U.S. law generally requires visa applicants to be interviewed by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. After relevant information is reviewed, the application is approved or denied, based on standards established in U.S. law.
While the vast majority of visa applications are approved, U.S. law sets out many standards under which a visa application may be denied. An application may be denied because the consular officer does not have all of the information required to determine if the applicant is eligible to receive a visa, because the applicant does not qualify for the visa category for which he or she applied, or because the information reviewed indicates the applicant falls within the scope of one of the inadmissibility or ineligibility grounds of the law. An applicant’s current and/or past actions, such as drug or criminal activities, as examples, may make the applicant ineligible for a visa.
If denied a visa, in most cases the applicant is notified of the section of law which applies. Visa applicants are also advised by the consular officer if they may apply for a waiver of their ineligibility. Several of the most common reasons for visa ineligibilities are explained below. For more information, review the visa ineligibilities in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
How does a visa applicant qualify for a visa?
You, as a visa applicant, qualify for a visa by being eligible under all applicable U.S. laws for the visa category for which you are applying. During your visa interview, the consular officer at the U.S Embassy or Consulate will determine if you are qualified for the type of visa for which you are applying.
The sole authority to approve or deny (called adjudicate) visa applications, under U.S. immigration law section 104(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, is given to consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
What does being found ineligible mean?
If a consular officer finds you are not eligible to receive a visa under U.S. law, your visa application will be denied (refused), and you will be provided a reason for the denial. There are many reasons a visa applicant could be found ineligible for a visa. These reasons, called ineligibilities, are listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other immigration laws. Some ineligibilities can be overcome, either by you, the visa applicant, or the U.S. petitioner, in certain immigrant visa cases. Other ineligibilities are permanent. This means that every time you apply for a visa, you will be found ineligible under the same section of law, unless a waiver of that ineligibility is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security. Learn about waivers of ineligibility.
Here are some examples of visa ineligibilities, with INA references, which are explained further below.
The visa applicant:
Did not fully complete the visa application and/or provide all required supporting documentation – INA section 221(g)
Did not establish eligibility for the visa category being applied for or overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant – INA section 214(b)
Was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude – INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)
Was convicted of a drug violation – INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)
Has two or more criminal convictions for which the total sentence of confinement was 5 years or more – INA section 212(a)(2)(B)
Did not demonstrate proof of adequate financial support in the United States; therefore denied under public charge – INA section 212(a)(4)
Misrepresented a material fact or committed fraud to attempt to receive a visa – INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)
Previously remained longer than authorized in the United States – INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)
For a complete list of all visa ineligibilities contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act, see Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws.
I was found ineligible for a visa. Can I get my money back?
No. The fee that you paid is a non-refundable application processing fee.
Can I reapply for a visa?
After being found ineligible for a visa, you may reapply in the future. If you reapply for a visa after being found ineligible, with the exception of 221(g) refusals, you must submit a new visa application and pay the visa application fee again. If you were found ineligible under section 214(b) of the INA, you should be able to present evidence of significant changes in circumstances since your last application. See more information below under INA section 214(b).
Can a friend or relative inquire about my denied visa application?
Department of State visa case records are confidential under INA section 222(f), so information can only be provided to visa applicants, with some exceptions. Certain information can be provided to U.S. sponsors, attorneys representing visa applicants, members of Congress, or other persons acting on behalf of and with the permission of applicants.
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