Why was my visa denied?
Updated: Jan 11
After months of planning, filling out forms, and maybe even buying expensive plane tickets, your visa was denied! You made the trip all the way to the U.S. embassy, dressed in your best clothes, tried to explain yourself and, after the shortest conversation of your life, the consular officer refused your visa. No one can blame you for feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed and confused all at once!
What does 214(b) mean?
Most likely, your visa application was refused under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which basically says that every visa applicant is presumed to want to live permanently in the United States until they prove the opposite (though there are other possible reasons for denial). But it could also mean that what you want to do in the USA is not allowed with the visa that you applied for. In the case of "the presumption of immigrant intent," a visa applicant has to prove they don't want to live in the United States by showing substantial "ties" to another country. How you show those ties depends on your personal situation but essentially you need to convince the consular officer that there are things outside of the United States that you would not be willing to leave behind.
What can you do if your visa has been denied? As for what you can do now, you need to think about your plans and how you want to invest your time and energy. Most likely, if you think they made a mistake or there was a misunderstanding, you will need to file a new visa application - though there are some cases where the consular officer made a genuine mistake and it might be worthwhile to ask for reconsideration. Reconsideration is rare, so you might want to consider professional help if you’re thinking about going down this path. Assuming you need to re-apply, should you?
Should you re-apply if your visa has been denied? As a former consular officer, I can tell you that a person coming back for a second visa application after previously being denied is at a disadvantage – but don't lose hope. In your second visa application, you will need to not only convince a different consular officer that you deserve the visa, but also that the first consular officer made a mistake (or that you made a mistake in how your presented yourself). In this situation, it helps if a couple of things are true: First, you should have something new to say, like new facts you didn't explain the first time around. Second, have a strategy for how you are going to explain your new circumstances.
In my experience, the visa applicants who are most likely to be successful are the ones who put the blame on themselves (“I didn’t explain myself well…” or “I forgot to share some important information…”) rather than putting it on the other consular officer (“She didn’t ask me any questions!”). The latter might be true and you have a right to be frustrated – but put those thoughts aside for a moment and focus on how you can maximize your chances of success. Going in to the interview with a good plan, some new facts, and the right attitude can help you achieve a better outcome the second time around. On the other hand, it might make more sense to wait some time, do some things that improve your ties outside of the United States, or to consider a different visa category that might help you get around the first visa refusal. Each situation is different but usually not hopeless. If you have questions about a visa interview or want help preparing, feel free to get in touch.