The US consuls have unrestrained decision-making power when it cones to approving or denying visa applications. No lawyer and no court can appeal their decision. So one thing that could change your life entirely depends solely on one official of the US Foreign Service. Consuls have this power for both non-immigration and immigration visas. You apply for a non-immigration visa if you only want to stay in the US for a limited period of time, e.g. as a tourist, student, employee who is being transferred to the US by his or her company etc. Immigration visas are for people who wish to live in the US permanently.
Rejection of a non-immigration visa
Why does a consul reject non-immigration visas? You can find the reason for the rejection in section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act:
Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...
In other words - everyone applying for a non-immigration visa will be regarded as someone who wants to stay in the US permanently until he or she can prove the contrary. In case you cannot prove that, your application will be rejected.
Who is exempt from standard rejections?
As opposed to other non-immigrants, applicants for the H-1B Visa (Specialty Occupation Worker), O-Visa (Extraordinary Ability) and L-1 Visa (Company Transferee) cannot be denied a visa simply because they might want to stay in the US permanently.
THE STAMP: "APPLICATION RECEIVED"
In case the applicant could not present sufficient proof that he or she does not wish to live in the US permanently, the consul will do two things. First, on the last page of the applicant's passport he will put a stamp "application received." ATTENTION! Do not be fooled by this harmless wording. For every consul and immigration official at the border, this stamp is the signal that the passport holder has received a rejection for a US visa on the date mentioned on the stamp. The applicant will receive a standard letter that is the actual rejection.
How to prove that you are not an immigrant?
- Close ties to your home country
Usually, employment is the factor that will convince the consul that you indeed want to leave the US again after a temporary stay in the country. An applicant who can prove that he or she has always worked in his or her home country will probably also be able to prove that he or she wishes to return there and be a safe candidate for a non-immigrant visa. Another important factor are financial ties to your home country. This can be investment, real estate, or business. Family ties and social ties are usually not counted the same way that employment or financial ties are. For example, the fact that someone going to the US and leaving wife and kids in his home country will probably not count very much to establish that person is not an immigrant.
Specific and realistic plans
The applicant should be having specific and realistic plans for his or her entire stay in the US. Consuls regard applicants who don't really know what they are going to do in the US as potential immigrants. So it is advisable to submit an itinerary for your trip together with your application.
Sufficient financial means
Proof that you have sufficient financial means to cover your expenses in the US may convince the consul that you will not be working illegally in the US (which would be regarded as intent to immigrate). Possible documentation is bank statements, bank statements about drawing money for the trip, an affidavit from relatives who are guaranteeing to support you financially etc.
What to do when the visa application was rejected?
If the consul should tell you that it is not possible at present to issue you a visa, ask whether you are being rejected due to employment, family, or other factors. This will help you prepare for a new visa application. Consuls are usually well-trained and well-meaning officials. The public often doesn't consider under how much pressure the consuls are, especially after 9/11. Often they have to check hundreds of visa applications a day and make sure that fraudulent applications are being rejected. They know that they will be wrong sometimes and they are willing to re-check a visa application if they have indeed made a mistake.
In case your application was rejected, you can apply to have it re-checked. This application has to be submitted as a new DS-156 (Application for a Non-Immigration Visa) and photo and visa fees. In addition you should include documentation stating that despite the consuls worries you do intend to return to your home country. Use your common sense when you are filling out this form. In case the consul has expressed doubts about your employment situation, get a letter from your employer with everything there is to know about your employment there. The letter should explain that the position will still be yours after you return from the US. A student might present a letter from a potential employer who certifies that there is a demand for employees with the academic skills the student is acquiring at the moment. Some consulates work with the principle that a rejected application cannot be re-submitted before a deadline of 6 months or even a year after rejection. However, if you can state important reasons for a re-checking, the consul will probably agree to let you re-submit your application earlier.
REMARK: If you apply again after one application has been rejected, you must state in question 20 of the DS 156 that an earlier application has been denied.
We will be glad to help you with any further details or questions. Also inform yourself about our expanded visa services for non-immigration visas as initial applications or after rejection. Best use the contact form on our website!