The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, aliens share a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.
A nonimmigrant visa is usually refused under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 214(b) states:
Every alien shall be presumed to be an intending immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status …
To qualify for a visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of Sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA Section 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of a temporary stay. U.S. law places this burden of proof on the visa applicant.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visa Denials and Common Complaint
What does a consular officer look for when determining an applicant's entitlement to non-immigrant status?
In making that determination, the officer considers the applicant’s personal circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and ties outside the United States that will ensure his/her departure after a temporary visit.
What constitutes 'strong ties' to a residence abroad?
Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family – or if you weren’t born in Japan – permission for permanent residency in Japan. “Ties” are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.
Each person’s situation is different, and the consular officers are aware of this diversity. During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.
The officer didn't give me time to explain.
The visa officer who refused your visa is well trained. In a very short time, a consular officer has looked at several aspects of your case: your situation in Japan, your stated intent for going to the United States, your previous travel history, your financial situation, etc. Based on the unique circumstances of your case, the consular officer asked you the questions he/she deemed necessary. The visa officer weighed your answers to those questions with the specific facts of your case. The high volume of applications we receive demands that the consular officer examine your case only as far as necessary for him/her to determine whether you overcame the legal presumption of intending immigration to the United States. Unfortunately, visa applicants’ stated intent often conflicts with other facts presented.
The officer didn't look at my documents.
Applying for a non-immigrant visa is not primarily a documentary process. Visa officers seldom dwell upon documents. What is at issue is intent. Documents alone never will establish applicants’ intentions. Documents that demonstrate that applicants are well established in their own country can in some circumstances help individuals to establish that their intent is to return to their own country after a short visit to the United States. Depending on the specifics of your case, the consular officer may or may not have needed to examine your documents closely to make a decision about your intent. You were correct to bring documents with you, in case the visa officer would have needed to refer to them. If the consular officer made a decision in your case without a detailed scrutiny of your documents, it was because other circumstances of your case were clear. If your visa was refused, it is highly unlikely that any document you could provide would significantly alter the visa officer’s decision about your intent.
I am a legal resident of Japan. Why don’t I qualify?
Many recent legal residents of Japan cannot demonstrate sufficiently strong ties here to qualify for a non-immigrant visa to the United States. There is no magic formula that will work in each case. In general, you must be able to show that you have settled in Japan and have made it your permanent home. In reviewing your application, the consular officer considered many aspects such as: How long have you been at your current address? How long have you been at your current job? Are you, or are your children enrolled in school? What commitments do you have here that would compel you to return? What social ties do you have in Japan? Often it is a question of time, and the best way to qualify for a visa is to reside in Japan for a longer period of time and to build further social and economic ties.
I was told my J-1 training program looks like work. What does this mean?
While a J-1 training program may contain a small portion of productive work normally performed by a regular employee, the primary focus of the program must be training and skill development. The trainee may not replace or augment the regular staff by filling a position that could otherwise be held by a regular employee. The consular officer has reviewed your training plan and determined that your purpose of travel better fits into the category of a temporary work visa.
I want my money back.
The money that you paid is an application fee. Everyone who applies for a U.S. visa is subject to this fee. The application instruction form states clearly that this fee is non-refundable and will not be returned if you fail to establish that you qualify for a U.S. visa. This office has no authority to refund an application fee. If you plan to reapply for a visa here or elsewhere, you will be required to pay an application fee every time you apply.
I had a U.S. visa in the past, and I didn't over-stay it. Why won't you issue me a new one?
While you may not have overstayed on a previous visa and may not have broken the law or illegally resided in the U.S., you may have violated the spirit of your visa. A nonimmigrant visa is intended for someone to travel to the U.S. for specific purposes, but is not intended to accommodate transfer of your permanent residence to the U.S. Your past activity may indicate to the consular officer that you have been using or intend to use a nonimmigrant visa to reside in the United States indefinitely. Such activity is not appropriate to the type of visa you were using or intend to use.
I may not have been born in Japan, but I'm in Japan now. Why can't you issue me a visa here?
The visa officer with whom you spoke works and lives in Japan. It is not possible for him/her to be an expert about other countries or to understand your social and economic ties to your own country. A U.S. visa officer in your own country is qualified to look at your case and to make a determination about your residence abroad and your intent to return to your foreign residence. Even though you application has been refused in Japan, you may be able to qualify for a visa in your home country. We do not know enough about your home country here to make an informed decision.
You stamped my passport, so now I can never get a visa at home.
The U.S. visa officials in your home country understand that in Japan we are not in the best position to determine your eligibility for a visa. The U.S. visa officer in your country will judge your future application on its merits.
Why didn't they tell me when I called or faxed that I would not get a visa?
Every application for a visa is based on its own merits. By telephone or fax, it is only possible to give general information regarding the visa application process and to suggest the types of documents that might help you to demonstrate your eligibility for a U.S. visa. The visa application instructions clearly state that there is no guarantee that you will receive a U.S. visa if you choose to apply.
When can I reapply for a visa?
You may reapply for a visa any time you wish. You will be required to pay a new application fee. You should only reapply if your circumstances (professional, economic, and/or ties) have changed since your last application such that you might now qualify for a visa, or if you have additional, critical information to present that will clarify your circumstances. It is quite possible that even after reapplication, you still may not qualify for a visa.