Some visa refusals and visa denials are proper, such as when you fail to provide the requested documents to prove visa eligibility or when you are inadmissible to the U.S. due to past actions. But when the decision is improper or can be overcome, you may take remedial action if you still want to come to the U.S.
A consular officer’s decision to deny or issue a visa is not subject to judicial review, based on the doctrine of consular non-reviewability. Because consular officers have so much discretion in issuing visa decisions, it’s especially important to address complications from the get-go.
When you’re faced with a visa refusal or denial, your potential solutions include:
1. Refiling for the Nonimmigrant Visa in Section 214(b) Situations
There is no waiver to overcome the INA 214(b) ground of ineligibility (failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent) in nonimmigrant visa cases. But the finding is not permanent, which means you may later establish nonimmigrant intent by showing a considerable change in circumstances.
When your nonimmigrant visa (e.g. B-1/B-2 visitor visa or F-1/M-1 student visa) is denied due to failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, you will need to reapply for the visa and, at the visa interview, present new, persuasive evidence of strong ties to your home country.
To avoid multiple visa refusals under section 214(b), you must build strong family roots, property ownership, employment ties, and other connections to your country that you cannot abandon and will cause you to depart the U.S. before your authorized stay expires.
In 214(b) visa refusal cases, you should not reapply for the B-1/B-2 visa, for example, until your personal, professional, and financial circumstances have changed significantly. Owning a business, investing in property, having a well-paid, steady job, or starting a family in your country are positive factors.
2. Requesting an Advisory Opinion (Administrative Review)
When your visa denial is based on questions of law, you may request an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State’s Visa Office in Washington D.C. The Visa Office will not review claims that the consular officer made a mistake of fact.
The Visa Office has a dedicated email channel, LegalNet, for you and/or your attorney to request a case-specific response on the interpretation or application of immigration law.
An example is when a person is denied an H-1B or L-1 visa, which allows dual intent, under section 214(b) (failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent). Another example is when a visa applicant is charged with 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefit), even when there was no providing false testimony or fabricated documents or the misrepresentation was not material and did not affect visa eligibility.
Within seven (7) business days of receiving a proper inquiry, LegalNet will provide notice that the inquiry has been received and is being processed. The complexity of the case and availability of required information affects the time frame for a substantive responses.
LegalNet will provide substantive responses only to the following types of inquiries:
- Legal questions about a specific case when the applicant or representative has attempted to contact the consular post at least twice without receiving a final response, and where 30 days have passed since the second inquiry (unless action is required sooner to avert significant harm to the applicant)
- Legal questions about a specific case in which the applicant or representative has received a final response from the consular post, but believes it to be wrong as a matter of law
- Legal questions about specific cases involving T visas, U visas, Diversity visas, or adoption visas, and
- Legal questions about specific cases involving the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
The substantive response will be a summary of the advisory opinion forwarded to the consulate. Advisory opinions on applications or interpretations of law are binding on consular officers, but consular officers have sole authority to apply the law to the facts.
3. Filing a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind a Section 212(a) Inadmissibility Determination
Although there is no appeal process for a visa denial based on INA section 212(a) inadmissibility grounds, the U.S. Consulate or Embassy may reconsider its decision based on new evidence or legal arguments establishing you actually qualify for the visa.
In immigrant visa cases, the federal regulations under 22 CFR 42.81 allow you to submit a motion to reconsider within one year of the visa denial to the consulate. No new application or filing fee is required when a timely motion is filed. Motions to reconsider must include relevant documentary evidence and legal claims to overcome the inadmissibility ground.
In nonimmigrant visa cases (except section 221(g) refusals), the only way to have your case reconsidered is to submit a new visa application and, at the visa interview, present a request to reconsider the inadmissibility finding.
It’s appropriate to file a motion to reconsider when the inadmissibility finding is based on a consular officer’s misinterpretation of the facts or law. But when the inadmissibility determination originates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), e.g. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), the Consulate will generally instruct you to contact those agencies.
4. Applying for a Waiver of Inadmissibility
When you are truly inadmissible or you are unable to get the erroneous inadmissibility charge vacated by the Consulate, you may apply for a waiver. A waiver grant is not a travel document to enter the U.S. Rather, it allows – but does not guarantee – admission on a Canadian passport (if you are a Canadian citizen) or a visa grant by the Consulate when you are inadmissible to the U.S.
For nonimmigrant visa applicants, the 212(d)(3) waiver excuses almost all grounds of inadmissibility listed in section 212(a). This includes health-related grounds, criminal offenses, prostitution, smuggling, fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefits, false claims to U.S. citizenship to gain benefits under federal, state or immigration law, and unlawful presence in the U.S. The only inadmissibility grounds that cannot be excused by the 212(d)(3) waiver involve security and related issues, foreign policy considerations, and participation in Nazi persecutions.
In Matter of Hranka, the Board of Immigration Appeals listed three factors that must be considered in deciding whether to grant or deny the waiver. These factors are also described in the Foreign Affairs Manual, which sets forth policies for the Department of State. They are:
- The risk of harm to society if the applicant is admitted to the U.S.
- The seriousness of the applicant’s prior immigration law or criminal law violations, which caused the inadmissibility.
- The importance of the applicant’s reasons for seeking to enter the U.S.
The consular officer must recommend your nonimmigrant waiver request for approval before it is forwarded to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection for a final decision.
For immigrant visa applicants, there are waivers for certain inadmissibility grounds, including fraud or willful misrepresentation, some criminal offenses, and unlawful presence.
You will need to determine whether a waiver is available for the specific section of law that makes you inadmissible. Even when a waiver is available, only certain immigrant visa applicants may qualify for it.
You qualify for the I-601 waiver [INA§ 212(i) waiver] of the lifetime fraud/willful misrepresentation bar under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) if you are one of the following:
1. An intended immigrant who is the spouse, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen K-visa petitioner) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. [NOTE: Being a parent of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child does not make you eligible for the §212(i) waiver.]
2. A VAWA self-petitioner who will suffer extreme hardship or whose U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or qualified alien parent or child will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S.
You qualify for the I-601 [INA§ 212(a)(9)(B)(v)] waiver of the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar if you are the spouse or son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen K-visa petitioner) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. [NOTE: Being a parent of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child does not make you eligible for the unlawful presence waiver.
You qualify for the I-601 [INA § 212(h)] waiver of crime-related inadmissibility grounds if you are one of the following:
1. An immigrant who is the spouse, parent, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or K visa petitioner, who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S.
2. A self-petitioning abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
3. Inadmissible only under prostitution grounds [sections 212(D)(i) or (D)(ii) of the INA]; you have been rehabilitated; and your admission is not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security to the United States.
4. Inadmissible due to certain criminal activities (e.g. a crime involving moral turpitude; single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana) that occurred more than 15 years before the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status; you have been rehabilitated; and your admission is not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the United States.
The I-601 immigrant waiver under section 212(h) of the INA excuses you from the following criminal grounds:
1. Crimes involving moral turpitude
2. One controlled substance violation involving simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (or an equivalent amount of hashish)
3. Two or more criminal convictions (other than purely political ones) with an aggregate sentence imposed of at least five years
5. Unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution
6. Certain aliens involved in serious crimes who have asserted immunity from prosecution
The immigrant waiver is not available for all crime-related grounds of inadmissibility. In particular, persons charged with the following are not eligible for the waiver:
1. 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)[Controlled Substance Violation] – except when it relates to a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (or hashish); or
2. 212(a)(2)(C)[Controlled Substance Traffickers]
3. 212(a)(2)(G)[Foreign government officials who committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom]
4. 212(a)(2)(H)[Significant traffickers in persons/human traffickers]
5. 212(a)(2)(I)[Money laundering]
Waiver for prior removal orders (or certain immigration violations)
Advance permission to reapply for admission into the United States is needed when you are inadmissible under sections 212(a)(9)(A)(i)(e.g. expedited removal order) and (ii) (removal order by an Immigration Judge), as well as sections 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) (illegal re-entry after accruing more than one year of unlawful presence) and (II)(illegal re-entry following removal order).
When any of these inadmissibility bars apply, you need an I-212 waiver to be readmitted to the U.S. or to obtain a visa as an immigrant or nonimmigrant. For more information on these inadmissibility grounds, read our article, When do you need an I-212 Waiver (and how do you get it)?
The I-212 waiver request may be filed at any time, in conjunction with a visa application, when sections 212(a)(9)(A)(i) and (ii) apply. But when sections 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) and (II) apply and you are an immigrant visa applicant, you must be outside the U.S. and wait ten years abroad before filing the Form I-212. [Note: As an alternative, if you are a nonimmigrant visa applicant, you may seek a section 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver, at any time, if you are inadmissible under section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I), i.e. unlawful presence of more than one year, in the aggregate, and subsequent reentry without admission or parole.]
A completed and signed Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal, must be submitted – except in few situations, such as when filing for a nonimmigrant visa at certain U.S. consulates. The Form I-212 filing fee and sometimes a biometrics fee are required.
Consult an immigration attorney with expertise in visa refusals or denials
When your visa is refused or denied, and you still wish to come to the U.S., you need to contact an immigration attorney to evaluate your visa eligibility, verify whether the consulate has valid grounds to deny the visa, and discuss or pursue possible remedies.
For more information, read our related article, Common Reasons for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial.
This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Photo by: Anne Worner