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In November 2007, the Department of State (DOS) launched the Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) program. PIMS is a report set up by DOS to provide U.S. consular posts with official notification when H, L, O, P and Q nonimmigrant petitions have been approved. Traditionally, consular posts have had to rely on paper USCIS approval notices supplied by visa applicants when adjudicating a visa application, a process that was vulnerable to misrepresentation and fraud. Under the new procedure, the USCIS service centers electronically transfer a copy of the filed petition and supporting documentation to DOS’ Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), which then updates the information in PIMS. The consular post must confirm a petition approval in PIMS before issuing a visa based on that approval.  

The main problem with the PIMS program is that, oftentimes, a petition record cannot be found in the report. In these instances, the consulate must email the KCC and request verification of approval. Visa applicants have been experiencing delays at consulates while petition verification is conducted by email with the KCC. In order to stem these types of delays, DOS has instructed all consular posts to check PIMS before the in-person interview. We have seen that many posts now require a petition receipt number before an interview can be scheduled, and this allows the posts to check PIMS before the interview and begin steps to verify approval with KCC by the time of the interview.

We advise all visa applicants to be aware of the possibility of delays in visa approval and/or issuance. If a petition is not in PIMS at the time of a consular interview, the email verification process is supposed to take two working days, though we have seen delays of a week or even longer in some instances. We file all of our clients' nonimmigrant visa petitions with a duplicate original sent to USCIS, which greatly decreases the chance that petition approval will not show in the PIMS record. However, USCIS or KCC backlogs and errors could still cause delays. An applicant may not be told at the interview that there is a delay related to PIMS, and may only be informed that the application is undergoing "administrative processing." This is the same language typically used in cases where additional security clearances are required, so we would encourage all visa applicants to ask the consular officer whether the approval has been verified in PIMS.    

As part of its update, DOS has also confirmed that an applicant no longer needs to present an original approval notice at the time of the in-person interview to be issued a visa. We still advise visa applicants to present an original approval notice at the interview, and the approval notice may also be required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when applying for admission at the U.S. port-of-entry.

We continue to monitor the status of the PIMS program and will keep you updated as DOS releases more information. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Immigration attorneys if you or one of your employees has questions about the PIMS process or encounters a delay with visa issuance and/or approval.