Plenty of people, including myself before I specialized in immigration law, have prepared successful U.S. visa applications and petitions. Like self-preparing tax returns, some have circumstances that lead to a relatively straight-forward process, but many others find the process frustrating, time consuming, and confusing with the multitude of ever-changing rules and procedures. David Immigration Law primarily represents Australian-based applicants and petitioners before the U.S. consulates in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, as well as before the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS). In doing so, we are often asked to help when an applicant has been denied a visa by a consulate abroad, or where a petition has been denied by USCIS. While it makes sense for many individuals applying for a U.S. visa to undertake independent research regarding visa requirements, it’s important for applicants to understand the pitfalls in utilizing online resources, and preparing an application or petition without professional assistance.
The vast amount of online resources commonly makes applicants reply on unofficial information regarding U.S. visa or immigration processes. This can often include third-party websites operated by non-attorneys. It can also include a reliance on the past experiences of friends or co-workers for what is needed to prepare for their own application, petition or interview. New visa applicants can often rely on second-hand experiences as an accurate measure of what they can expect at a U.S. consulate on the day of their interview. Each visa application and petition is different, every time. No two are the same, even when applying for a renewal or second visa. The processes for each application can differ greatly, including changes in filing fees, filing locations, supporting documentation, forms and timing requirements for certain applications and petitions. As a result, the combination of factors that can impact the preparation of applications and petitions can differ dramatically.
The do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to preparing a U.S. visa application or petition comes with risks. An over reliance on second-hand and non-professional advice can often have disastrous consequences. While many can succeed in having their visa or petition approved without professional assistance, the risks of proceeding alone should be carefully considered. One must consider their personal and professional circumstances, as well as the resulting harm if they received a denial. Denials often happen when applicants fail to meet the essential elements of an application or petition. Examples of these errors include submitting the incorrect or incomplete forms to a Consulate or USCIS, applying for the wrong visa category, failing to include essential supporting evidence, not providing enough evidence to support one’s claims or failing to include or complete the DS-160 (visa application) form. There are many others.
In other cases, denials happen when the applicant fails to adequately prepare themselves for their visa interview. Applicants who cannot clearly explain why they are applying for a visa can have difficulties receiving an approval. An applicant that cannot explain the reasons for seeking a visa can also raise suspicions regarding their intent in the U.S. In some cases, this can result in the application being set-aside for further processing. In these situations, significant processing delays can greatly impact an applicant’s ability to commence their scheduled work in the U.S. Applicants should view the visa interview as their single opportunity to secure a visa. As such, preparing a strong application to ensure that they clearly meet the visa requirements is critical. This is also true for petitioners filing with USCIS.
No visa application or petition can be made denial-proof. However, utilizing an experienced immigration attorney to ensure fundamental requirements are met, strong and effective supporting arguments are made and correct evidence is included, can go a long way to position yourself for a successful outcome.