U.S. Visa Denied Due to Lack of "Nonimmigrant Intent": Your Options

A U.S. consulate or embassy may refuse to approve your visa if they believe you intend to stay in the United States beyond the specified time limit. Here's what you can do about it.

If an office at a U.S. consulate or embassy has denied your visa, he or she should have provided you with an explanation as to why the visa was denied. One of the most common reasons for visa denials is that you failed to prove that you really intend to be a nonimmigrant -- that is, to stay in the U.S. temporarily, as opposed to attempting to remain past the expiration of your permitted stay, or apply for a green card (lawful permanent residence).

Such denials may take place even after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved a petition filed on your behalf, most likely by a U.S. employer. We will help you understand the reason why the consular officer denied your visa application and provide information regarding what you can do in order to obtain your visa and come to the United States.

The Law on Nonimmigrant Intent

Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) states:

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 admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status.”

This provision means that all foreign-born persons, even those who submitted nonimmigrant visa petitions to USCIS and received USCIS approval (for example, for H, L, O, or R status), are presumed to harbor the intent to immigrate (to stay in the U.S. indefinitely). To overcome this presumption, nonimmigrants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have "strong ties" to their home country and that they intend to return there after the expiration of their authorized stay in the United States.

What Immigration Officials Look For

When a consular officer denies a visa under 214(b), it typically means that he or she found that you did not show sufficiently strong ties to your home country. The following are a few of the major factors consular officers may consider when determining your immigrant or nonimmigrant intent:

  • Your previous travels to the U.S., their purposes, and the lengths of your previous stays.
  • If you previously traveled to the U.S. on multiple occasions, how long did you remain in your home country before returning to the U.S.? (For example, if you were in the U.S. for three years, returned to your home country for one month, and then returned to the U.S. for another three years, the consular officer may think that you are trying to immigrate to the U.S. permanently.)
  • Which of your family members reside in the U.S. and which reside in your home country. (For instance, are your spouse, children, and parents living in the U.S. while only your aunt and uncle are living in your home country? Such a situation may raise suspicion regarding your true intentions for your trip to the U.S.)
  • Whether you have bank accounts, property holdings, professional activities and memberships, employment records, opportunities for advancement, and so forth in your home country. (If you have a very stable professional life, this may demonstrate to the officer that you are not likely to abandon your work at a critical point in your career).

Opportunity to Reapply

You may reapply for your visa as many times as you want.  After your visa denial, you must contact the consulate to schedule your second interview.

Before your next interview, make a list of the strong ties that you have to your home country such as all of the bank accounts/saving accounts/investments you hold in your home country, all of the properties you own or have an interest in, all of your family members who reside in your country, your employment, professional activities, and anything else that will convincingly show the reasons you wouldn't want to stay in the United States permanently.

Then, once you have completed your list, figure out what types of documentary evidence you can gather to prove the existence of these ties. This might include bank statements, leases and/or property contracts, employment letters, family members' birth certificates and evidence of their addresses, and so on. Bring all of this evidence with you to your next interview.

Additionally, it is helpful to examine any ties the officer may think you have to the U.S. in order to prepare yourself for questions about them. For instance, if you have close family in the U.S., such as siblings, a spouse, or children, you will likely need to explain why you do not, in fact, plan to stay in the United States with them.

Be Careful If Changing Any Information in Your New Application

The consular officer who denied your visa most likely maintained your information in the consulate’s record system. Therefore, the interviewing officer will probably cross-reference the new evidence you bring with the old evidence and visa application. The I.N.A. Section 212(a)(6) bars aliens from entering the U.S. if the alien has made a material misrepresentation regarding his or her immigration status.

Thus, if your reapplication is markedly different from or greatly contradicts your previous application, the consular officer may question whether you were lying in your previous application, or whether you are lying about your intentions right now. To avoid this and other possible negative immigration implications, contact an immigration attorney specializing in this matter.

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