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.
INA Section 221(g) - Incomplete Application or Supporting Documentation
What does a visa denial under INA section 221(g) mean?
A visa denial under section 221(g) of the INA means that the consular officer did not have all of the information required to determine if you are eligible to receive a visa. This means you are not eligible for the visa now, but your case is pending further action for one of the following reasons:
- Your application is incomplete and/or further documentation is required - Applicants whose application forms or other documentation are incomplete are refused. If further documents are required to complete your case, you will be informed what is needed and how to provide it to the embassy or consulate. You will also be given a letter stating your application has been denied under 221(g) and listing which documents you need to provide.
- Administrative processing - Further administrative processing of your application is required before a decision can be made regarding your eligibility for a visa. You will be given a letter stating this and next-step instructions after the administrative processing is complete.
Is there something I can do about a refusal under section 221(g)?
If your application was denied because documentation or information is missing, you can provide the missing documents or information as soon as possible. After submitting the documentation, your visa application can then be processed to conclusion to determine whether you qualify for a visa. You have one year from the date you were refused a visa to submit the additional information. Otherwise, if you do not provide the required additional information within one year, you must reapply for the visa and pay another application fee.
If your application requires further administrative processing, this takes additional time after your interview. Processing times can vary based on individual circumstances. For more information, review Administrative Processing.
What does a visa denial under INA section 214(b) mean?
This law applies only to nonimmigrant visa categories. If you are refused a visa under section 214(b), it means that you:
- Did not sufficiently demonstrate to the consular officer that you qualify for the nonimmigrant visa category you applied for; and/or
- Did not overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, required by law, by sufficiently demonstrating that you have strong ties to your home country that will compel you to leave the United States at the end of your temporary stay. (H-1B and L visa applicants, along with their spouse and any minor children, are excluded from this requirement.)
What are considered strong ties to my home country?
Ties are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your home country. Strong ties vary from country to country, city to city, and person to person, but examples include:
- Your job;
- Your home; and/or
- Your relationships with family and friends.
While conducting visa interviews, consular officers look at each application individually and consider the applicant's circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and ties outside of the United States that will ensure the applicant’s departure after a temporary visit.
Is a refusal under section 214(b) permanent?
No. A refusal, or ineligibility, under section 214(b) is for that specific application, so once a case is closed, the consular section cannot take any further action. There is no appeal process. If you feel there is additional information that should be considered related to the visa decision, or there are significant changes in your circumstances since your last application, you may reapply for a visa. To reapply, you must complete a new application form, pay the application fee, and schedule an appointment for a new interview. Review the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to reapply to learn about any reapplication procedures.
INA Section 212(a)(4) - Public Charge
Why was I refused under INA section 212(a)(4)? What is meant by “public charge”?
Visa applicants need to satisfy this provision of law by demonstrating proof of adequate financial support in the United States. A visa refusal, or ineligibility, under section 212(a)(4) of the INA means that the consular officer determined that you are likely to become a public charge in the United States. Public charge means that the consular officer determined that you are likely to become primarily dependent on the U.S. government for your existence and financial support in the United States.
Is a refusal under section 212(a)(4) permanent?
A refusal, or ineligibility, under section 212(a)(4) can be overcome in certain circumstances, as explained below.
Immigrants - Most immigrant visa applicants are required to submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864, I-864A, I-864W, or I-864EZ, as applicable) from the U.S. sponsors who filed petitions for them. If your U.S. sponsor does not meet the requirements of the Affidavit of Support, you may present a second Affidavit of Support from a qualifying joint sponsor. Learn more about the Affidavit of Support.
Some categories of immigrant visa applicants are not required to have Affidavits of Support. These are categories where no U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative filed a petition on your behalf, including most employment-based immigrants and diversity visa (DV) applicants.
If you are applying for an immigrant visa category where the Affidavit of Support Form is not required, the following are examples of how you could demonstrate to the consular officer that you will have financial support in the United States:
- Your own personal funds;
- A job offer in the United States; and/or
- Sponsorship from a U.S. resident.
Examples of sponsorship from a U.S. resident include:
- A letter from the U.S. resident stating financial support of you while in the United States;
- Documents showing that the U.S. resident can financially support you, such as bank statements or pay stubs; and/or
- An Affidavit of Support (Form I-134).
The consular officer will review the additional evidence of financial support you submit to determine whether it is sufficient to overcome your ineligibility under section 212(a)(4).
Nonimmigrants - You must demonstrate sufficient financial support during your temporary stay in the United States. Public charge denials are less frequent for nonimmigrant visa applications, but can occur, for example, in the case of a visa applicant seeking medical treatment in the United States without adequate funds to pay for treatment. Learn more about applying for a visitor visa for medical treatment.
In order to overcome a denial for public charge reasons, you must demonstrate you will have sufficient financial support in the United States. The consular officer will review the additional evidence you submit to determine whether it is sufficient to overcome your ineligibility under section 212(a)(4).
INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) - Fraud and Misrepresentation
What does a denial under INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) mean?
You were refused, or found ineligible, for a visa under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) because you attempted to receive a visa or enter the United States by willfully misrepresenting a material fact or committing fraud. This is a permanent ineligibility, so every time you apply for a visa, you will be found ineligible for this reason.
You will be advised by the consular officer if you can apply for a waiver of this ineligibility. Review Waivers of Ineligibility for more information.
What is meant by misrepresentation of a material fact?
Misrepresentation means that you falsely presented facts and were not truthful in an attempt to receive a visa or enter the United States. A fact is considered material, as it pertains to this section of the INA, when, had the truth been known, you would not have been eligible to receive a visa or enter the United States.
INA Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) - Unlawful Presence in the United States
What does a denial under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) mean?
You were refused, or found ineligible for, a visa under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) because you were considered to have been unlawfully present in the United States, if:
- You stayed in the United States after the expiration date for the period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for you, without the required authorization to extend your stay; or
- You entered and were present in the United States without receiving the required authorization from CBP.
When denied a visa for unlawful presence, you are ineligible for a visa for the following length of time:
- When unlawfully present in the United States for 180 days or longer but less than one year, you are ineligible for a visa for 3 years after departure from the United States; or
- When unlawfully present in the United States for one year or longer, you are ineligible for a visa for 10 years after departure from the United States.
You will be advised by the consular officer if you can apply for a waiver of this ineligibility. Review Waivers of Ineligibility for more information.
List of Ineligibilities
This webpage discusses some of the more common visa ineligibilities. For a complete list of visa ineligibilities and more information from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and amended laws, review Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws on this site.
What is a waiver?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) contains provisions that may allow a visa applicant who was denied a visa for a particular ineligibility to apply for a waiver of that ineligibility. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) adjudicates all waivers of ineligibility. Waivers are discretionary, meaning that there are no guarantees that DHS will approve a waiver for you. If the waiver is approved, you may be issued a visa.
Can every applicant who is ineligible apply for a waiver?
No. If you are found ineligible for a visa, the consular officer will inform you if can apply for a waiver of ineligibility. The following factors will determine if you may apply for a waiver:
- Whether a waiver of ineligibility is available for the particular section of law you are ineligible under;
- You must be fully qualified for the visa you applied for, except for that specific ineligibility, in order to be able to apply for the waiver;
- If you are applying for a nonimmigrant visa, generally whether the consular officer who found you ineligible recommends to DHS that you receive a waiver; and
- If you are applying for an immigrant visa, whether a waiver is available for your particular situation. (For example, for certain visa ineligibilities when applying for an immigrant visa, you can only apply for a waiver if you have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent who would endure extreme hardship if you were not able to immigrate.)
How do I apply for a waiver?
If you can apply for a waiver, the consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you applied will inform you how to apply.
Immigrant Visa and K Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants - If you can apply for a waiver, you must mail Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, directly to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox facility, with few exceptions. Learn more on the USCIS website.
I was found ineligible for a visa, and I have further questions. Who should I contact?
You should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you applied.