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Refused US Visa? Advice for UK Citizens

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

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Refused US visa: advice for UK citizens

Thousands of UK citizens apply for visas to travel to the US every year. However, the visa application process is not always straightforward, the eligibility requirements are strict across all visa categories and many applicants experience setbacks that lead to their visa being delayed or refused.

In addition, US visas and immigration applications have under the Trump Administration become subject to increased scrutiny. Ahead of USCIS processing resuming, applicants are encouraged to take every effort and resource to improve and perfect their petitions to avoid further delays or issues with processing.

This article will offer US visa advice for UK citizens by looking at some of the common reasons US visas are refused and what steps you can take following a refusal.

Why are visas refused?

US immigration laws are complex, and the immigration authorities manage a huge number of visa applications every year. Visa denials are common and there are many reasons for refusal. These reasons range from lack of information on the application and procedural errors to more serious grounds for refusal such as criminal records.

How will I be notified of a refused visa?

If you have applied for a US visa and the application is denied you will usually receive a letter at the end of your interview at the embassy or consulate that will outline the reason/s for the refusal.

Reasons for refusal

Most US visa refusals fall under the following common categories:

214(b) Denial
Your visa may be denied under Section 214(b) if the consular officer assessing your application deems the family, social or economic ties you have outside the US are not strong enough to convince them you will depart the United States after your visa runs out.

When you attend a consular interview, the onus will be on you to convince them that you have strong economic, social or family ties to the UK. You should gather as much evidence and detail as possible to share at you consular interview.

If you are refused a visa under Section 214(b) you cannot appeal or ask for the decision to be reviewed. However, you can re-apply for a visa if you have additional evidence that can support your case. You will need to start the application process from the beginning and attend another interview at the consular office or embassy.

If you are recent legal immigrant to the UK it may be deemed that your ties are not strong enough to the UK to qualify for a visa to the US. When the US consular officials assess your application they will assess: the length of time you have been at your current address, the length of time you have been in your current job, whether you or your children are enrolled in education, commitments you have that would force you to return to the UK and the social ties you have in the UK.

If you are a recent immigrant to the UK you may need to seek legal advice to ensure your application has the best chance of success.

221(g) Denial
If you are refused a visa under Section 221(g) this is known as an administrative processing denial. Your application may have been refused due to something as simple as a missing document or a form filed incorrectly. You may be informed by the immigration authorities that you are required to submit additional documentation and once these have been supplied your visa will be processed.

Your visa may also be refused under 221(g) if new issues are found relating to a USCIS approved petition. This is usually due to overlooked errors in your application or new grounds for inadmissibility. These refusals can be contentious, and many people choose to seek expert legal advice for support with these.

212(a)(6)(c) Denial
If your application is deemed to be untruthful it will be rejected. Rather than an accidental error, if you are found to have willfully tried to deceive or misrepresent the facts in your application you may be classed as permanently ineligible for entry to the United States. This can be through presenting answers that are deliberately untruthful or through the inclusion of counterfeit, forged or other false documents.

Criminal records and ineligibilities

If you have been arrested or have a criminal conviction of any kind you must overcome inadmissibility every time you seek to gain a visa to enter the US. However, there are circumstances when you can still enter the US if you have a criminal record.

If you have been arrested but not charged it is key to have all the information and documentation relating to your arrest. You will be required to obtain a police certificate from the ACPO Criminal Records Office and submit this to the US Embassy. This certificate will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

If you have been convicted of a crime you will need to obtain a copy of all your court records and prison records – even if you have been later pardoned or given another act of clemency in the UK.

These records should include the circumstances of your crime and any sentence or penalty you received. Also known as a “Memorandum of Conviction” (MOC) or “Certificates of Conviction” in Northern Ireland, you will need to request these from the court where you were tried.

Other grounds for inadmissibility

The US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) details all the grounds for denying entry to the US in Section 212. In addition to criminal records these cover health-related protections, security-related concerns and administrative concerns relating to abusing immigration laws or misrepresentation. The adjudicating officer can refuse your visa application on any of these grounds.


If you are refused a visa on inadmissibility grounds, you may still have options. You may be able to apply to enter the US with a waiver. These are available for immigrants and also non-immigrants. The process and requirements depend on the visa you are applying for and the inadmissibility you need to overcome.

In general, you will need to evidence rehabilitation and a rationale for you now being eligible for admission to the US. Essentially the onus is on you to show you do not pose any risk or threat to the United States and factors like the seriousness of the issue and the time that has passed will all play a role in the likelihood of acceptance.

If you need to apply for a waiver this will affect the processing time of your visa. It could add several weeks to the time it takes to process.

Will I get my money back if my visa is refused?

When you pay a fee for your visa that is classed as an application fee, not a fee for the purchase of a visa. This is a fee that anyone across the world applying for a visa needs to pay and it is to cover the costs of the application process and the subsequent adjudication. The application form will clearly state that the fee is non-refundable and if your application is refused and you choose to reapply for a visa you will need to pay the application fee again.

Need assistance?

Specialist US visa advice for UK citizens can help to alleviate the stresses involved with making your application and optimizing your chances of being granted the visa.  Seeking legal advice from a US immigration specialist can also help to avoid costly re-submissions and delays in the application process. Similarly, if your visa application has been refused obtaining the specialist support of a legal professional could ensure you and your family secure entry to the United States.

NNU Immigration specialize in helping British nationals across all US visa and immigration needs. Whether you are travelling for business, leisure or any other reason, we can help you identify the relevant visa category and compile a compelling and robust submission to the US authorities. If you have already applied and you have been refused, talk to our specialists about your next steps.

This post does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. 

Last updated: 26 April 2020


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, (The Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and AILA) and an experienced and trusted advisor to large multinational corporates through to SMEs. She provides strategic immigration advice and specialist application support to corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, actors and athletes from across the globe to meet their US-bound talent mobility needs.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals.

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