Top 10 Reasons Why Immigrants Get Visas Denied – 2013 Update

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Note:  The Law Offices of Larry L. Doan in Los Angeles, CA, provides the following blog article and other information on this site, including our responses to comments, for the purpose of legal information only; it is NOT legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

Although it was with data from four years ago, the article compiling the main reasons why applicants were denied their visa applications by U.S. immigration authorities has been one of the most popular articles on our blog.  Now, 2012 data are available, which is the latest complete year available, and so it’s time to update that article.

These reasons for visa denial are known as “grounds of inadmissibility” or “inadmissible grounds.”  As in the previous article, the lists here only contain data of those applicants who tried to apply for immigrant visas last year to the U.S., that is, to immigrate permanently here.  Data for nonimmigrant visas (temporary visas) are available; however, the criteria for overcoming the inadmissible grounds can be quite different with nonimmigrant visas, so they are not covered here.

As before, the first table includes the total number of applicants denied last year, as well as the percentage who were denied. In other words, out of the total number of applicants faced with a certain ground of inadmissibility, such as for example, misrepresentation, the percentage given represents those who were notified by immigration authorities they had that ground for visa refusal as an obstacle, then tried to apply for a waiver or exception to overcome that ground but failed.  Obviously then, 100 – %denied represents the percentage of those who successfully overcame that particular ground.

For a background description of these inadmissible grounds in greater details, please see our previous article, “Top 10 Reasons Why Immigrants Get Visas Denied.

Table 1. Top 10 grounds of inadmissibility for FY 2012 under the Immigration and Nationality Act, ranked by total number of visa applicants denied (percentage denied)

1. Application does not comply with provisions of law or regulations – 105,677  (35%)
2. Labor certification – 10,000 – (88%)
3. Unlawfully present 365 days or more (10-year bar) – 5,851  (21%)
4. Misrepresentation – 5,699  (77%)
5. Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations –2,964  (100%)
6. Smugglers – 2,210  (60.8%)
7. Drug abuser or addict – 1,523  (100%)
8. Ordered removed/departed while removal order outstanding – 1,175  (61.4%)
9. Crime involving moral turpitude  – 1,003  (75%)
10. Falsely claiming citizenship – 687  (100%)

So, what has changed from our previous list for 2008? First of all, it is extremely noteworthy that for ground no. 3, unlawfully present 365 days or more, otherwise known as the 10-year bar, only 21% of applicants were denied in 2012 as compared to 46% in 2008.  This is a very significant decrease as it shows many more applicants successful with the waiver of this bar in 2012 than in 2008.  In fact, it was the least difficult ground to overcome in 2012 among the top 10, as seen in Table 2 below.  I’m not exactly sure why, except that maybe (a strong ‘maybe’ actually) USCIS has relaxed the standards for approving the waiver of this bar since 2008.  Legally, the waiver requires extreme hardship to the applicant’s citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent, before it could be approved.  However what exactly is “extreme hardship” could indeed be flexible.  See here.  Or, it could be as we discussed in the prior article, the lower percentage of denial means that applicants in 2012 who knew ahead of time they were faced with the 10-year bar also knew they had stronger cases of extreme hardship to begin with than applicants in 2008.  Stronger hardships in an applicant’s circumstances tend to increase the chance that the waiver for this bar would be approved.  However, it isn’t possible to draw a firm conclusion as to any longterm trend due to the fact that the percentage of denial in 2010 was actually an amazingly low 15% while in 2011 it went back up to 36% and back down to 21% for 2012.

Note:  For certain applicants who are immediate relatives and who are already in the U.S., a new “provisional waiver” has been available since March 4, 2013, where the applicant can apply for the waiver here rather than being forced to apply for the waiver only in their home country.  I will write more about this new waiver soon.  It will be interesting to see the impact of this new waiver process on the percentage of denial in the 2013 data, which will be available next year.

Another interesting observation about the 2012 list is that in terms of rank, the top four reasons for visa denial still remain the same.  While the percentages of denial for grounds no. 1 (does not comply with provisions of law or regulations) and no. 4 (misrepresentation) remain fairly constant, the percentage of denial for ground no. 2 (labor certification) has also decreased somewhat by 9%.

A surprise is how the percentage of denial for smugglers (no. 6) was only 60.8% in 2012 as opposed to 92% in 2008.  Although the total number of applicants denied on this ground in 2012 was twice that in 2008, the total number of applicants who were faced with this ground in 2012 was actually more than three times that in 2008.  Thus, it appears that the standard for approving the smuggling waiver might have also been relaxed.

Also, two new grounds made the top 10 list for 2012 but did not in 2008:  ordered removed/departed while removal order outstanding (no. 8) and false claim of citizenship (no. 10).  The first has to do with those applicants who were ordered deported or removed from the U.S. at some time in the past, who then departed, and later applied for an immigrant visa within 10 years from the date of departure (or 20 years for those with more than one order of removal or for aggravated felons).  There is a type of waiver available for these applicants where the Attorney General has to consent to the applicant’s applying for a visa sooner than the 10 years (or 20 years).  Even so, 38.6% of these applicants successfully overcame this ground.  As for those who falsely claimed U.S. citizenship in the past, it’s not surprising that this is an unforgiveable mistake.

Table 1 ranks the top 10 reasons for visa denial in terms of number of applicants.  In terms of percentage, the ranking goes like this from the most difficult to overcome to the easiest:

Table 2. Top 10 most difficult grounds of inadmissibility to overcome under the Immigration and Nationality Act for FY 2012, ranked by percentage denied

1. Unlawfully present after previous immigration violations – 100% denial*
2. Drug abuser or addict – 100%*
3. Falsely claiming citizenship – 100%*
4. Labor certification – 88%
5. Misrepresentation – 77%
6. Crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) – 75%
7. Ordered removed/departed while removal order outstanding – 61.4%
8. Smugglers – 60.8%
9. Application does not comply with provisions of law or regs – 35%
10. Unlawfully present 365 days or more (10-year bar) – 21%

* Ranked by total number of applicants denied since these are all 100% denial

Copyright © 2013 Law Offices of Larry L. Doan

Any action you take or rely upon after reading the information on this blog is your own responsibility and the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan bears no responsibility or connection to such action. For an analysis of your detailed and specific questions related to your individual immigration situation or problem, there is no substitute for a “live” meeting with an attorney. This can only be done during a paid consultation between the Law Offices of Larry L. Doan and you.  To get started with a consultation, please contact us:



8 Responses to “Top 10 Reasons Why Immigrants Get Visas Denied – 2013 Update”

  1. Comments or questions related to the blog post you’ve just read can be left in the “Leave a Reply” box below. HOWEVER: All comments or questions regarding your or family member’s immigration situation and seeking info or advice on what to do next will be ignored unless you contact us for a paid consultation here: By doing so, please expect a quote for the price of the consultation with the Guru, Attorney Doan.

    We must implement this policy due to the volume of inquiries and emails received from this blog. We can only respond in the comments section below to general questions that seek clarification of a point made in the blog post above in a general way.


  2. George Holmes Says:

    My wife has been reading a lot about denial due to “marriage not being real”, especially when there is no evidence to support such a decision. Do you have any data on that? Thanks. I found your information very useful.


    • This blog post is about grounds of inadmissibility, that is, denial at the adjustment of status or immigrant visa stage. When you say “denial due to ‘marriage not being real’, especially when there is no evidence to support such a decision,” that is a denial of the I-130, which is only the preliminary stage, and most of the times at that stage it’s too early to even consider if there might exist any ground of inadmissibility. I don’t have data on how many I-130s are denied by USCIS due to fake marriages (they might not even maintain that sort of data).

      Also, it can be said that yes, sometimes the adjudicator of a case, such as a judge or in this context, a USCIS officer, can make a clearly erroneous decision despite the evidence and reach the wrong conclusion. However, this is not usual. What is more common is that often, people who do their own I-130s don’t put together enough supporting evidence or put forward non-relevant evidence, so from the adjudicator’s point of view the marriage is not bona fide and the case is denied. Also, consider that USCIS does receive its share of I-130s from fraudulent marriages. The officers are trained to look for certain red flags in the petition and in the supporting evidence, such that would likely indicate the existence of a fraudulent marriage or other frauds in the claimed family relationship.

      If a case was denied erroneously by USCIS, there is always the appeal process, or refiling of the petition.

      At the consulate level, once the I-130 has been approved by USCIS, only rarely will the consular officer sends back the petition to USCIS due to suspicion of fraud triggered by information gained at the interview.

      Larry L. Doan, Esq.


      • Thanks for the response. Our 130 has been approved, the support 864 has been accepted/approved and we just sent in the DS-260 with the documents asked for. The Lord willing they will not deny her the visa based on our age difference.


  3. It’s nearly impossible to find knowledgeable men and women on this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


  4. Nice job, it’s a fantastic post. The info is good to find out!


  5. Hi Guru. I was wondering what is your source for the data and if you could post them. Thank you.



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