I have been denied a visa several times in a row. How does one deal with such serial refusals?

  • Over the course of time here on TSE, I have observed individuals whose pattern of visa applications is best described as 'serial refusals'...

    serial refusals - Two or more consecutive visa refusals issued by the same regime to the same person. Commonly for the same, or nearly the same, reasons. In some visa regimes Serial refusals can have a cumulative effect wherein the applicant's credibility is increasingly eroded, especially when the application pattern suggests a secondary agenda.

    A common thread appears to be the need to visit the destination country (especially Schengen, the USA, or the UK) with a special sense of urgency. Also common in these cases are the following types of questions...

    1. Should I just reapply once again? What are my chances?
    2. What can I do to improve my odds in the future?
    3. Can I somehow address the previous refusals to avoid them being a burden on all future applications?
    4. How can I break the pattern?

    NB: This question is intended as a canonical about serial refusals. I have never been personally denied a visa.

    +1, great question, thanks Jonathan. To clarify, you are not the subject of serial refusals, but asking on their behalf so we have a controlling reference point for this type of question.

    I'm assuming you mean "several times in a row, in quick succession." Not "I applied, was refused; then the following year i applied again, and was refused."

  • It's not what you want to hear, but what you need to do is this:

    Stop Applying.

    You're actually hurting your chances at this point, and with some countries you can actually accrue a ban if you continue.

    When you apply for a visa, you need to prove to the officials of that country that you're a real visitor. The burden of proof is on you, and you need to show:

    • that you're just coming for a visit
    • that you will leave within a reasonably short amount of time
    • that you're not going to work or be a burden on the government or taxpayers (eg. via welfare or public monies)
    • that you can afford the trip and any incidents that may occur while you're on it (eg. health or travel insurance as may be required by the country you're applying to)

    Remember: visiting a foreign country is a privilege, not a right.

    The visa refusal means that the admission officer does not believe you. In his or her opinion, you did not prove the above points. Sending the exact same application in a second (or third, etc.) time will not change his or her mind.

    Depending on what country you're applying to, your visa rejection letter may or may not include reasons for being rejected. We have many questions about visa refusals here on the site which may detail how to specifically address the deficiencies in your application.

    The reason for your rejection is important: it explains why the admission officer does not believe you to be a genuine visitor. By understanding what went wrong with your previous application(s), you will be better able to improve your circumstances accordingly.

    As a side note: the United States tends to give out a form letter that indicates you were refused under a very broad subsection of the law. However they inform of your rejection in person during the interview, during which point you should ask the officer for the specifics of the rejection. For more information about this situation in specific, consider referring to our questions about rejections under 214(b).

    The reasons for your rejection(s) are very important. If you do not address these reasons, you will simply be rejected again for the very same reason.

    Should I just reapply once again? What are my chances?

    Once you're in a serial refusals situation, you need to stop applying. Do not apply again. You're in a bad situation, and each subsequent application only makes it worse. Your chances are low and rapidly approach zero with each subsequent application.

    Applying over and over again makes you seem desperate. Desperation is bad: a legitimate visitor is usually not desperate to visit. This causes the admission officer to become suspicious of you, and start wondering if perhaps your intention is to come to work or live in the country. Suspicious admissions officers will be even stricter when evaluating an application, and your chances of getting rejected get much worse.

    Furthermore, if you apply too many times, it is possible to actually be banned for making "frivolous" applications. You'll usually know if this happens because it is usually communicated to you once the ban occurs. Once you get to this point, there is nothing to do but wait it out. (But while you're waiting, consider following the suggestions below to improve your personal circumstances.)

    Can I somehow address the previous refusals to avoid them being a burden on all future applications?

    Yes and no.

    A common question for visa applications is something along the lines of "have you ever been refused a visa before?" From now on, you will have to reply 'yes' to this question and any follow-up questions. The refusal may also cause you to become ineligible for certain visa waiver programs should you otherwise become eligible in the future. (For example, a US visa refusal causes you to be ineligible for the ESTA program.)

    And, finally, the best thing you can do at this point is to retain a lawyer who specializes in visa application issues. How to go about retaining such a lawyer depends highly on what country you're applying to -- for the UK, one would refer to the Law Society, for example -- but this is essential for your subsequent applications especially if you insist on applying again.

    What can I do to improve my odds in the future? How can I break the pattern?

    You need to accept the fact that you are simply not going to visit the country you have applied to right now. Some day in the future you may reapply, but at the moment, that door is closed.

    In the mean time, you should focus on:

    • proving yourself to be a good visitor to other countries
    • improving your ties to your home country
    • maintaining a stable source of employment/income and saving your earnings judiciously

    By visiting other countries, following the rules, and leaving when you're supposed to, you are accumulating "proof" that you're a genuine visitor. In subsequent applications, admissions officers will see these previous trips and it will support your claim that you are only coming to visit and that you will leave when you are supposed to because you have done so before.

    This is a concept called a "travel history." We have an excellent question on how to build up a travel history. But it boils down to travelling to developed western countries that have more lax travel requirements for your particular passport and/or country of citizenship.

    The second thing you need to do is build up your ties to your home country. A "tie" is something that an admissions officer will consider to be a reason you will go home after your trip is over.

    Some ties include:

    • starting a family
    • having a stable job with a steady salary or income
    • owning property such as a home

    This is not an exhaustive list, and it is not intended to be a list of things you must do. But the point is that you need to show that you have good, strong reasons to return to your home country after your trip. Take this time to develop those.

    The third major thing you should be doing is improving your means. Admissions officers like to see stable employment and a steady income. Save what you make -- not necessarily all of it, but a portion of it -- and grow your bank balance. Spend your money wisely.

    It is important that your bank account reflect your monetary means. If you have none, open one. If you are paid in cash, deposit it as soon as you are paid and withdraw just what you need for living expenses. Keep your payslips or receipts as a record of where your money is coming from. If you own your own business or work in a family business, start drawing a salary (if you do not already) and keep the business accounts separate from your personal account.

    When you do apply for a visa again, you need to consider how much of these savings you will be spending on your trip. A genuine visitor is not going to spent 90% of his or her lifetime earnings for a one-week visit.

    Finally, you should take this time to review the reasons given in your refusal letters and to address those concerns. If they are not covered by the above recommendations, you should review other visa refusal questions for others who received similar rejection reasons. You can also ask a question about how to address a particular rejection reason.

    Once you have done this, only then should you consider applying again. When you do, keep the following in mind:

    • Do Not Lie. Do not submit fake bank statements. Don't claim to work for Well Known Company, Inc., when you work for Little Local Subsidiary, Ltd.
    • Don't try to game the system. Admissions officers are paid to know all the tricks. Do not borrow a large sum of money from a relative and deposit into a bank account to "prove" you can afford the trip. If a company offers you a "guaranteed" visa, it's probably a scam.
    • Using the above recommendations as your guide, make the strongest application you can, keeping in mind what you're trying to prove. You're a genuine visitor, so prepare a detailed itinerary. You're going to come home afterwards, so show proof of the reasons you have to return. You can afford the trip and support yourself in case of emergency, so show your funds and pay slips, insurance (if applicable), etc. You can be trusted as a visitor, so show your travel history.
    • Consulting a lawyer who specializes in visa applications and issues is highly recommended, especially when applying after a refusal. Such an individual will be able to best advise you based on your specific circumstances. This will also cost money.

    There is an English adage common among school-age children that goes like this: if at first you don't succeed, try try again. This does not apply for visa rejections. We must instead rely on a second, less-known adage: if at first you don't succeed, look in the trash for the instructions.

    Any suggestions for links to other questions/answers is highly appreciated. I know we've got some good ones that can be used to support the various points, especially around the 'country ties', but I'm having a hard time tracking them down. I also tried to make it country-agnostic, which was difficult since we get a *lot* of UK refusal questions and noticeably less for other countries.

    Nice! The only suggestion I have is to expand the "means" section. Such as, if you're paid cash, deposit all of it into a bank account then withdraw your living expenses; keep payslips or receipts of pay received; if you own or work in a family business, take a "salary" from the business and keep the personal/business accounts separate.

    @mkennedy - Good suggestion, I've made an edit. Do you know of a canonical or otherwise good question I can use as a link for a 'more info' on the means topic? I'd rather that part didn't overbalance the rest of the section about improving the application.

    Make a note that *usually*, it won't be a matter of adding just one more document, or having a couple hundred pounds more in the bank account. "Don't make almost the same application again, either."

    Long story short: **get richer**.

    Not necessarily or else "funds parking" wouldn't be such a problem.

    @gdrt: this seem to be more important for UK (which I got impression really cares about you being solvent); for US prior travel history seems to be indeed more important, as some of people I know remotely, poor and no jobs, but extensive travelers, got US visas on first attempt.

    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas, *funds parking* doesn't make you richer. - GeorgeY, true, true.

    Lots of money in your bank account doesn't make you richer? Clearly I have my priorities messed up.

    +1 wonderful answer, great explanations, and 'stop applying' is key critical

    "...a legitimate visitor is usually not desperate to visit..." This sounds a bit weak. A legitimate visitor might as well be desperate to visit. There is no reason why not (I really want to visit country X). The thing is rather that an illegitimate visitor will be desperate in any case. That's why it still speaks against repeated attempts.

    There is a difference between "I've always wanted to visit" (desire) and "I am desperate to get in" (desperation). If you have a better word, please suggest it; I am not a native English speaker, though I do consider myself fluent, and occasionally my understanding of certain vocabulary is less than accurate.

    And I suppose that "stable job and income" also means a _good-paying_ job, right? Something in the bottom two (even three? four?) quintiles probably won't cut the mustard, even if you have managed to scrape enough physical cash for the trip itself. This also illustrates what imo is a hideously-overlooked point in all those pieces (which make me pop my head) that I see about how "travel isn't _really_ 'that expensive' and so forth..." 'Expense' is, in a real sense, about more than just the price sticker.

    If you define 'expense' to mean 'the level of means you need', it is actually a lot higher than you might think.

    This also makes me wonder how all those who "quit their jobs to travel" as is often romanticized, get past this. They must have a _big_ fortune of some sort amassed back home (I include owned real or other substantial [i.e. with obligations] property as "fortune" in this and suspect that is likely part of it), that isn't put into the official price point for the trip yet in a very real way is part of the "price" in a broader sense, because not everyone has it.

    "Stable job and income" = no not necessarily high paying. But one of the things that immigration officers consider is what percentage of your savings you're looking to make use of. Someone who has a lower earning rate, and who claims they plan on spending 90% of their life savings on a 5-day visit, is lightly to be viewed more suspiciously. However if that same lower earner waits longer and banks more, the overall percentage of their life savings that they will propose to spend invariable goes down as they accumulate more savings.

    Also as someone who has "quit their job to travelled", it's more a matter of planning, budgetting, and very intentionally choosing your destinations to be places in which your saved money will go much farther (lower cost of living, strong comparative monetary units (dollars vs euros vs what they use in their destination). $30 US is more than enough for a backpacker in some parts of SE Asia, so long as you don't mind hostels and eating where the locals do. It would not be possible to do the same, on the same budget, in the US or many parts of Europe.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM