The number of foreign nationals who enter the United States each year can sometimes lead people to assume that securing a tourist visa is "easy." Nothing could be further from the truth. Ironically, obtaining a visitor visa (B1/B2) can arguably be more difficult than obtaining an immigrant visa. This is so because there are clearly defined paths and set of criteria through either family or employment that one can follow to pursue a visa for permanent residence, whereas for temporary visas, the evaluation process can be much more open and subjective. Consular officers are granted a wide amount of discretion when considering visitor visa applications and their denials are not subject to as much scrutiny or review.
If an applicant is denied a visitor visa, he or she will ordinarily be furnished a sheet by the consulate that cites the particular provision underlying the refusal. Some of the most common grounds include but are not limited to the following:
- 221(g) Incomplete Application or Missing Information/Documentation. This usually refers to a situation whereby the officer cannot render a decision due to missing information or an incomplete application
- 214(b) Immigrant Intent. This is the most common ground of refusal: the applicant has failed to demonstrate that he/she is visiting the US temporarily
- 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Fraud or Misrepresentation. The visa is being denied due to some type of misrepresentation or lie perpetrated during the visa process (either currently or previously)
- 212(a)(9)(B)(i) Unlawful Presence. The applicant was unlawfully present in the US previously and triggered the unlawful presence bar upon departure, thereby barring a future return until the requisite time has passed
These grounds can be illuminating because they provide hints to prospective applicants what deficiencies they need to avoid during the visa process. In essence, the applicant for a tourist visa must establish that the purpose of his/her intended visit is temporary and that he/she has every intention of returning. Some of the above grounds can be avoided by ensuring that the application is complete and accurate; the applicant answers all of the officer's questions truthfully; and that the application is supplemented with sufficient documentation establishing the applicant's intentions and non-immigrant intent. At a minimum, we usually prepare visitor visa applications that include the following:
- An invitation letter
- An Affidavit of Support (Form I-134)
- Proof of non-immigrant intent
- This is usually documentary evidence establishing the applicant's ties to his/her native country. The more evidence there is, the more likely it is that the applicant will return.
If you or someone you are inviting requires expert assistance in preparing a visitor visa application, contact our office. While an applicant is usually free to reapply after a visa refusal under 214(b), a consular officer will normally refuse any subsequent visa applications unless there are a material change in circumstances, in other words, something different to tell or show the officer that would warrant a grant this time around. This obviously underscores the importance of preparing a proper submission the first time around. Although the application process is relatively uncomplicated, requiring a minimum number of steps, the criteria that must be satisfied is strictly followed by consulates and should be approached with the appropriate degree of diligence and earnestness.
Please remember that the foregoing is general information only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice.