Having a visa application denied can be frustrating. You go through weeks – even months – of work. You pay your visa application fee. You get visa photographs taken. Then, at the end of the process, you’re left with a rejected U.S. visa application. You need to go through the entire process again if you want to visit the United States.

The United States rejects thousands of visa applications every year. At some U.S. embassies, there are more visa application rejections than approvals. Some embassies only accept a small percentage of applicants, for example.

The good thing is that U.S. visa applications are carefully reviewed by the U.S. embassy or consulate. Typically, if your U.S. visa was denied, then there was a good reason for the visa to be denied.

Sometimes, a small mistake – like a typo – can jeopardize your visa application. In other cases, a criminal record or other potential problem could cause your visa to be denied.

The United States has clear laws regarding its visa policy. Each visa comes with specific rules and requirements. Failure to meet those requirements will lead to visa application rejection. Furthermore, the United States Immigration & Nationality Act clearly lists the reasons for U.S. visa application denial.

Keep reading to discover some of the most common reasons why your U.S. visa application may be rejected – including the steps you can take to avoid the problem in the future.

You May Be Ineligible for a U.S. Visa

Certain types of people are ineligible for a United States visa. Generally, if you have a criminal record, your U.S. visa application will be denied. U.S. consular and embassy officers have the sole discretion to approve or deny your visa. If a visa applicant has a criminal record, then the application may be denied.

Other common reasons for U.S. visa ineligibility include:

  • Incomplete application or supporting documentation
  • Visa qualifications and immigrant intent
  • Public charge
  • Fraud and misrepresentation
  • Unlawful presence in the United States

If you have a criminal record, then it’s still possible to visit the United States. Some may qualify for a “waiver of ineligibility”. If you qualify for this waiver, then a condition that would otherwise reject your U.S. visa will be waived, allowing you to move forward with your application. Again, the consular and embassy officer has sole discretion over your visa application.

Below, we’ll talk about each of the specific problems listed above, including why your visa was rejected and how to prevent this problem from affecting future applications.

Incomplete Application or Supporting Documentation

The most common reason why a U.S. visa application is rejected is because of incomplete information or documentation. You may have failed to complete a section of the application, for example. Or, the documentation you provided was inadequate.

If your visa is denied under Section 221(g) of the Immigration & Nationality Act, then it means the applicant failed to present a complete application with all necessary information, or that certain supporting documentation was missing.

Fortunately for you, a rejection under section 221(g) does not necessarily mean your application was totally rejected. You still have the chance to correct your mistake and provide the embassy with the missing information or supporting documents before a final decision on your case is made.

If you are rejected for an incomplete application, then you will receive a letter explaining the exact reasons for the rejection, including which information you provided was insufficient or which documents were missing.

A visa that is rejected for incomplete information may require further security checks and processing. Most administrative processing of the visa will take place within 60 days of the visa interview, which means your visa issue could resolve itself. However, some rejected visa applications are passed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in which case the application can take several months to complete.

Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent

Some visas are rejected due to inadequate visa qualifications or improper immigrant intent. If you do not meet the qualifications of your U.S. visa, for example, or if a consular officer suspects different intent than what is stated on your visa, then your visa may be denied under Section 214(b) of the Immigration & Nationality Act.

If your application is rejected under Section 214(b), then it means you failed to convince the consular officer that you are visiting the United States for the reasons stated on your visa. You might have requested a temporary B-2 visa for a holiday to the United States, for example, but the consular officer suspects you are planning to remain in the United States long-term.

To get around this visa rejection, you may need to prove you have strong ties to your home country. Some of the possible ways to avoid this issue include:

  • Proof you have a job in your home country, including a letter of employment or a job offer for when you return
  • Proof you are married, have kids or have another family in your home country
  • Proof of a property deed or lease in your home country
  • Proof you have other reasons to return to your home country

Unfortunately, if your visa is rejected under these grounds, then you cannot appeal this ineligibility. However, this ineligibility is not permanent, and the applicant can re-apply. When you re-apply, bring more documentation proving that you intend to abide by the terms of your visa and return to your home country upon completion of the visa (if you’re applying for a non-immigrant visa). You will need to pay your visa application fee again and repeat the visa application process.

Public Charge

Some U.S. visa applications are rejected based on something called “Public Charge”. If your visa is rejected due to a Public Charge, then your visa will have a rejection labeled under Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration & Nationality Act.

A rejection under Public Charge means that the consular or embassy officer decided that you were very likely to become dependent on the U.S. government for your existence or financial support once in the United States.

During the visa application process, you are required to prove that you have the financial means to support yourself while in the United States. If you fail to provide adequate proof, then your visa application may be rejected. The United States does not want to accept visitors or immigrants who will become reliant on public services once in the country.

Public Charge and Immigrant Visas

If you are applying to establish permanent residence in the United States on an immigrant visa, then your visa may be rejected under Section 212(a)(4). In this case, you may be able to re-apply for a visa by submitting an Affidavit of Support from a qualifying sponsor. An Affidavit of Support is a document signed by a relative or friend in the United States. That friend or relative – who must be a U.S. resident – signs a document guaranteeing financial responsibility for you. The document may include bank statements, payslips, and other evidence that the U.S. resident can financially support the individual.

In other cases, you can provide further documentation proving that you can support yourself in the United States. You might provide more bank statements, for example, and further proof that you have the financial means to cover your move to the United States.

A document proving you have a job offer in the United States, for example, can be used to fulfill this requirement. If you have a job offer showing you will earn a steady and sufficient salary while in the United States, then your visa application has a better chance of being approved.

Public Charge and Non-Immigrant Visas

Non-immigrants must prove they are able to support themselves financially while traveling in the United States. If you are unable to provide sufficient proof to the consular or embassy officer, then your visa application may be denied under Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration & Nationality Act.

To get around this rejection, provide further proof of your financial means for your trip to the United States. Provide bank statements and other evidence showing you can support yourself during your stay in the country.

Fraud and Misrepresentation

Some U.S. visa applications will be rejected for fraud and misrepresentation. If your visa is rejected for these reasons, then it means the U.S. embassy or consular officer believes you were falsely representing facts or committing fraud on your visa application.

In this case, your visa will be rejected under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act.

There are a number of reasons why a visa can be rejected for fraud and manipulation. The consular officer may have discovered that you convicted crimes in the past and failed to report those crimes on your application, for example. Or, a background check may have revealed that you already have family living in the United States and you failed to mention that information on your application.

Unlawful Presence in the United States

Some U.S. visa applications are rejected because you were deemed to have been unlawfully present in the United States. In this case, your visa will be rejected under Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act. Typically, this visa rejection occurs for one of the following two reasons:

  • You overstayed a previous visa in the United States, remaining in the country after your authorized period of stay without extending your visa
  • You entered and stayed in the United States without obtaining authorization from Customs and Border Protection

If you have previously entered the United States illegally or overstayed your visa, for example, then your visa application may be rejected due to your perceived unlawful presence in the United States.

Other Reasons for U.S. Visa Denial

There is no limit to the number of reasons why your U.S. visa may be denied. Some of the reasons for U.S. visa denial can include:

Health-Related Reasons

If you are deemed to be a health risk to the United States or its people, then your visa application may be rejected. People with the following health-related issues may be ineligible for admission to the United States:

  • You have a communicable disease that poses a significant risk to public health
  • You have a physical or mental disorder, or behavior associated with a disorder, that may pose or has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of yourself or others, and this behavior is likely to occur again or lead to other harmful behavior
  • You are a drug abuser or addict

Criminal and Related Grounds

Plenty of U.S. visa applications are rejected for criminal activity and related grounds. If you have committed a crime inside or outside the United States, then you may be ineligible to enter the country.

Security Concerns and Related Grounds

Some U.S. visa applications are rejected due to security concerns and related grounds. If the U.S. embassy or consular officer believes you are entering the United States to perform illegal activities, commit terrorist acts, or engage in anti-government activities, then your visa may be rejected for security concerns and related grounds.

Other Reasons

Other reasons to deny a U.S. visa application include:

  • You are coming to the United States to engage in polygamy
  • You are a guardian accompanying an inadmissible individual
  • You are a foreign national suspected of engaging in human trafficking
  • You are a former citizen who renounced citizenship to avoid taxation

How Does an Ineligibility Waiver Work?

The Immigration & Nationality Act provides specific reasons for visa applications to be denied. That same act, however, also outlines ineligibility waivers, which allow individuals to “waive” certain items that would otherwise make them ineligible for entry to the United States.

Someone with a criminal record, for example, may be able to obtain a waiver of ineligibility. With this waiver, you may be able to get a visa to enter the United States despite the fact that you would not normally be able to get one.

If your visa application is rejected, then you might receive an explanation of how to obtain a waiver of ineligibility. The consular officer conducting your embassy interview, for example, might give directions on how to apply for the waiver.

It is up to the Department of Homeland Security to decide whether or not to approve a waiver for each particular visa applicant.

In general, you may qualify for a waiver of ineligibility if you meet the following conditions:

  • You have ineligibility for which there is a waiver
  • You have only one issue – one ineligibility – preventing you from qualifying for a U.S. visa
  • You have a recommendation from the consular officer approving the waiver request

Generally, the consular officer conducting your interview will tell you whether or not to apply for a waiver of ineligibility. Typically, this waiver is granted to those who are inadmissible for one single item. You would otherwise be admissible to the United States but for this one item. In this situation, the consular officer might recommend a waiver of ineligibility.

How to Re-Apply for a U.S. Visa After Rejection

If your U.S. visa is rejected, then you can re-apply for a visa by repeating the same application process.

There are no “shortcuts” to re-applying for a U.S. visa. You must re-apply for the visa the same way you would begin the visa application process the first time.

In some cases, your visa application will be rejected for temporary reasons: you don’t currently have the financial means to support yourself in the United States, but you will have the financial means in 6 months. In this case, you will be encouraged to re-apply when these temporary conditions have changed.

In other cases, your visa application will be rejected for permanent reasons. You have a criminal charge on your permanent record, for example. In this case, the consular officer may recommend requesting a waiver of ineligibility prior to re-applying for a U.S. visa.

Will I Get a Refund On My U.S. Visa Application Fee?

If your visa is rejected, then you will not receive a refund on your U.S. visa application fee. This fee is always non-refundable.

If you wish to re-apply, then you will need to re-pay the U.S. visa application fee.

The reason the fee is non-refundable is simple: it costs the United States the same amount of money to process a rejected application as it does to process an accepted application. Your paperwork still needs to be processed and your interview still needs to take place. That’s why you don’t get a refund on your U.S. visa application fee.

Section 104(a) of the Immigration & Nationality Act gives consular officers the authority to approve or deny your visa application. If your visa application was rejected, then you may be encouraged to try again – say, by clearing your criminal record or by fixing errors in your application. Just because you were rejected once or twice does not mean you will be rejected again. Make sure you meet the qualifications for your desired U.S. visa to reduce your chances of rejection.