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I have been denied a B1/B2 visa on two occasions pursuant to INA § 214(b). How can I overcome INA § 214(b), so that I can attend my friend's wedding in the United States?

Question:

Dear SRW Border Lawyers,

From 2009 to 2010, I was in the United States on a J1 visa. I returned to my home country when the internship ended. I returned to the United States again with another J1 visa from 2011-2012. I returned to my home country in June of 2012 and graduated from college.

My best friend lives in the United States and she is planning on being married in 2013. In August of 2012, I applied for a B1/B2 visitor visa to help her organize her wedding and to travel the United States for a short time (while I was in the United States on my J1 visas, I did not get an opportunity to travel). At the visa interview the consular officer denied my application due to INA § 214(b). I was told to try again at another time once I was able to provide evidence of stronger ties to my home country.

A few weeks later, my sister wanted to go to New York City and asked me to go with her. I applied for another visa, but this time I brought more evidence of stronger ties. I was denied again pursuant to INA § 214(b).

While I do not much care about visiting New York City, I do not want to miss my best friend’s wedding late next year. I was really put off about ever applying for another visa again from this one Consul, and I am hoping that whatever was written in my file is not so severe that it would affect my ability to get a visa to visit the United States, especially as I have not done anything illegal.  

What advice would you give on how I can strengthen my ties to my home country so that I can travel to the United States for my friend’s wedding?

Answer:

Thank you for your question. You indicate in your email that you were denied pursuant to INA § 214(b). INA § 214(b) 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 a visa, and the immigration officers, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15) .”

In essence, INA § 214(b) is a presumption that all visa applicants are intending immigrants, unless they are able to establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer or immigration officer that they are entitled to the nonimmigrant visa that they are applying for. The 214(b) analysis is two-part: (1) can the visa applicant prove that they have strong enough ties to their home county, and (2) is the applicant eligible for the visa that they are applying for.

Based on your email, it appears that you were unable to establish strong ties to your home country. Evidence of “strong ties” can be documented in various ways. Some of the more common evidence submitted with a visa application include: mortgages, leases, utility bills (gas, electric, cable, internet), employment letters, and insurances (home, car). Thus, if you are unable to provide such information at this time, you will want to take steps to begin to develop those ties. For example, begin renting an apartment, or put utilities in your name. Young adults are at a disadvantage when it comes to proving ties, since they most likely have not established themselves (i.e. purchased a home, been employed for a considerable amount of time by the same employer).

In addition, from the information you have provided in your question, I also believe that your previous time in the United States in J1 status was working against your B-1/B-2 visa applications. For example, prior to your first visa interview, you had just returned to your home county after spending a significant amount of time in the United States. Your second attempt, which was shortly after your first, still did not allow for a significant passage of time since returning to your home country. Thus, based on your presumptive lack of strong ties to your home county and your previous time in the United States in J-1 status, the Consular Officer was not persuaded that you would return home following your visit to the United States and denied your application.

Simply put, you will likely have to wait before applying for a visitor visa. In the meantime, however, you should begin to develop ties to your home country so you can overcome INA § 214(b). Once you have developed significant ties, please contact our office so that we can further assist you with the preparation of your visa application.

Obtaining A Copy of Your CBP File by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

Question: Dear SRW Border Lawyers,  I am a 40-year-old citizen of Great Britain. Recently, I was denied an F-1 visa pursuant to section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). I was under the impression that I had a strong case, but obviously the consulate did not feel the same. During my visa interview, the officer asked me about my previous travels to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  The officer’s line of questioning led me to believe that something may have been noted on my record about a previous entry several months ago in February.

In February, I traveled to the U.S. and applied for admission at the Los Angles airport. I was questioned and subsequently sent to secondary inspection where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proceeded to search my belongings.  When CBP searched my wallet, they found my business card and began to question me about working in the U.S. I flatly denied that I was entering the U.S. to work. I was eventually allowed to enter the U.S., but I fear that CBP may have made a note about this incident in my record, which will make it more difficult to enter the U.S.  How can we contact CBP to see what is in my record?

Answer: Thank you for your question.  Under INA §214(b), “Every alien (with limited exceptions) 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 under INA §101(a)(15).”  There are some exceptions to this presumption, but none that apply in your case from what you have stated.

Put another way, under INA §214(b), a foreign national has the burden to prove to the satisfaction of the consular officer that he or she qualifies for the visa they are seeking.  Consular officers apply a two-prong analysis when determining whether a foreign national is eligible for a particular visa. Pursuant to 9 FAM 40.7 N2, a foreign national must: (1) provide sufficient evidence of “ties” to his or her own country to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, and (2) satisfactorily prove that he or she is entitled to the nonimmigrant status being applied for (e.g. F-1 as in your case).

At this point it, it is likely premature to conclude that your F-1 visa denial was due to a previous incident with CBP. Your denial may have been the result of simply failing to satisfy both prongs of the 214(b) analysis listed above. It is possible, however, that CBP placed an entry in your record that contributed to your denial. Simply put, we do not know. The best course of action is to suspend any travel to the U.S. until we can determine what, if anything, is on your record.

In order to obtain a copy of your file from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), we can assist you in filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request with CBP to request a complete copy of your record. Once we have a copy of your record, we will then be able to determine what steps need to be taken in order to restore your ability to travel to the U.S., whether it be reapplying for a F-1 visa through the U.S. Consulate, following up with CBP to update your records, etc.    

Should you wish to speak to us in further detail regarding your U.S. immigration concerns, please call our office and set up a consultation.  We look forward to hearing from you and being able to assist you with your U.S. immigration matters. 

Best,

The SRW Border Team