Virginia, US
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| Nikhil Bande

Oops My Visa Got Rejected!

Oops My Visa Got Rejected!

Welcome to the exciting and complex world of travel and yes, visas! Back in the day, it was not so daunting to get visas or travel authorizations to cross borders. In the scheme of things, it appeared easy, although it was more challenging to get reliable information, which is relatively easily available now on the web or through the visa assistance agencies.

In this blog, I look at some of the common assumptions or misconceptions about how to apply for a visa.

Softer Delays or Rejections:

Common Application Form Mistakes: One of the most common mistakes is submitting handwritten forms instead of printed ones, or submitting an old version of a form or leaving fields blank. At times, the form may be required to be filled in BOLD or in a certain ink colour. Application forms with old or incomplete passport numbers will be rejected! Remember it is the application form, which does the talking when it reaches the desk of the consular officer who decides whether to grant or reject the visa.

Photo Requirement Assumptions: Another seemingly trivial error that can be an issue on D-Day is submitting photos that do not conform to bureaucratic requirements. Consular posts across the world are very particular on the photo requirements. Photos can be rejected due to inappropriate dimensions, background, texture (matte finish rather than glossy), the number of copies, scanned instead of hard copy, spectacles versus no spectacles, or old photos (if your passport itself or any recent visas have the same photo that you brought for the current visa submission).

Details in Support Letters: The applicant and the sponsoring company need to be extremely careful in providing details in the invitation letter. The letter must be addressed to the correct consular post in your country, with an accurate name and address (for example, avoid mentioning ‘China Consulate, X Location’ rather ‘People’s Republic of China Consulate’, X Location); current date (usually not older than a month from submission); travel and stay dates matching with the application form; tickets and hotel bookings; the entity bearing the burden of travel expenses and stay; duly signed/stamped and submitted in original/faxed as required. To make it even stronger, certain consulates ask that the applicant, commit to returning to the home country post travel.

Full Disclosure: Consular posts around the world would demand that applicants be very transparent and honest in the disclosures regarding any previous visa rejections for the same destination (that is, the same country/region), or any criminal convictions, refusal of entry or any such negative remarks. These must be disclosed on the application form or during the interview very clearly with all the facts and accurate incidence dates.

Consular Post Jurisdiction: This could be confusing and understandably so if the destination country has two or more consular posts in the country of application. Usually, the application must be made at the consular post closest to the applicant’s residence. However, if the applicant has maintained residence in a location different from the local employer’s location, it would be best to check in advance where the application should be submitted.

Existing Valid Visas in Passport for Same Destination/Region: This particular situation is not very common. However, it may impact frequent travellers with current valid visas to the same country or region, as the person’s existing visa may not last long enough to cover the upcoming travel. Most consular posts will refuse to endorse a new visa if the person already has one visa in the passport. If the consulate does allow the person to proceed with the application, then all the previous visas are usually, deemed to be cancelled, either explicitly or implicitly.

Change in Requirements: One of the most common causes for delay and refusal at the consular post could be a surprise change of document requirements overnight, which is a global phenomenon. This is extremely common and can be a result of changes to visa policy, changes in bilateral relations, efforts to curb fraudulent applications, and the like. Consular posts are not obliged to release such changes on their website or disclose them until they are in effect.

Requirement of Pre-Approval: Certain applications may require a pre-approval visa to visit the destination country and then a subsequent visa endorsement in the passport. To check whether a pre-approval visa is required, it is best to approach the consular post directly for confirmation. It may require the inviting entity in the destination country to file and application on the applicant’s behalf. At times, the approvals need to be remitted internally through government channels, which then notify the consular post to issue the visa endorsement.

Visa on Arrival Versus Consular Application: Numerous destinations provide visas on arrival (VoA) to certain nationals based on bilateral or multilateral agreements. However, VoA is not always available for travel for certain nationalities, or may depend on job title, the validity of residence visas, or purpose travel, which may compel applications to file for a consular visa. I advise travellers to check for VoA port of entry obligations, viz., travel insurance, photos, any secured amount of currency possession, credit cards, invitation letter (original or copy), hotel booking, return/onward flight, or in-country registration with any police or foreigners’ office.

Parallel Applications: Applicants must check if they are permitted to file parallel applications for business and tourist visas while they are seeking work permits/visas in the interim for the same destination. Doing so, however, may have an adverse effect on the on-going work permit application. Furthermore, applicants must not apply for the same visa category at the same time from more than one location in an effort to seek quicker visa approval.

Dress Up and Behave Modestly: If you are filing your visa application from a location, which is deemed conservative, visa officers do not appreciate improperly dressed applicants and may refuse to entertain the application. Applicants are advised to conduct their behaviour professionally and maintain the desired code of conduct.

Administrative Process Rejections: While the applicant may have travelled across the planet and never faced rejection from any consular post, it is never a guarantee that the next visa application will be successful. Consular officers are usually very cautious in making their decisions and any element of doubt or ambiguity may lead to a visa rejection. Consular officers take into consideration all the previous rejections to the same destination and take note of the nature of activities to be performed, the applicant’s financial stability and the person’s non-immigrant intention.

What Option Are Available After Visa Rejection?

Applicants can certainly appeal a rejection where permitted and supplement the case with more details and fresh documentation. Consulates may decide to review the case or may request that the person submit the application once the applicant’s circumstances have substantially changed enough to make a stronger visa application.

Alternatively, applicants must wait for a cooling off period (if implied) and wait for the right time to submit the application. Often, applicants attempt to submit a new visa application at a different location in the belief that this would make it successful. This is never guaranteed, however, since the consular intelligence systems are often interconnected. They can quite easily determine if the applicant is attempting to avoid a particular consular post unless he/she can prove otherwise.

For further advice on best consular practices, please contact me at NBande@fragomen.com