Top 10 Reasons Why Immigrants Get Visas Denied
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We thought it would be fascinating and instructive to analyze and compile a list of why people were denied their visa applications in trying to immigrate to the U.S. An immigrant with one of these reasons potentially lurking in the background could try to gauge their chances of success to some extent using this list.
Only 2008 statistics are included in the list. Also, it only includes people who tried to apply for immigrant visas last year, that is, to immigrate permanently to the U.S. In legalese, these reasons for denial are known as “grounds of inadmissibility” or “inadmissible grounds.” These grounds come into play at the last step of the immigration process: at the consulate interview in the immigrant’s home country, or at the USCIS office interview here in the U.S. before the immigrant receives permanent residence (green card). This is after all the years of waiting for the visa priority date to be current, after all the facts of the relationship have been proved to be true between the petitioner and beneficiary, after all the forms appear to have been correct….but then these grounds appear suddenly like thieves in the night to derail the immigrant visa application.
For each inadmissible ground, along with our comments, the list includes the total number of people denied last year, as well as the percentage who were denied. In other words, out of the total number of applicants faced with a certain ground of inadmissibility, such as for example, criminal convictions, some percentage of applicants was ultimately approved for their visas because they managed to receive some type of waiver.
The list is ranked by the total number of applicants denied, from the smallest to the largest. So, let’s begin…
Persons denied: 994 Denial rate: 83%
The bad CIMT. In immigration work, we lawyers hate to hear this acronym mentioned because it means the client’s case will be a hard case! A crime, such as DUI (driving under the influence) will not involve moral turpitude because it does not involve “baseness” or a “bad heart,” which is a rough definition of “moral turpitude.” But DUI with death or injury involved may involve moral turpitude, depending on the local DUI law involved and if there was at least recklessness on the part of the driver in causing the death or injury. Of course, it goes without saying that more serious crimes such as fraud, theft, rape, murder, and so forth are CIMTs. A conviction for a CIMT in an applicant’s past will make them inadmissible to the U.S. although a waiver is possible. However, the 83% denial rate shows that the waiver will be quite difficult to get.
No. 9 – Smugglers
Persons denied: 1,018 Denial rate: 92%
Just to be clear, this refers to alien smuggling, not contraband. And yes, there is a waiver available if the alien being smuggled was someone in the immigrant’s immediate family. The term “smuggling” makes it seem as though the immigrant committed a very serious act, but actually, it includes acts such as “encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted, or aided any other alien to enter or to try to enter the United States in violation of law.” So, it’s not only hiding another person in the trunk of a car that can make you guilty of alien smuggling! Regardless, the 92% denial rate shows that U.S. immigration authorities strongly frown upon this.
No. 8 – Ordered removed upon arrival
Persons denied: 1,208 Denial rate: 84%
When a person arrives in the U.S. and is seeking admission at the airport or at the border, but because of certain ineligibilities is placed into removal proceedings and then ordered removed, they will be barred from being readmitted to the U.S. for 5 years. Yet last year there were more than 1,400 immigrants under this bar who tried to immigrate back to the U.S. sooner than 5 years, and as can be seen, 84% were denied. The 16% who overcame this bar presumably sought and received permission ahead of time from U.S. immigration authorities, while in their home countries, to apply for a visa before the 5-year period had expired. This group includes those who were ordered removed multiple times upon arrival (20-year bar) and those who were aggravated felons at the time of the removal upon arrival at U.S. shores (permanent bar).
No. 7 – Public charge
Persons denied: 1,664 Denial rate: 24%
A public charge is someone who cannot support themselves in the U.S. but must resort to the government to support them. Such a person cannot immigrate to the U.S. As can be seen, however, this reason for denial is the easiest to overcome with more than 3 out of 4 immigrants able to correct the problem when they were told by the consulate that there was a problem. In reality, the immigrant’s petitioner had to sign the Affidavit of Support form ahead of time to agree they would pledge their income and assets to support the immigrant. Even if the income is not enough, a joint sponsor’s income can be used to help out. Thus, it is quite easy to overcome the ground of being a public charge and for the immigrant visa to be approved as a result.
No. 6 – Drug abuser or addict
Persons denied: 2,457 Denial rate: 100%
Some things are just self-evident. The 100% denial rate for this is not a surprise. What is surprising is how many people actually tried to apply even though they were drug abusers or addicts.
No. 5 – Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations
Persons denied: 4,267 Denial rate: 100%
This category is an extremely harsh category to be caught under. It consists of immigrants who had been unlawfully present in prior times in the U.S. for a total period of more than 1 year, or who were ordered removed or deported, but then entered or tried to enter the U.S. illegally. At their consulate visa interview, when this negative immigration history is discovered, such a person cannot be admitted to the U.S. It’s a lifetime bar! However, the person could wait 10 years outside the U.S. then apply to immigration authorities for permission to reapply for admission to the U.S.
The 100% denial in this category, however, probably means that all or most of the applicants faced with this bar did not wait the required 10 years to apply for the permission above, and so simply could not be approved no matter what.
No. 4 – Misrepresentation
Persons denied: 4,765 Denial rate: 79%
This is the “When you lie, you fry” category. These were immigrants who had their visas denied due to being caught committing fraud or misrepresenting (lying) some fact in order to obtain the visa or even any previous visa or admission document. The relatively high denial rate shows that U.S. immigration authorities do not have a high tolerance for immigrants not being truthful on their applications. Still, 21% of them ended up overcoming this due to a waiver being available. The waiver is to show extreme hardship to a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and thus, is quite similar to the waiver used for the very common 10-year bar, which is the next category.
Persons denied: 13,977 Denial rate: 46%
As can be observed, the total number of immigrants denied last year under this No. 3 category was almost 14,000 people, compared to only 4,765 denied under the previous category (misrepresentation). So, we have a huge jump going only from No. 4 to No. 3. This category is very common because, as we discussed it in detail in our other article, “I’m Illegal, I Can Still Get a Green Card by Marrying My U.S. Citizen Boyfriend or Girlfriend?”, so many immigrants have formerly accumulated unlawful or illegal presence in the U.S. of 365 days or more, that when they leave to try to apply for their permanent visa at the U.S. consulate in their country, they are confronted with the 10-year bar. And, as was shown in that article, this bar does have an extreme hardship waiver available for it, which surprisingly, had only a 46% denial rate last year, or more than half approval rate!
However, a lower percentage rate of denial does not necessarily mean that this waiver is easy to get. Obviously the statistics used to construct this list does not, and indeed, cannot tell us how many people who knew ahead of time they would be denied and did not bother to apply. For example, someone with a weak case might have obtained legal advice ahead of time from their immigration lawyer that applying for a visa would be a waste of time even if there is a waiver available in the law. Thus, it may be that for certain waivers such as this one, there were more applicants with stronger cases to begin with anyway, thus biasing the rate of success more toward approval. To obtain approval of this waiver, the immigrant has to leave behind their family in the U.S. and travel back to their home country and apply at the U.S. consulate. If the waiver is denied, which is almost half the time, they are stuck in their country unable to return to their family. Thus, we believe in looking at the statistics that probably only people who felt more confidently ahead of time that they have a strong hardship case would take this risk.
No. 2 – Labor certification
Persons denied: 17,561 Denial rate: 97%
A less well-known way of immigrating to the U.S. is through an employer petition. A U.S. employer can petition for an immigrant worker to take a permanent job position in the U.S. In order to qualify, however, the employer must file a labor certification application with the U.S. Department of Labor to certify that there are no willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers for the job position. Only if this labor certification is certified will the immigrant worker be approved a visa to immigrate. However, at the consulate interview, there are many reasons why the worker may be denied a visa, such as when the consulate officer believes the worker does not truly intend to work for the employer, or fraud in obtaining the labor certification, etc. This ground of denial is almost impossible to overcome as seen in the almost 100% rate of denial.
Finally, we come to the TOP REASON FOR VISA DENIAL, which is…:
No.1 – Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations!
Persons denied: 87,843 Denial rate: 34.1%
Amazingly, for something that is #1, it is not a fancy reason to deny a visa! The Department of State does not break out in fine details what these consisted of, but they have to do with reasons such as the applicant not being eligible for the visa being sought, filing requirements not met, lack of required evidence, missing forms, missing information, etc. Pretty mundane reasons actually. That said, this category seems to also be a catch-all category containing reasons for denial that do not fit neatly into any of the main categories laid out in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
This reason for denial (legally, section 221(g) of the INA) is relatively easy to overcome. This is understandable if the denial has to do with deficient application forms or missing evidence since those can be easily fixed by the applicant. A HUGE number of applicants were told initially they were in this category last year, more than 257,000, which easily dwarfs all the other nine categories combined. The lesson here is, make sure you are eligible for the visa ahead of time and your applications and documents in tip-top shape! Hiring a good immigration lawyer is obviously a good start toward this end.
So, those are the top 10 reasons for denial in terms of number. In terms of percentage, the ranking goes like this from the most difficult to overcome to the easiest:
1. Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations – 100% denial
2. Drug abuser or addict – 100%
3. Labor certification – 97%
4. Smugglers – 92%
5. Ordered removed upon arrival – 84%
6. Crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) – 83%
7. Misrepresentation – 79%
8. Unlawfully present 365 days or more (10-year bar) – 46%
9. Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations – 34.1%
10. Public charge – 24%
We hope you will never face any of these reasons for denial in your quest to immigrate to the U.S.!