PIMS (Petition Information Management Service) is an electronic system set up to provide U.S. consular posts with notification for petition approvals. It is the only source of evidence to be used in the issuance of visas in H, L, O, P and Q nonimmigrant visa classifications. A visa applicant may not be issued a visa until the consular post is able to verify the petition approval in PIMS. In order for the petition to exist in the PIMS system, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) sends to the U.S. State Department’s Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) a duplicate original of the petition documents filed by the petitioner with CIS. The KCC then records the petition in the PIMS system which can be accessed by the consular posts. If the petition has not been recorded in the PIMS system, the consular posts must make inquiries regarding the petition and often visa issuance is delayed. In March 2008, after many applicants experienced delays at consular posts, CIS and the State Department (DOS) came to realize that petitions for changes of status, extensions of stay and amendments were not being entered into the PIMS system. DOS was under the mistaken assumption that CIS forwarded all petitions to the KCC while the reality was that CIS only forwarded petitions requesting "consular notification." In order to resolve this issue, CIS started to ask petitioners to submit duplicate, originally signed petitions with their petitions for extensions, changes of status or amendments. Upon approving a petition, CIS now forwards this duplicate original to the KCC for entry into PIMS.
While this new process has for the most part solved the problems for the petitions submitted after March 2008, there is still the matter of the petitions filed prior to this March guidance. According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, DOS has instructed all consular posts to implement procedures by which PIMS is checked prior to the visa interview in an effort to decrease delays. For example, many posts require the petition receipt number in order to schedule an interview. Thus, these posts should be able to check PIMS and query the KCC, if necessary, before the applicant even arrives at the consular post for his or her interview. While this is a step in the right direction, we would still caution visa applicants (particularly those whose extension, change of status or amended petitions were approved before late March 2008 or if the petitioner did not file a duplicate original with CIS) that visa issuance could be delayed.
Finally, DOS has updated its website to confirm that "the I-797 is no longer needed for the visa applicant's interview, since petition approval is now verified in the Department of State's system called Petition Information Management Service (PIMS)." Please note that while DOS has adopted this procedure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not. Applicants applying for admission at a port-of-entry may still be required to have an original (Form I-797) approval notice issued by CIS.