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But I Did Not Intend To Remain in the USA Permanently! 214(b) Visa Denials

It is an unfortunate reality that some US visa applicants are denied the visa they are seeking and every week I am contacted by individuals who find themselves in this unenviable position. Typically, they went to the US Embassy in London to obtain a visa they had every confidence of qualifying for, such as applicants wishing to travel to the US for tourism who were applying for visitor for pleasure visas. To their shock and utter disbelief, they were denied visas under 214(b).

The applicant's first question is, What is a 214(b) denial?

Section 214(b) of the INA states as follows: "every alien (other than [specified categories of] nonimmigrant [applicants]) … shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, and the immigration officers, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status."

When a person's visa is denied under 214(b), this means that the consular officer did not believe the applicant that he or she only wanted to go for a short trip as a tourist to the USA, but instead had concerns that the person wants to live in the US permanently.

"But I wasn't going to remain in the US permanently!" is a frequent client reaction after having been told the meaning of their visa denial.

As frustrating as a US visa denial is, it is even more exasperating when the applicant is convinced that it is plainly erroneous in his or her case. A person might have their whole life in the UK and have every intention of returning here at the end of their US trip, yet still be the recipient of a 214(b) visa denial.

Consular officers are bound to make mistakes. Think about what their role entails: They see numerous applicants each day, all claiming to take a temporary trip the USA and return to the UK at the end. Some of these individuals will speak the truth, while others may well conceal their motives. They only have a few minutes to interview each applicant. And the law places the burden squarely on the visa applicant to convince the officer that they will leave the USA at the end of the trip. Snap decisions based on initial impressions will have to be made and sometimes deserving applicants receive the wrong visa decision.

"Can I appeal the decision?", clients often ask. Unfortunately, no. US immigration law does not provide for appeals of decisions relating to 214(b) denials. However, a visa applicant is free to re-apply for the same visa.

"Should I wait some time before I re-apply?" There is no legal requirement for a visa applicant to wait, say, 6 months until she reapplies following a 214(b) denial. However, as a practical matter, unless the visa applicant does something differently during the second application, the result is likely to be the same.

"How do I avoid a new 214(b) denial?"

Sadly, there is no way to guarantee that a visa applicant will not be denied a visa under 214(b), but an applicant can increase his or her chances of success by ensuring that he or she:

  • Understands and thoroughly documents the legal requirements that must be met for the particular US visa applied for. Applicants may be under the false impression that obtaining a US visa is easy and almost automatic. Unfortunately, many do not seek information about US visa requirements until after they have initially been denied a visa.
  • Documents his or her ties to the UK or some other non-US country of residence;
  • Was not denied a US visa under 214(b) when the visa sought permits dual immigrant/ non-immigrant intent, in which case this ground of denial would be inapplicable.

Additionally, sometimes a 214(b) finding is made as a default reason to deny an applicant's visa. Applicants whose cases involve certain known issues are most susceptible. Some cases are fairly straight-forward, whereas others present a myriad of potential traps that visa applicants could fall in.

What can a US immigration lawyer do?

The firm's US immigration lawyer in London can:

  • Provide a though case assessment;
  • Advise you on the strength(s) and weakness(es) of your case;
  • Identify issues which may result in a 214(b) denial, and help you document problematic aspects of your case;
  • Help you understand the legal and documentary requirements of the particular visa you are applying for; and
  • Assess whether there are other grounds on which the visa can be denied, such as inadmissibility issues, and assist you in overcoming such problems where possible.

Contact the American Immigration Law Office for a consultation today!