Thousands of U.S. student visas are denied every year. Here’s how to increase your odds

·6 min read

In the United States, the main destination for international students, there is no favoritism when applying for a visa. Even students admitted to the best universities, with high academic qualifications, and those who come from families with high purchasing power, can be denied a student visa.

Every year, thousands of student visa applications are denied, and in most cases this is due to basic errors made on the application form.

There are many reasons why a visa could be declined. They are all listed in Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which assumes that all visa applicants are immigrants unless they credibly demonstrate that their family, economic and social ties outside the U.S. are strong enough to return to their countries at the end of their authorized stay.

Although the F-1 nonimmigrant visa is the most common type of visa issued to college students who want to pursue higher education in the U.S., there are other visas as well, such as the M-1 and J-1.

Students who plan to attend private elementary school, high school, a language training program, or a seminary also apply for the F-1 visa.

However, people who enter the U.S. under other visa categories are not allowed to enroll in any university without an F-1 visa.

Main errors when applying for an F-1 visa

The fewer mistakes you make, the more chances you have of getting a visa. These are the most common mistakes:

Lack of evidence of intent to return home at the end of the academic program in an institution certified by the SEVP —Student and Exchange Visitor Program — is a compelling reason for a visa petition to be rejected. By not confirming the intention to return to the country of origin after finishing higher education, the visa is not approved.

Lack of evidence demonstrating strong links or traditional ties — marital, children, property — with their country of origin, which determines whether the visa applicant intends to stay or leave the country upon completion of studies.

Lack of sufficient funding and insufficient documentary evidence of finances. Not being able to demonstrate that you have the financial capacity to cover education and living expenses in the U.S. can be considered as an indication of intending to work without permission. Submitting a bank statement with a certain amount deposited two days before the interview raises questions about the source of funding to live an academic year in the U.S. and whether bank funds are available to pay for the academic program.

Lack of evidence on English exams such as TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo English Test.

Mentioning you have relatives living in the U.S. The question will focus on how those relatives entered the country.

Stating that you want to work in the U.S. when you finish your studies. If an officer believes that a student may try to overstay the time allowed, the student may be denied admission.

If it is established that the candidate for a student visa may be a potential immigrant, the officer will dismiss the visa immediately.

False or improper documentation.

Failing to pass security checks on different government databases.

If you are coming to the U.S. to study a technologically or politically sensitive subject, you may need to pass an additional security clearance before receiving a visa. Most likely, the visa will not be denied, but the processing time of the application could be delayed. In these cases, students often have to defer their admission for a semester or a year.

You have been deemed inadmissible to the U.S. or have a previous visa rejection. Common charges of inadmissibility include criminal convictions, fraud, and previous stays in the U.S. in excess of 180 days. Also, many tourists enroll in courses upon arrival in the U.S. and later apply for a student visa to return to U.S. territory. Their visas may be declined.

You do not prove that you have been accepted to a SEVP-certified institution with the original I-20 or DS-2019 forms required for F-1 and J-1 student visas, respectively.

You have one of the following problems during the short interview: misconduct at the time of the interview; insufficient communication or language skills with difficulties in English, poor body language, downcast eyes, bad or too ostentatious clothing, among other negative aspect; not giving convincing and confident answers during the interview.

Failure to provide reasons for selecting a specific university, nation, and program. If a student is unable to justify his or her intentions to the visa officer, there is a good chance that the application will be rejected. Make sure you are prepared to answer why you selected the particular course, college and university where you gained admission, and explain how the selected program fits into your career plans.

Your answers are long and confusing.

Tips for proving strong ties to home country

Depending on the type of student visa and the age of the applicant, consular authorities focus on different aspects to determine strong ties. During the interview, students have to provide the evidence required by their visa category.

Students between 17 and 20 years old who apply for a visa for the first time must provide their academic background and explain their most immediate intentions.

Graduates applying for a visa for an MBA and advanced study must provide information on academic history, career plans, and how the academic program to which they are applying will promote their plans’ fulfillment.

For mid-career student visa application, between the ages of 20 and 45, the interview at the embassy focuses on the current job, goals, family ties, professional stability, the academic program and the ability to complete it.

The interview for a visa to study English depends on the student’s age and background, and how the language education program will influence his or her long-term plans.

If the visa is for casual or amateur students, the interview focuses only on the strong ties.

If it is a visa for students of elementary or high school, the student has to provide proof of his or her parents’ finances, such as bank accounts, future employment opportunities in the country of origin and written statements from the family about future plans to return home. Prepare a realistic argument on why you intend to return.

Tips to apply for a U.S. student visa

The sooner you submit the application, the more likely you are to be approved. During the admissions season there is a saturation in the processing as the number of applications increases, so late applications have a higher risk of rejection.

A student visa may be denied if you apply after the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Double check all the documents required for the student visa. Provide an adequate proof of English proficiency.

Document all your academic qualifications correctly.

Be prepared for all kinds of questions about your financial situation and bring evidence showing cash assets rather than real estate or other assets. You have to prove that you have enough money to cover the expenses of the first academic year at least.

Be honest and convincing at the visa interview without evading questions. It is crucial to prepare beforehand adequate, short and clear answers on why you have chosen the country, the course and the institution when indicating the reasons for returning to your country of origin.

Write the SOP — statement of purpose — for the visa carefully, according to the specific guidelines.