40 Reasons for a Student Visa Refusal By Kenneth White


As embassies and consulates around the world slowly but surely resume operations and visa processing preference given to students, this is a good time for first-time student visa applicants to be aware of the potential reasons for a denial.

Consular officers will review the student visa application based on the age and background of the applicant. Is this a 17-20 year old university student? A mid-20s graduate student applying for an MBA or other advanced degree? A mid-career applicant? ESL student? A casual/hobby student seeking to broaden his or her horizons? An elementary or high school student? While the legal burden for the applicant is the same – to show that he or she is a legitimate student, can cover the expenses, and will depart after the education program is finished – the ties expected of each will differ. For example, a university student will not have the strong ties that a mid-career professional does, and the consul is supposed to factor in those differences when making a decision. For a high-school applicant, the consul may be more interested in his family’s economic position and parents’ occupations than Junior’s reason to study in an American high school.

Below is a catalog of factors that may play a negative role in a consul’s decision to deny a student visa:

1. Impoverished home country

2. Weak individual ties to the home country

3. Interview problems

4. Inadequate or inadequately documented finances

5. Previous US visitor visa denial

6. Previous change of status in the US

7. Technical background leading to a protracted 221(g) denial

8. Use of notorious visa consultant or notary in the application process

9. Missing documents

10. Presence of relatives in the US

11. Existence of an immigrant petition filed on behalf of the student visa applicant

12. Suspicious source of funds to pay for the education in the US

13. Questionable planned coursework in the US

14. Plans to attend a small, unknown community college in US

15. Mistakes in the DS-160 visa application form

16. A “weak” DS-160

17. Poor academic performance

18. Previously spent substantial time in the US

19. Previously worked in US Illegally

20. Previous arrest

21. Previous Summer Work and Travel program participant

22. Unstable domestic political situation in the home country

23. Admission process mistakes and/or misrepresentations

24. Inadmissibility problem (e.g., conviction of crime of moral turpitude)

25. US-based “significant other” financial sponsor

26. Dependents staying in home country while breadwinner plans to go to US to study

27. Separate applications by dependents from the principal student visa applicant

28. Social media red flags

29. Questionable contact person listed in DS-160

30. Discrepancies or oddities in the applicant’s background, experience, or explanation

31. Applying for the visa in a third country

32. “Eternal student”

33. Consular misunderstandings of facts or law

34. Coursework in US perceived to be of “no use” in home country or not in furtherance of career

35. Previous visa status violations

36. Admitting to unlawful behavior

37. Tense US-home country relationship

38. Technical errors made by a school official

39. Failure to apply for the visa in a timely fashion

40. Directionless, older prospective students

An article can be written on each of the above-listed problems. Compounding these difficulties, once refused, it is difficult to overcome a student visa denial, particularly in the Trump Era. Some of the problems are, of course, outside the student’s control: for example, one doesn’t choose parents or home country. But some can be addressed by a student preparing to submit a visa application: being ready for the interview, ensuring that the financial documentation is in order, formulating a career plan, and reviewing the DS-160 in detail before submitting it. For many applicants, the stakes could not be much higher: an opportunity to study in the United States may be a chance of a lifetime. In applying for a student visa, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

About The Author

Kenneth White is a widely-recognized immigration lawyer specializing in visa and EB-5 matters. He has written for AILA’sConsular Processing Guide and Immigration Options for Investors and Entrepreneurs and spearheaded mandamus and APA litigation against the Department of State and the US Embassy in Moscow. He has been named to Who’s Who Legal in Corporate Immigration for 2014-2020. He can be reached at white@bridgewest.com

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.