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From my title, you probably think that my problem is similar or a duplicate of some cases. But I don't think so. So, please share your thoughts :)

I am an Indonesian and living in Germany for 4 years. I have been doing my PhD since the last 4 years (with a scholarship BUT not as an employee as most PhD students in Germany do) and will have my defense in Sept 2019. My residence permit in Germany is temporarily valid until Jan 2020. In May 2018, I applied a US visa for the first time with a type of (combination) B1-B2. The reason I applied at that time was to attend a (non-scientific) conference, so it has nothing to do with my PhD. I have fulfilled all the requirements and was able to show (in my written application that submitted to the system) that I get monthly scholarship with a (more than) enough amount for living here. At the interview, everything seemed to run smoothly until the officer asked me about (1) my PhD topic and (2) my plan when I finished my PhD. I answered that (1) my topic was to develop a specific computer system (as it is what I am doing here) and (2) I will go back to Germany after my trip to the US and then go back to Indonesia after my PhD. But suddenly the officer looked unhappy and told me "Well, I think there is no such system in Indonesia yet and you can't develop it there". I only answered that he was correct but the applications of such computer system can be used for a development of hazard system in Indonesia. However, before I explained further, the officer said "I am sorry we cannot issue a visa for you". I received (as usual) a letter of section 214(b), which stated

  • " ... you were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities would be consistent with the classification of the non-immigrant visa you applied".
  • It was also written in the letter (as I think written also in most cases) that I do not have strong ties with the foreign country and no ties that sill compel me to return to my home country after the trip to the US.

Before I apply again this month for the same non-scientific conference, I would like to have your thoughts:

  1. Would it be rejected again as there is currently no significant improvement in my application unless the date of my PhD defense?
  2. Did I apply wrongly at that time that I should apply only B1 instead of a combination of B1-B2? I asked this because it is implied from the first point above.
  3. Have I explained the officer about my PhD topic wrongly as though it is too sophisticated for a country like Indonesia, whose technology is currently increasing, so that even if I go back there it has no meaning at all and that's why the officer did not trust me? I asked this because it is implied from the second point above.
  4. I still do not understand why it was written on the letter that there is no strong ties between me and the foreign country (which I assume here to be Germany, right?). I have explained, I am doing my PhD here and it obviously indicates the strong ties between me and Germany. Am I wrong?

I am just afraid that if I apply again this time and it is rejected then it becomes more and more difficult for me in the future. In other words, should it be better that I wait and apply when I am in Indonesia?

PS: A friend of mine, who comes from China and is also a PhD student with a scholarship (even with a slightly lower amount than mine) has also applied the US Visa for the same conference at that time and his application was accepted.

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    Applying for a USA visitor visa (especially for a person from a developing country) is like a lottery. Two people with the same profile will apply, one will be approved and the other will not. Attempting to find a reason is a futile exercise in frustration. Stop trying to analyze it. Only 8% of applications by Indonesians get refused so you were very unlucky. travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/… – user 56513 Jun 24 at 11:02
  • @user56513: Thanks for your comment. But I do not believe it is just because of a luck. There must be a reason behind it. Thanks for the list. Despite a fact, this list was made based on some reasons. Even the reasons may seem subjective from the perspective of the officer, I would like to know such (subjective) reasons, based on your experiences (if any). If you do not have such experiences, better not say that it is a luck. Thanks. – bestrong Jun 26 at 13:30
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    The subjective reasons are countless and it’s a waste of anyone’s time to attempt to list the subjective reasons. We’re not mind readers to tell you which of those zillion reasons were going through the consular officers mind. The best you will get is the refusal form you got. Unless you somehow are able to contact the consular officer directly and get his exact reasons. – user 56513 Jun 26 at 13:54
  • I have applied for and been approved for 8 USA visas (4 B visas, 2 F visas, 2 H1B visas) before becoming a citizen so I at least know something about USA visas. If you don’t think there’s an element of luck (randomness) in USA B visa adjudication then you’re not very well informed. I personally know of people who applied for a visa and got denied and reapplied the following week with the same documents and got approved. Good luck trying to find the exact reason you were denied. – user 56513 Jun 26 at 13:55
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Very difficult case (also because it is not clear what was the problem).

For next time, I would check job in Indonesia, to see what you can get, and so to have realistic expectation (which you can explain to the officer). Having some documents about your PhD. Is it a monograph or a series of published articles? Get some documents to show you are in good way to finish it. (as PhD on interesting topic, you get "fast tracks" to green card in US, so it would also show up that illegal immigration is not on your interest).

But prepare also plan B. If you will not get a dream job in Indonesia, what you will do? (not being sure is OK, but having some ideas and possibilities are nice, to show wiliness to return). Do you think you will get some job in Germany? Or a faculty position? [As you know, there is also the miss-understanding that PhD is just one step of academic carer, not as a starting point for a professional carer..]

Check if you can prove better your connections to Indonesia.

Do you have good explanation about the non-scientific conference? Again: this doesn't need to be very rational, but you should show that it is not just a random excuse.

Finally: when you discussed you PhD topic on interviewer, maybe you get on "easy mode" (the explanation you do to your parents and relatives), which could be seen as "fake PhD". You should not have problem on going deep (maybe ask some feedback). They will probably not understand, but this is not their task (to understand). They should get feeling from you that you are genuinely telling the true (and not repeating a story from memory).

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    Why downvote? Please comments, so I can improve answers. Without comments, a downvote will have no meaning for me. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 25 at 10:08
  • great explanation, at least it can be a great thought for me, that I better wait first to find a job from my country and then apply from Indonesia. Many thanks! I vote up! – bestrong Jun 26 at 13:56
  • @bestrong: no, you do not need to find a job in Indonesia, but you should have idea of possibilities you have in Indonesia or in other places. Immigration officers do not requires you to have a crystal ball, but they like if you have ideas of your future, or they could think you are hiding some facts (e.g. to illegal work in US). In few minutes they should get an idea if you are a genuine visitor. Past financial situation and links are one part of visa application, but with interview they check also about your future intentions. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 26 at 14:08

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