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Over the course of time here on TSE, I have observed individuals whose pattern of visa applications is best described as 'serial refusals'...

serial refusals - Two or more consecutive visa refusals issued by the same regime to the same person. Commonly for the same, or nearly the same, reasons. In some visa regimes Serial refusals can have a cumulative effect wherein the applicant's credibility is increasingly eroded, especially when the application pattern suggests a secondary agenda.

A common thread appears to be the need to visit the destination country (especially Schengen, the USA, or the UK) with a special sense of urgency. Also common in these cases are the following types of questions...

  1. Should I just reapply once again? What are my chances?
  2. What can I do to improve my odds in the future?
  3. Can I somehow address the previous refusals to avoid them being a burden on all future applications?
  4. How can I break the pattern?

NB: This question is intended as a canonical about serial refusals. I have never been personally denied a visa.

  • 3
    +1, great question, thanks Jonathan. To clarify, you are not the subject of serial refusals, but asking on their behalf so we have a controlling reference point for this type of question. – Gayot Fow Aug 1 '17 at 13:59
  • I'm assuming you mean "several times in a row, in quick succession." Not "I applied, was refused; then the following year i applied again, and was refused." – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Aug 1 '17 at 15:31
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+100

It's not what you want to hear, but what you need to do is this:

Stop Applying.

You're actually hurting your chances at this point, and with some countries you can actually accrue a ban if you continue.


When you apply for a visa, you need to prove to the officials of that country that you're a real visitor. The burden of proof is on you, and you need to show:

  • that you're just coming for a visit
  • that you will leave within a reasonably short amount of time
  • that you're not going to work or be a burden on the government or taxpayers (eg. via welfare or public monies)
  • that you can afford the trip and any incidents that may occur while you're on it (eg. health or travel insurance as may be required by the country you're applying to)

Remember: visiting a foreign country is a privilege, not a right.

The visa refusal means that the admission officer does not believe you. In his or her opinion, you did not prove the above points. Sending the exact same application in a second (or third, etc.) time will not change his or her mind.


Depending on what country you're applying to, your visa rejection letter may or may not include reasons for being rejected. We have many questions about visa refusals here on the site which may detail how to specifically address the deficiencies in your application.

The reason for your rejection is important: it explains why the admission officer does not believe you to be a genuine visitor. By understanding what went wrong with your previous application(s), you will be better able to improve your circumstances accordingly.

As a side note: the United States tends to give out a form letter that indicates you were refused under a very broad subsection of the law. However they inform of your rejection in person during the interview, during which point you should ask the officer for the specifics of the rejection. For more information about this situation in specific, consider referring to our questions about rejections under 214(b).

The reasons for your rejection(s) are very important. If you do not address these reasons, you will simply be rejected again for the very same reason.


Should I just reapply once again? What are my chances?

Once you're in a serial refusals situation, you need to stop applying. Do not apply again. You're in a bad situation, and each subsequent application only makes it worse. Your chances are low and rapidly approach zero with each subsequent application.

Applying over and over again makes you seem desperate. Desperation is bad: a legitimate visitor is usually not desperate to visit. This causes the admission officer to become suspicious of you, and start wondering if perhaps your intention is to come to work or live in the country. Suspicious admissions officers will be even stricter when evaluating an application, and your chances of getting rejected get much worse.

Furthermore, if you apply too many times, it is possible to actually be banned for making "frivolous" applications. You'll usually know if this happens because it is usually communicated to you once the ban occurs. Once you get to this point, there is nothing to do but wait it out. (But while you're waiting, consider following the suggestions below to improve your personal circumstances.)


Can I somehow address the previous refusals to avoid them being a burden on all future applications?

Yes and no.

A common question for visa applications is something along the lines of "have you ever been refused a visa before?" From now on, you will have to reply 'yes' to this question and any follow-up questions. The refusal may also cause you to become ineligible for certain visa waiver programs should you otherwise become eligible in the future. (For example, a US visa refusal causes you to be ineligible for the ESTA program.)

And, finally, the best thing you can do at this point is to retain a lawyer who specializes in visa application issues. How to go about retaining such a lawyer depends highly on what country you're applying to -- for the UK, one would refer to the Law Society, for example -- but this is essential for your subsequent applications especially if you insist on applying again.


What can I do to improve my odds in the future? How can I break the pattern?

You need to accept the fact that you are simply not going to visit the country you have applied to right now. Some day in the future you may reapply, but at the moment, that door is closed.

In the mean time, you should focus on:

  • proving yourself to be a good visitor to other countries
  • improving your ties to your home country
  • maintaining a stable source of employment/income and saving your earnings judiciously

By visiting other countries, following the rules, and leaving when you're supposed to, you are accumulating "proof" that you're a genuine visitor. In subsequent applications, admissions officers will see these previous trips and it will support your claim that you are only coming to visit and that you will leave when you are supposed to because you have done so before.

This is a concept called a "travel history." We have an excellent question on how to build up a travel history. But it boils down to travelling to developed western countries that have more lax travel requirements for your particular passport and/or country of citizenship.

The second thing you need to do is build up your ties to your home country. A "tie" is something that an admissions officer will consider to be a reason you will go home after your trip is over.

Some ties include:

  • starting a family
  • having a stable job with a steady salary or income
  • owning property such as a home

This is not an exhaustive list, and it is not intended to be a list of things you must do. But the point is that you need to show that you have good, strong reasons to return to your home country after your trip. Take this time to develop those.

The third major thing you should be doing is improving your means. Admissions officers like to see stable employment and a steady income. Save what you make -- not necessarily all of it, but a portion of it -- and grow your bank balance. Spend your money wisely.

It is important that your bank account reflect your monetary means. If you have none, open one. If you are paid in cash, deposit it as soon as you are paid and withdraw just what you need for living expenses. Keep your payslips or receipts as a record of where your money is coming from. If you own your own business or work in a family business, start drawing a salary (if you do not already) and keep the business accounts separate from your personal account.

When you do apply for a visa again, you need to consider how much of these savings you will be spending on your trip. A genuine visitor is not going to spent 90% of his or her lifetime earnings for a one-week visit.

Finally, you should take this time to review the reasons given in your refusal letters and to address those concerns. If they are not covered by the above recommendations, you should review other visa refusal questions for others who received similar rejection reasons. You can also ask a question about how to address a particular rejection reason.

Once you have done this, only then should you consider applying again. When you do, keep the following in mind:

  • Do Not Lie. Do not submit fake bank statements. Don't claim to work for Well Known Company, Inc., when you work for Little Local Subsidiary, Ltd.
  • Don't try to game the system. Admissions officers are paid to know all the tricks. Do not borrow a large sum of money from a relative and deposit into a bank account to "prove" you can afford the trip. If a company offers you a "guaranteed" visa, it's probably a scam.
  • Using the above recommendations as your guide, make the strongest application you can, keeping in mind what you're trying to prove. You're a genuine visitor, so prepare a detailed itinerary. You're going to come home afterwards, so show proof of the reasons you have to return. You can afford the trip and support yourself in case of emergency, so show your funds and pay slips, insurance (if applicable), etc. You can be trusted as a visitor, so show your travel history.
  • Consulting a lawyer who specializes in visa applications and issues is highly recommended, especially when applying after a refusal. Such an individual will be able to best advise you based on your specific circumstances. This will also cost money.

There is an English adage common among school-age children that goes like this: if at first you don't succeed, try try again. This does not apply for visa rejections. We must instead rely on a second, less-known adage: if at first you don't succeed, look in the trash for the instructions.

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    Nice! The only suggestion I have is to expand the "means" section. Such as, if you're paid cash, deposit all of it into a bank account then withdraw your living expenses; keep payslips or receipts of pay received; if you own or work in a family business, take a "salary" from the business and keep the personal/business accounts separate. – mkennedy Aug 1 '17 at 17:28
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    Long story short: get richer. – gdrt Aug 1 '17 at 22:31
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    @gdrt: this seem to be more important for UK (which I got impression really cares about you being solvent); for US prior travel history seems to be indeed more important, as some of people I know remotely, poor and no jobs, but extensive travelers, got US visas on first attempt. – George Y. Aug 2 '17 at 0:11
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas, funds parking doesn't make you richer. - GeorgeY, true, true. – gdrt Aug 2 '17 at 0:35
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    +1 wonderful answer, great explanations, and 'stop applying' is key critical – Gayot Fow Aug 2 '17 at 5:57
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(migrated from Meta by request)

I can share an idea of where some of those refusals come from, as I grew up in a country affected by this. In my experience there are three things leading to serial refusals:

  1. Scams

    This is a big one, run by many unscrupulous companies posting visa articles in local newspapers. Usually, the articles are in a form of "advice", "testimonials" or "expert opinion", and focused on specific aspects of getting a visa, with hints on how the company would "help" (usually by providing fake statements, job references, and even exit/entry stamps). They always have a few genuine cases when applicants succeeded getting their visas, so there's support by word of mouth.

    There are PLENTY of those in countries like India, Nigeria, Russia, the Philippines etc. Those companies keep operating because scammed people keep it to themselves (unlikely someone gotta come here and say "I used fake bank statements and got refused"). A lot of people also fall into the "second try" (which the company offers for free, but there are always "extra services needed" - like "a bribe to visa official" so it is never free).

    For those people we need to explain about scams. Scams exist, and they are highly successful. Don't be a target. If your case is good, do it yourself - a helper will only make it worse. And if your case is so bad that you are sure you need a helper, you're not going to get a visa anyway. That is unless you use a legitimate helper, such as a properly licensed attorney, but those come up with a SERIOUS price tag, measured in thousands of dollars.

    Please see another answer related to scams here.

  2. Lack of trust in visa process based on personal experience with their own government.

    It might sound strange to a Westerner, but people in the countries listed above - and many others - can't really imagine a pedantic government paper-pusher type worker with no agenda, who just follows the rules in the book.

    So they assume UKVI/US Consulate employees works like their own government employees - who are unpredictable, depends on mood, and take it very personally. Such official might refuse your paperwork because it was not typed using a typewriter (because he hates printers). Or they can approve it without reading even if you submitted magazine cuts as evidence, because he's leaving for vacation tomorrow and doesn't give a shit. @Gayot Fow explained the results of this thinking well as "playing the Vegas roulette with applications". Truth is, in those countries, it really works, and I personally have approval for exactly the same paperwork submitted 4th time, which had been previously rejected for some unimaginable reasons.

    Here we might explain that yes, this may sound ridiculous, stupid and suspicious to you, but US/UK/EU visa government employees REALLY follow the rules. Certain information is needed, and it must be present. If you don't have it, don't apply, you will be refused ten times out of ten. And no, they do not refuse you because they hate you or want to insult you. And yes, a properly prepared application supported by genuine evidence WILL be approved - again, ten times out of ten. There is no random factor here.

    Note that "genuine evidence" means "as considered by the officer", not "as considered by applicant" - the officers look for specific evidence in specific form. For example, just writing "I am rich and will return back" is useless - while this may be genuine, this is not considered evidence

  3. Naivety

    Finally, some people genuinely do not understand how the process works, and try to learn it via trial-and-error method such as "what kind of evidence they'd accept which would make them believe I'd return back?". Those usually come from personal experience and anecdotes, such as "my cousin's friend got a visa and stated he's making $2000 a month; so I need to state I make $2000 a month".

    Here we need to explain that trial-and-error comes with the consequences such as the Consulate will assume you want to get into the country no matter what, and this will undermine credibility of your further applications, to the point that nobody is going to consider them seriously.

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    Some of those scam cases were funny. There was (is?) a company in Moscow which "guaranteed" US visas by claiming to be able to bribe Consulate stuff - or you get your money back. In fact the company just kept the fee of those whose visa was granted (claiming they helped). For those who were refused, the company issued an apology ("your case was too bad, the Consul didn't want to take risk") and promptly refunded the payment back - they even threw in some small gift like an iPhone case. Operated for at least five years there. – George Y. Aug 1 '17 at 23:59
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    We've some questions about scams, if you want to do some linking. There's this answer which talks about a common scam for administrative review after a visa refusal (UK), for example. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Aug 2 '17 at 1:04
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    And yes, a proper genuine application supported by genuine evidence WILL be approved - again, ten times out of ten. There is no random factor here. Absolutely 100% incorrect/false. Many genuine applications with genuine evidence are rejected. There is abundant evidence to support that all over and even on here, including the fact that some reapplications/appeals are approved. – user 56513 Aug 2 '17 at 3:03
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    "Many genuine applications with genuine evidence are rejected" - I mean "what the officer considers genuine evidence", not "what the applicant thinks looks genuine evidence". Will update the answer. – George Y. Aug 2 '17 at 7:49
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    Still wrong. ECO officers make mistakes sometimes and fail to approve genuine applications with genuine evidence. Your sweeping and absolute decree is just plain wrong and I would say just remove it. If you say the overwhelming majority of the time, I could agree but ten times out of ten is just completely wrong and wrongly implies ECO's are infallible. – user 56513 Aug 2 '17 at 8:52

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