Consular processing for B, F and J nonimmigrant visa applicants

Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the basis for a substantial number of denials of nonimmigrant visa applications at the consular level.  It reads;“Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he/she establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…” In short, this section of the INA presumes every applicant for a visa to America intends to reside in America.  It is the burden of each visa applicant to demonstrate that this is not the case – that they only intend to visit America for a short duration. In qualifying for a B (Visitor) F (Student) or J (Exchange Visitor) visa, an applicant must demonstrate compliance with this section of the law.  (Note that these requirement do not apply to H or L Visa holders who can maintain ‘dual-intent’).

Consular officers have the last word in deciding who may enter the US.  They begin by evaluating each applicant for a non-dual-intent visa (B, F, J among others) to determine whether the applicant has strong ties abroad.  Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, and a bank account. These ties bind an applicant to their home country and demonstrate that they will return after the trip to America. Despite the fact that consular officers attempt to provide a case-specific evaluation, they have limited time allotted to each client. It is imperative that the applicant have a well documented and organized petition which demonstrates the strength of the case by providing evidence of strong ties. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, these requirements are somewhat harder to prove for younger applicants, or for those applicants who have a Green Card pending (which manifests a future intent to abandon the home country and reside in the US).

The applicant should also document how they will support themselves financially for the visit and why they are visiting the United States.  Temporary trips of a short duration, for a specified period of time – with clearly defined start and end dates (such as a marriage, education, graduation or a religious event) are more likely to be approved. Remember that an invitation letter and evidence of funds of the American ‘sponsor’ are of limited benefit to the applicant – the consular officer is mainly concerned with the qualifications of the applicant themselves.

An applicant who has been refused can attempt to enter the US again since a denial under section 214(b) is not permanent, however, the more times an individual is turned down the harder it becomes to become eligible for subsequent approvals. The consular officer will only reconsider a case if an applicant can show additional evidence of ties outside the United States. The applicant’s situation must have substantially changed since the last application. Demonstration of strong ties is still key.

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