Today, my grandma's application for a travel visa has been rejected. She has a refugee travel document since she's been living in Germany. She's been living there for 30 years. Her sole purpose is to visit her children who are US citizens. Also, it's not the first time she went to the US; she's been there about 5 times.

Considering all these facts, the visa should have been granted. She was told that there are new policies in place prohibiting all people with refugee travel documents from entering the United States and there are no exceptions.

I didn't find anything on the internet. What has changed that would result in her visa being refused?

  • 2
    Any reason she hasn't become a German citizen in that time, that might lead USA to refuse a visa?
    – user16259
    May 11, 2018 at 13:15
  • 1
    @user16259 Getting German citizenship is quite hard and a requirement is to have a certain proficiency in German (B2, I guess), which she doesn't have
    – Spencer
    May 11, 2018 at 13:19
  • 1
    Considering all these facts, the visa should have been granted. That is incorrect. Nobody is entitled to a non-immigrant visa however strong their application credentials. May 11, 2018 at 15:57
  • What is her nationality? Even though she is a refugee, she often still has the nationality of the country she came from, according to that country's law.
    – user102008
    May 11, 2018 at 17:03
  • Your grandmother was told vocally or was it explained in written form?
    – CGCampbell
    May 11, 2018 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


I am also unable to find anything on the internet. I suspect that the refusal was based on a misreading or mischaracterization of Executive Order 13780, the more recent of the so-called "travel ban" executive orders (it has also been modified by subsequent presidential proclamations).

One of the provisions of the travel ban was to suspend the US refugee admission program, which applies to people who seek refugee status in the US. It does not apply to those who have settled elsewhere as refugees and wish to visit the US as nonimmigrants. It would nonetheless be easy for someone to characterize the order as "suspending the entry of refugees into the US" and to conclude that those with refugee travel documents are therefore ineligible to visit the US.

I would suggest approaching it on several fronts:

  1. Seek an explanation of the legal basis for the cited policy.

    • Look at the written explanation for the refusal. It probably doesn't explain the legal basis of the policy, or even mention the policy, because it is most likely a form letter.
    • Try to talk to someone at the consulate. If you can, and you do not get a satisfactory answer, ask for that person's supervisor. Each time you talk to someone new, if the person does not give you a satisfactory answer, ask to talk to the supervisor.
    • If anyone cites the executive order, point out that its provisions relating to refugees apply to those who are seeking admission to the US in refugee status, while this applicant seeks admission as a nonimmigrant visitor.
  2. Each US citizen child and grandchild can ask his or her senators and congressional representative to intervene on her behalf. Members of Congress have offices devoted to this sort of intervention. I would start by picking one child and one senator of that child. If that does not yield fruit, try that child's other senator and representative. If they are also no help, try all senators and representatives of all children and grandchildren.

  3. If these attempts at administrative remedies through the consulate and members of Congress do not succeed, consider whether to sue in the courts. You can ask a lawyer in private practice about this, in which case you should probably approach an experienced immigration lawyer. You can also try approaching rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the International Refugee Assistance Project.

  4. That the refusal was based solely on the presentation of a refugee travel document may violate the United States' obligations under international law (the US did not adopt the 1951 convention, but it did adopt the 1967 protocol, which incorporates most of the convention). Your grandmother should consider whether to submit a complaint to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which may be able to bring diplomatic pressure on the US government to consider her application on its merits. Her initial point of contact for this would probably be the office that issues the document.

  5. This would make a good news story ("grandmother, 30-year resident of Germany, 5-time visitor to the US, denied US visa"). Find some stories in the US news media about the travel ban or other immigration issues, and write to the reporters of those stories. To decide on the order in which you want to approach them, you may want to consider the prominence of the reporter's employers. If one of them decides to cover your grandmother's story, there is a chance that her visa will be issued quickly.

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