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What Is Section 214(b)?

Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...

To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.

Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents.

What Constitutes "Strong Ties"?

Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.

Our consular officers are aware of the diversity of applicants, ethnic and social groups, and countries.  During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors.  In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence.  Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Is A Denial Under Section 214(b) Permanent?

No. The consular officer will reconsider an applicant’s situation if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Although there is no appeal process, applicants may file a new visa application at any time.  Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.

Having your visa application refused here in The Gambia does not make you ineligible to receive a visa in the future. U.S. consular officers will understand that your application here was evaluated and refused based on the strength of your ties to The Gambia at the time of your application. If you choose to apply here or anywhere else in the future, your application will be evaluated based upon your ties at the time of your new application. 

Applicants should remember, however, that providing false or misleading information in a visa application can result in the permanent refusal of visa benefits.  Consular officers can view past applications to ensure that the information provided by an applicant is true and correct.  Applicants should be able to explain any changes to information provided on subsequent applications.

Can My Friend Or Relative Provide A Guarantee?

Friends or relatives in the United States or abroad may provide a letter of invitation or support. However, this cannot guarantee visa issuance to an applicant. Visa applicants must qualify for the visa according to their own circumstances, not on the basis of a sponsor's assurance.

What Can You Do If Your Are Refused A Visa Under 214(b) For Lack Of A Residence Abroad?

First, the applicant can review carefully their situation and evaluate realistically their ties. They could write down on paper what qualifying ties they think they have which may not have been evaluated at the time of their interview with the consular officer. Also, if they have been refused, they should review what documents were submitted for the consul to consider. Applicants refused visas under section 214(b) may reapply for a visa. When they do, they will have to show further evidence of their ties or how their circumstances have changed since the time of the original application. It may help to answer the following questions before reapplying: (1) Did I explain my situation accurately? (2) Did the consular officer overlook something? (3) Is there any additional information I can present to establish my residence and strong ties abroad?

Bear in mind that you will be charged a nonrefundable application fee each time you apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.

Who Can Influence The Consular  Officer To Reverse A Decision?

Immigration law delegates the responsibility for issuance or refusal of visas to consular officers overseas. They have the final say on all visa cases. By regulation the U.S. Department of State has authority to review consular decisions, but this authority is limited to the interpretation of law, as contrasted to determinations of facts. The question at issue in such denials, whether an applicant possesses the required residence abroad, is a factual one. Therefore, it falls exclusively within the authority of consular officers at our Foreign Service posts to resolve. An applicant can influence the post to change a prior visa denial only through the presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties.

Can I Appeal Or Send More Documents?

As your application has been refused under Section 214(b), there is no reconsideration or appeals process aside from filing a new application. U.S. law contains no provision for appeals.

Although the Consular Section attempts to be responsive to inquirers, please understand that our policy is to not respond to correspondence from an applicant regarding a finding of ineligibility under Section 214(b).  A written explanation of the reasons why you were unable to establish your eligibility for a visa will have been handed to you on the day of the visa interview.  Once a case is closed the Consular Section cannot take any further action. If you feel that you omitted evidence material to the visa decision, the proper course of action is to reapply for a visa and appear at the Embassy in person.

Applying for a non-immigrant visa is not primarily a document-based process. The main issue in determining if an applicant qualifies for a visa is intent, and documents alone cannot establish intentions. In some cases, documents can help establish an applicant's intent to return to The Gambia by showing that the applicant is well established here. In other cases, the circumstances are clear enough that documents are unnecessary. If your visa application has been refused it is highly unlikely that any single document you could provide would alter the consular officer's decision.

I Have Strong Ties In Another Country, Why Was I Refused?

U.S. immigration law requires consular officers to view applicants as intending immigrants until they prove otherwise.  The burden of proof is on the applicant to show they have strong ties outside the United States.  The consular officer who evaluated your application is accredited in The Gambia and is best able to assess your ties to The Gambia.  It is not possible for consular officers here to be experts about all other countries, or to understand any social or economic ties you may have to another country. Nevertheless, even though your application has been refused in The Gambia, if you are here temporarily you may be able to qualify for a visa if you applied at home. Consular officers in your home country are better able to assess your situation there.

I Am A Legal Resident Of The Gambia, Why Don’t I Qualify For A Visa?

Many refugees or recent immigrants to The Gambia cannot demonstrate sufficiently strong ties here to qualify for a non-immigrant visa to the United States. There is no magic formula that will work in each case. In general, you must be able to show that you have settled in The Gambia and that this is, and will remain, your permanent home. In reviewing your application, the consular officer considered many aspects such as: How long have you been at your current address? How long have you been at your current job? Are you, or are your children enrolled in school? What commitments do you have here that would compel you to return to The Gambia? What social ties do you have in The Gambia? Often it is a question of time, and the best way to qualify for a visa is to reside in The Gambia for a longer period of time and to build further social and economic ties here.

Why Didn’t Someone Tell Me I Would Be Refused?  Isn’t There A Checklist For What I Need To Get A Visa?

Each visa application is thoroughly examined and evaluated on its own merits. Since it is impossible to obtain all relevant facts without seeing your passport, completed application, and personal interview, we are unable to tell you prior to your interview whether you will or will not receive a visa.  The information distributed on the Internet and through travel agents, is designed to give general information regarding the visa application process and suggest types of documents that might help demonstrate eligibility for a U.S. visa. However, there is no standard checklist for what will qualify for a visa and in no circumstances is someone able to guarantee in advance that you will receive a U.S. visa.

Why Can’t I Get My Money Back?

The fee that you paid is an application fee. Everyone who applies for a U.S. visa anywhere in the world must pay this fee, which covers the cost of adjudicating your application. As the application form states, this fee is non-refundable regardless of whether you are issued a visa or not. If your application was refused under Section 214(b) and you choose to reapply for a visa, whether at this Embassy or elsewhere, you will be required to pay the application fee again.

Will My Refusal Prevent Me From Getting A Visa In The Future?

Having your visa application refused here in The Gambia does not make you ineligible to receive a visa in the future. U.S. consular officers will understand that your application here was evaluated and refused based on the strength of your ties to The Gambia at the time of your application. If you choose to apply here or anywhere else in the future, your application will be evaluated based upon your ties at the time of your new application.

I Have Been Told That My Refusal Is Permanent.  What Does That Mean?

In some cases, applicants are found to be ineligible for a visa under other sections of law.  These are not 214(b) refusals.  The most common “permanent” refusals are for fraud, misrepresentation, and alien smuggling.  If a consular officer determines that you provided false or misleading information during a visa application, such as changing your identity or concealing pertinent information requested on the application, or if you assist another person in an attempt to obtain a visa through fraudulent means, you may be permanently refused.  If you have received a permanent refusal, you are ineligible to receive a visa at any time in the future. 

Some other refusals carry limits on their duration.  For instance, if you remained in the United States beyond your authorized length of stay, you could receive an ineligibility from 3 to 10 years from the time you departed the United States.

See the State Department site for more information on visa ineligibilities.