Why You May Be Denied a U.S. Student Visa

Common reasons a consular officer might deny a student visa include lack of financial resources, insufficient proof of intent to return home, and more.

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.

Broadly speaking, 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:

  • Acceptance to a SEVP-certified institution, as demonstrated by the issuance of an original I-20 or DS-2019 form.
  • Proficiency in the English language.
  • Evidence of financial resources sufficient to cover tuition, living expenses, and additional costs as designated on the I-20 form of DS-2019 form, and
  • Evidence of intent to return home upon completion of the academic program.

If you are unable to provide verbal or documentary evidence to support these factors, you risk having your student visa denied.

Denial Based on Applying Late (After the Program Start Date)

Making sure you plan ahead and time your student visa application appropriately 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 might 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.

Denial for Lack of Financial Resources

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.

Denial for Insufficient Showing of Intent to Return Home

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 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 young 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 to at least support an intent to return home.

Denial for Failure to Pass the Security Check

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 might have to pass an additional security clearance before receiving your visa. This might 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.

Denial Based on Inadmissibility

If you have been found to meet one of the grounds of 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.

Denials Even After Previous Student Visa Grants

When your student visa expires, you will have to visit a U.S. consulate to apply for a new one if you are still enrolled in your academic program and you want to travel abroad and be able to return to the United States. (Extensions of your student status are possible from within the U.S., but will not permit return entry if you leave.) Your application for a new student visa can be denied at this point, even though your prior student visa application was successful.

What to Do After a Visa Is Denied

If your student visa is denied, the consular officer should inform you of the reasons both verbally and in writing. Carefully review this decision.

Depending on the reasons and your consulate, you might be able to reapply for your visa once you have collected documentation to overcome the denial. Your Designated School Official (DSO) might 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.

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