There are several factors that may prevent you from from securing a U.S. student visa.
Let's start by looking at the big picture -- your basic ability to qualify for a student visa -- and then focus in on some specialized issues that sometimes cause denials.
Generally, a student visa can be denied at the consulate any time the applicant is unable to prove that he or she can and will comply with the visa program’s purpose and requirements. The purpose of the student visa is to enter the United States temporarily as a full-time student at a SEVP-certified institution to complete an academic program. In order to secure a student visa, applicants must be able to demonstrate the following at their visa interview:
If you are unable to provide verbal or documentary evidence to support these factors, you risk having your student visa denied.
For more on the eligibility, see Eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa (For Academic Study), and Eligibility for an M-1 Student Visa (For Vocational Schools).
Making sure you plan ahead, and time your student visa application is critical to the success of the process. Your student visa can be denied if you apply for it after the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. Consular officers can also deny your visa if the program start date has not passed but they have reason to believe that you will not enter the United States until after that date has passed.
You may be able to overcome such a denial if your institution can verify that you will still be permitted to enroll and register for courses at the time you are able to enter the United States.
Your student visa will likely be denied if you are unable to provide evidence of sufficient finances to cover the expenses listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. Financial evidence must show liquid assets. A liquid asset is one that is immediately available for use, like cash.
Consular officers do not expect you to have liquid assets to cover your entire program duration, but you will need to have enough to cover the expenses for at least your first academic year.
One of the most common reasons applicants are denied student visas to the United States is that consular officers doubt their intent to return home upon completion of the academic program. Consular officers are advised to look at a variety of factors when making this determination. These factors can include the existence of bank accounts, future employment opportunities, and written statements by family about future plans to return.
It can be difficult to provide this type of evidence if you are a younger student who has not yet established strong ties with your home country outside of your relationships. Consular officers understand this, but denials still occur and it is important for you to prepare enough documentation that at least supports an intent to return home.
All nonimmigrant visa applicants are required to undergo a security check on the Consular Lookout and Security System (CLASS) database to see if their name has been tagged for any reason.
If your name has been tagged on this system, you can be denied a student visa, depending on the reason. If you are coming to the United States to study a technologically or politically sensitive topic, you may have to receive an additional security clearance before receiving your visa. This may not result in a denial, but it will most likely delay the processing time of your application. Students often have to defer their admission for a semester or a year when this happens.
If you have been charged with inadmissibility to the United States, your student visa will be denied. Common charges of inadmissibility include criminal convictions and/or prior overstays in the United States that surpassed 180 days.
When your student visa expires, you will have to apply for a new one if you are still enrolled in your academic program and you want to travel abroad. Remember that your application for a new student visa can still be denied, even though your prior application was successful.
If your student visa is denied, the consular officer should inform you of the reason(s) both verbally and in writing. Make sure you carefully review this decision.
Depending on the reason(s) and your consulate, you may be able to reapply for your visa once you have collected documentation to overcome the denial. Your Designated School Official (DSO) may be able to assist you if the reason is directly related to your I-20 form and admission. If the denial is for any other reason, consider seeking assistance from an immigration attorney.