The Culture of No and 214(b) Student Visa Denials

The Department of State does not publish separate statistics for student visa denials, but judging by the number of phone calls we have been recently receiving from rejected students on Section 214(b) grounds, it appears that the Culture of No has adversely impacted potential students as well.  In particular, consular attention – and denials – has been riveted to certain categories of students, including:  1) those older than the age of 25; 2) those planning to attend community college in the US; 3) those from economically distressed or provincial areas of the home country; 4) “eternal” students; 5) those with planned majors at the US university deemed to be of less practical value; 6)  those with significant gaps in their work history; 7) those who previously dropped out of school; and 8) financial sponsors who are not immediate relatives.

Consuls have very little time to conduct a student visa interview, so they hone in on particular areas of concern.  For student visa applicants older than 25, consuls usually want to understand how the studies in the US will benefit the applicant’s already-established career in the home country.  For those planning to attend community college in the US, there is a perception that perhaps the applicant is not a very good student.  For those from economically distressed areas, the consul may view the student as an “economic refugee” looking for a ticket out of the home country. Eternal students are perceived as individuals with no career ambition or direction and more likely not to take studies seriously.

Those enrolling in a major in the US perceived to be of little practical use (e.g., political science) or freely available in the home country may encounter more resistance at a visa interview than computer-, science-, or business-related majors.  Similar to eternal students, student visa applicants who have taken significant work sabbaticals or have substantial gaps in their work history may have to deal with skeptical questions at the visa interview.  This is especially true for those who have previously dropped out of school; the consul may question the applicant’s motivations, maturity, and diligence.  Finally, having the financial ability to cover education is prerequisite to the granting of a student visa, so if there are questions about the sponsor and his/her intentions or financial capability, a rejection may follow.

In fielding phone calls and conducting consultations with rejected students from India, China, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, one thing was clear: had they adequately prepared for their visa interview, many of them would have avoided the Section 214(b) denials.  For example, one potential student indicated in his DS-160 that he was “unemployed” because he did not have a third-party employer, when in fact he was self-employed and had built a small successful company.  Another could not explain at his interview how his future education in the US fit in with his career arc.  A third, while living in a poorer area of his country, actually was the son of a wealthy banker and lived quite comfortably.

Another thing is clear: it is much easier to obtain a student visa dealing with a “clean slate” than after a 214(b) visa denial.  It is always best to be prepared for that first interview so that you will not have to deal with a second or third interview, or as in one of our cases, 7 (!) interviews.  To prepare for your student visa interview, please contact us.

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