FAQ - Immigration

What Can I Do if My Visa Application is Denied?

Limited Review

Unfortunately, there is limited review of a consular's decision to deny a visa application. US law provides consular officers with the final authority to issue or deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. If the visa application is denied because the applicant failed to provide proper documentation, the applicant should reapply once he or she has gathered the missing documentary evidence.

The applicant may request that the head of the consulate or embassy where the denial occurred review the decision. In some situations, applicants can appeal the denial to the Visa Office of the US Department of State. The State Department's review is limited to cases where the basis for the denial was the consulate's interpretation of the law. The State Department will not review the consulate's interpretation of facts. US courts generally have found that there is no judicial review of visa application denials.

If a consulate decides to deny a visa application, the officer will provide the applicant with a written notice of the denial. The written notice most commonly is a standardized form with the appropriate reason for denial checked off from a list. The list usually provides a reference to the appropriate section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that serves as the reason for the denial.

If the reason for the denial was substantive, rather than the applicant failing to provide certain documentation, the consular officer will meet in person with the applicant and explain the reason for the denial. In some situations, the applicant's ineligibility may be waivable under US law. To learn more about the available waivers, an applicant should contact an immigration attorney.

214(b) Denials

The 214(b) denial is one of the most common denials received by applicants for nonimmigrant visas. It refers to Section 214(b) of the INA, which provides that "every alien…shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, and the immigration officers, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…"

Thus, applicants for nonimmigrant visas have the burden to prove to consular officers that they are eligible to receive the nonimmigrant visa for which they applied. Applicants also must be able to prove that they have sufficiently strong ties to their home countries compelling them to return home once their permitted time in the US ends. This most often includes keeping a permanent residence in the home country, but may also include employment, family-owned business or other family ties.

If the applicant is unable to convince the consular officer of his or her intention to return home or his or her eligibility for the particular type of nonimmigrant visa, the consular officer will deny the application. The applicant may be able to reapply for the visa once he or she can provide the necessary documentation, or once his or her circumstances have changed.

For knowledgeable advice on your options following a denial of an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa application, contact an experienced immigration lawyer.

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