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Visa Denial at the US Embassy

28th June 2010
By Cathy Tran Reck in Immigration Law
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American Immigration is a complex and daunting subject. Generally people encounter the immigration system when they pass through an airport in the US, or when they apply for the a visa at the United States Embassy. This article provides an overview of immigration process when a foreign national applies for a visa, receive a denial, and then appeal the visa refusal.

The Embassy deny visa applications for a myriad of reasons based on their own finding and the documents submitted from the visa applicant. US consular officers are charged with reviewing relevant documents, investigate the person's background, and conduct a personal interview to evaluate whether that individual is eligible for the visa.

When an immigrant visa is denied the applicant is issued a 221(g) or "blue sheet" indicating the evidence submitted was insufficient. Visa denial is basically due to the requirements of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 214(b), wherein the applicant did not have meaningful evidence of strong ties to a residence abroad to compel the applicant to return home after the visit. Administrative processing is sometimes equivalent to a 221(g) refusal as the consular officer was unable to approve the case based on the evidence submitted, or a discrepancy was discovered requiring additional time to investigate. Administrative processing and 221(g) cases may languish in visa purgatory until the visa expires or until qualitative evidence is submitted by the visa applicant.

Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Most visa applicants apply for a tourist visa or a student visa in this category. To qualify for a visitor or student visa, a prospective visitor or student applicant must meaningful evidence of funding, valid purpose of the trip, and strong ties in a residence abroad to compel the applicant to return to after the visit.

The most frequent basis for such a visa 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 the temporary stay. Evidence of "strong ties" may be illustrated by consistent and steady history of employment, sufficient collateral or property ownership to cover travel expenses, and a succinct and sincere reason for the visit. These are compelling factors the consular officered consider when evaluating an applicant's eligibility for the visa. The brief interview with the applicant is also valuable in the consular officer's decision to approve or deny the visa.

U.S. consulates abroad have been known to deny visas based upon INA Section 221(g) even after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved a petition for the visa application.

In a 221(g) case, the consular officers determine that the requirements for a petition-based visa are not met by an applicant. They can refuse to issue the visa under Section 221(g). When they do so, they also request that the USCIS revoke the petition that was approved earlier.

Even though the USCIS has the primary authority to determine whether or not a person meets the requirements for a particular, petition-based visa classification, the consulate may reach a different conclusion and request that the USCIS reconsider its original approval of a petition. What can happen is that new, negative information can come to light at the time of the interview and the interviewing consular officer may conclude that the visa applicant either does not appear to meet the requirements of a fiancé/e. Essentially the individual did not convince the consular officer that the relationship is bona fide and possibly a sham marriage entered into to circumvent US Immigration law. Cases issued 221(g) are equivalent to a denial, however, some languish in visa purgatory similar to administrative processing.

Whether the case is issued a 214(b), or 221(g) blue sheet, one should consult with a competent immigration attorney who is able to review the case and provide the best course of action based on the applicant's unique sets of facts. Consular processing attorneys are in a highly advantageous position to assist since they are able to inquire directly with the consulate and embassy where the applicant's case was denied.
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About the Author
Occupation: U.S. Lawyer
Cathy Tran Reck is an American immigration attorney working from Bangkok, Thailand. Cathy is the Managing Partner at Cathy Tran Reck & Associates, Ltd. Bangkok with an office in Bangkok, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Cathy is licensed by the California State Bar, American Bar Association, and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached at or in Bangkok at (+66) 2 302 1448.

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