all Russian-borns, I automatically secured a visa being refused, which will affect future ESTAs and ETAs for Canada.

My interview for the J1 visa is coming up. Can I ask whether this particular visa refusal can somehow be removed from my record, because it is only due to them requesting an interview which has actually been the normal thing until Covid anyway. Everyone I know who applied for a J1 visa before Covid went through the interview process. I fear I will never get an ESTA or a Canadian ETA again due to this flaw in their system.

Visa denied due to an interview request.

I will need to state the refusal on my future ESTA applications.

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    Your question is confusing. Are you now going for the interview or not? If you are going for the interview and granted the visa, then this refusal will be considered overturned. A refusal under 221(g) is considered reversed when the visa is granted after the required additional processing. If the visa is refused after the interview under another section (example 214(B)), then it will stay as a visa refusal on your record. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 9:22
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    Yes, I am going to the interview. Could you please provide a source for this? This would be amazing if true. I only found this source that states that "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.": murthy.com/2009/12/18/….
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 9:38
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    @WeatherVane yes, sure. But I am now in possession of a document that says that my visa was refused under 221g because an invitation to an interview apparently also qualifies as a visa refusal.
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 11:43
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    @WeatherVane. I am sorry for failing to provide another missing piece of information, please see my edited post. The letter informing me of the refusal under 221g has a section that I will need to state that I have been refused a visa in future ESTA (and ETA) applications. Since this has been through no fault of my own and having an interview for a J1 visa is actually the standard procedure, I think I will try to contact a lawyer to have this removed from my record.
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 12:00
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    @WeatherVane please see the edited post with 1) the full letter from the consulate, 2) second letter stating I need to come in for an interview. I cropped out a QR code in the first letter. This is the English version, they put a mark next to "interview" in the German letter version. I believe the VWP eligibility refers to future ESTA applications and not to this one. I think this is the standard letter they send to everyone with a refusal under 221g.
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 12:57

3 Answers 3

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I was doubtful at first, but the UK's USA consulate says:

Section 221(g) prohibits the issuance of a visa to anyone whose application does not comply with the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) or related regulations. Please be advised that, for U.S. immigration law purposes, including ESTA (see https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov), this decision constitutes a denial of a visa.

If your application for a visa has been refused under Section 221(g) INA, you will have been provided with a letter explaining the steps you are required to take. Please review this information carefully and follow the instructions.

Your letter included the advice that the refusal was notifiable in future. Much as it would be desirable to consider the refusal negated when the visa is successfully granted, this is in accordance with your commented link from 2009.

. . . 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.

I am sorry that you did not find this out before you applied for the VWP. Another page in your .de link states

Applicants for U.S. visas are required to appear in person for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You must schedule an appointment for that interview, either online using this website or through the call center.

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    Well, but I did not know I did not qualify for the mail-in program. This is something that my sponsor/partner should have told me. On the page you linked, the qualification requirements for this program are listed, and I fulfil all of those. It does not say I must be born in Germany, only that I need to hold a German passport, which I do. Therefore, it made sense when I was required to send in my documents. Do you think contacting a lawyer would make sense to try to have this removed? All of the listed requirements apply to me.
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:29
  • I have spent a lot of time on this website and trying to schedule an appointment. It did not work to get it, I was requested to mail in my stuff. Their call center does not work as well, the voice says to go to the website. I would have needed to write them an e-mail or something. But this definitely seems to be a corner case. This mail-in program thing is a recent addition due to covid.
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:37
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    It can't be unsual to not qualify for the VWP yet be granted a visa after an interview, so this is perhaps more of an administrative problem for you than a handicap. I can sympathise: I was once in the positition of being refused car insurance for a technical error, and at every renewal I have to declare this, with an explanation and a copy of the letter that set it right. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:39
  • You are not automatically excluded from VWP for a visa refusal. If you are successful with your second J1 application, it seems likely that the initial refusal would not be a serious mark against you on a subsequent ESTA application if you explain that a J1 visa was subsequently issued; however, your ESTA applications in the future may take longer than usual due to requiring manual review. That said, you will have to report it, and do not try to blame a third party; it is USCBP's position that you alone are responsible for meeting the requirements for a visa. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:40
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    @WeatherVane I visited the US twice on VWP, so I had qualified so far. It seems I did not qualify for the Interview Waiver thing. Yeah it sucks :(
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:43
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I fear I will never get an ESTA or a Canadian ETA again due to this flaw in their system.

Realistically this won't happen, especially if you obtain a visa after interview.

221(g) is a technical refusal for an application that is incomplete. As you can see from the other potential situations on your letter, old photos, failure to pay fees etc., or even the fact that they need further administrative processing, all constitute grounds under 221(g) for a "denial" (even if a visa is granted at a later time after administrative processing for the same application).

You do have to declare the denial when you apply for ESTA, ETA or other visa or entry authorizations in the future. It is an inconvenience, but not a big one.

In the worst case, you can apply for a B1/2 visa for the U.S. which is usually valid for 10 years and allow you to stay up to six months at a time. It is only more expensive than ESTA (if you travel often to the U.S., i.e. at least once every two years, it is even not that much more expensive) and you may need to attend another interview. If your J-1 visa is later granted, there is no reason to believe that this technical refusal would be a problem.

In the Canadian case, eTA is the only possibility for visa-exempt nationals and you are allowed to attach additional explanation on the online form. A straightforward explanation is unlikely to negatively affect you.

But of course, you should consider (even without refusal) to apply for such authorization well in advance of your travel.

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    thank you for your words. I hope you are right. I can update my post in case I learn something new, I am trying to get some legal advice on this. Even though it "might" not affect me in the future since 221g is not a big deal, if there is a chance I could simply state "no" on future ESTA/ETA applications, this would give me some peace of mind.
    – Evi
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 19:07
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Having got a 221g myself for a follow up interview which the B1 visa was subsequently approved. I answered No to visa denials on Esta and there was no problems at the airport. Its because you answer no or yes based on the final decision of your visa application. In your case the best and safe answer is No. Hope this helps! 😊

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