Immigration Law

'Intent' Hurdle Blocks Gambian's Visa Quest; No 'Magic Bullet' per Expert

Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 30, 2018 - "The young woman from Gambia who planned to study in the U.S. had the support of her government, all the way up to the first lady, whose foundation was to pay for her airfare. A college in New York had offered her a substantial scholarship. A host family in New York was waiting for her; another family in Pennsylvania was ready to donate a new laptop, a smartphone and a four-year phone plan, school supplies, even a new wardrobe. All told, when you factor in her scholarship, her sponsors in the U.S. had put together a package worth more than $140,000 to pay for four years of tuition and living costs. It was all lining up -- a life-changing opportunity for a young woman from a poor family in a poor country. But she was twice denied a visa to come to the U.S. And so instead of joining this fall's freshman class at St. Thomas Aquinas College outside New York City, Penda Jallow is still in Gambia, unemployed. ... Failure to establish what's known in immigration law as "nonimmigrant intent" is a common reason why prospective students are denied visas to come to the U.S. And it’s a lot harder for citizens of poor countries to convince a consular officer they plan to go back home than it is for people from developed Western nations. “It's hard because it is subjective,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell University. “It's really up to the individual consular officer to determine whether they think the individual will go back to their home country after they finish their studies. For some countries it is harder than others: it’s a lot easier to show nonimmigrant intent if you’re from a Western European country than if you’re from a West African country. It’s always been the case, and this is just the latest example of that. There’s no magic bullet or document that will necessarily satisfy a consular officer. The more evidence that an individual has, such as a job offer or owning land or being married to someone who is staying behind in the home country, the better the chances that someone will satisfy that 'nonimmigrant intent' requirement. But for many students, they’re not married, they don’t own land and if they’re the first one in their family to be going to college, it can be hard to prove that they really do intend to return home after they finish their studies.”