Updated: March 17, 2020
You went to the Embassy in London in the hope of getting a visa that would allow you to travel to the US and, once admitted, to work, sightsee, visit family or friends, or attend school or university. Instead, your application was denied. The form letter you were given at your interview tells you that you were found to be ineligible under something called 214(b) and the Embassy’s website says that ‘there is no review process or appeal.’
What is this ‘214(b)’ and what does it mean? Once you have been denied under 214(b), what can you do to improve your chances of getting a visa next time?
The two sides of 214(b)
214(b) is a subsection within the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), also known as 8 United States Code § 1184(b). You can read the text by clicking here.
As you can see, the first (long and complex) sentence in 214(b) states that most ‘aliens’ (defined in the INA as persons who are neither US citizens nor US nationals) must be presumed to be intending to remain in the US, until and unless they are able to show that they are entitled to nonimmigrant status. This means there are two sides to a 214(b) denial. Either
- The applicant didn’t convince the consular officer that he didn’t intend to stay in the US permanently, or
- The applicant didn’t convince the consular officer that he was qualified for the visa for which he had applied.
An example of a denial based upon the first ground would be an applicant for an F-1 student visa who the consular officer felt was secretly intending to remain in the US permanently. An example of a denial based upon the second ground would be an H-1B applicant who couldn’t prove he possessed the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree in a specialty field—such an equivalency being a requirement for obtaining an H-1B visa.
For additional details of how consular officers should apply 214(b), click here to read the text of a cable issued by the Department of State in December 2004 on precisely this topic.
So now what?
In order to have a hope of obtaining your visa on your next trip to the Embassy, you must do your best to figure out why you were denied the previous time. Which part of 214(b)—or both of them—do you think led to your refusal? What requirement of your visa type weren’t you able to prove to the consular officer’s satisfaction?
The solution to this problem is only very rarely something as simple as taking more paperwork with you the next time you go to the Embassy. Instead, you must look objectively at your situation as it appears to the consular officer, and see whether you can identify inconsistencies or other flaws in your case, your demeanour at the interview, or your background that might have made him or her suspicious. If you did not use an immigration attorney the first time around, you may want to consult one this time, since the perspective of a lawyer who has seen dozens or hundreds of similar applications is likely to be helpful in analysing the situation.
A visa denial on 214(b) grounds need not be the end of your plans to go to the US. To overcome this denial you will need to analyse your situation, and potentially make changes in it, to address the consular officer’s often unstated concerns.
This short article does not purport to cover all permutations of this complex issue and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice tailored to the specifics of your situation. If you believe that legal advice would be helpful you should consult a qualified US immigration attorney.