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28 Reasons why Artist O-1 Visa and EB-1 Green Cards are rejected or denied

These are the main reasons that Artist Visa and Green Cards are rejected or denied:

  1. Incorrect interpretations of the USCIS criteria
  2. Combining criteria arguments on the petition letter
  3. Petition letter does not match the evidence
  4. Fraudulent evidence
  5. Missing evidence
  6. Application submitted without petition letter
  7. Incomplete applications
  8. Your examiner
  9. Incorrect fees paid at time of filing
  10. Incorrect forms submitted at time of filing
  11. Errors on forms
  12. Inability to follow instructions
  13. Not responding to your RFE
  14. Outdated medical form
  15. Health condition making you a potential drain on public resources
  16. Non-disclosure of your criminal record
  17. US National Security
  18. Missed appointments or deadlines
  19. Previous ‘Removal’ or ‘Overstay’ of a previous visa
  20. Previously worked illegally in the USA
  21. Processing error by USCIS
  22. Received a ‘No’ at the interview
  23. Received a ‘No’ at the Border/Entry to USA
  24. Controversial social media
  25. Case is not strong enough
  26. No proof that you will work in your specialty
  27. Your union is on strike
  28. Claiming to be a citizen

Most of these reasons are preventable.

The Petition Letter

Many artists that use our guides do so after they have received an RFE (Request for Evidence) on their attorney filed applications. In preparing the RFE the attorney usually asks the artist to get ‘more stuff’ to bolster the response. Our guides tell you what ‘more stuff’ is. Our number one suggestion is re-reading the Petition Letter submitted on their behalf. We are shocked by how few applicants read this letter before it is submitted. Remember you sign a testimony to state that what is submitted is true and correct – it is your responsibility to confirm that everything in this letter represents you and your career.

If you have been denied or have received an RFE don’t panic – have a read of this info.

1. Incorrect Interpretations of the USCIS Criteria

The USCIS criteria are clearly defined – check them out here – but still petitions are filed with outdated interpretations, eg. Performer applicants submit under the USCIS criteria “Leading and Critical Role” interpreting this as their ‘role’ on stage or on set. This is not what is required here. A simple tweak of your wording in your argument should help you succeed in your reapplication or RFE response if this criterion was you stumbling block.

Your visa may be denied if your petition letter did not fully understand the requirements; you not only need to prove extraordinary ability/achievement, but, show sustained national or international acclaim, your intention to continue to work in the area of your expertise and that you will substantially benefit prospectively the United States.

2. Combining Criteria Arguments on the Petition Letter

Each criteria should be argued one at a time. Your role is to make life easy for the examiner – not yourself. To help the examiner check their boxes that you satisfy 3 criteria each must be fully discussed separately. This is the second most common reason for petition letter based denials. This is an easy fix in your petition letter. Rewrite your letter and resubmit.

3. Petition Letter does not Match the Evidence

You sign a testimony to state that what is submitted is true and correct. It is your responsibility to confirm that everything in your petition letter matches your evidence. The most common error is date formatting – an award may have been received by you on the 9th of January, 2022 which in the US is formatted 01/09/2022, if it appears as 09/01/22, as is the common format worldwide, it can be flagged as potentially fraudulent. Another example may be if an article misspelt your name in your evidence; this should be pointed out in your petition letter. Before submitting spell check and fact check your application.

4. Fraudulent Evidence

There have been cases where applicants that are very efficient with Photoshop and other graphic design programs edit their evidence with overlaid digital arrows or highlighting. In the eyes of the USCIS this can be perceived as doctored and so cannot be used as evidence in your case. The USCIS look for inconsistencies, mistakes and incomplete facts. It is recommended that you keep your evidence as real and as close to the format that it was presented in originally. Submit photocopies or printed screenshots with hand drawn markers.

5. Missing Evidence

Triple check that all the evidence you need is ready.  Use one of our Evidence Index List systems in our guides to catalogue them. Most common documents that are left out: Passports, Marriage Papers, Divorce Papers, Adoption Papers etc., translations for each document and translators certificate. Any documents not originally in English, such as birth certificates or marriage certificates, must be translated into English when you submit your application. You must include both the translation and a copy of the original version of the document in your application. All provided translations must be certified, the translator provides a written certification stating that they have accurately translated the document’s contents. The translator’s certification should include their name, address, signature, and date they wrote the translation.

Be sure that you have submitted these photos and that they satisfy all government requirements.

6. Submitted Without Petition Letters

Believe it or not there is a percentage of applicants that submit their forms for the extraordinary green cards and 01 visas not understanding that they must be accompanied by a petition letter. A petition letter is where you argue your case as to why you are extraordinary and show the examiner how your evidence supports your case. The USCIS give us the extraordinary ability requirements for the EB1 and for the O1 visa. We give you examples in our guides.

7. Incomplete Applications

USCIS receive unsigned forms all the time. For most applications there are more than one form to be submitted. It is imperative that you ensure that you gather all the forms and information necessary to complete your application and submit them all at once. They receive so many applications daily and your application may be separated and sent to different processing centers that to submit your application piecemeal is simply not an option. It is a nightmare for the administration. Doing this can easily result in lost paper work and a denial. Premium Processing is one form that often trips up applicants.

Your information on all forms should be in English. If you are using a translator you need them to sign your application or if using an attorney they should sign too. There are many places that you must sign your name to testify on your application, ensure you do this. All signatures on application forms must be original “wet ink” signatures. This means you must sign with a pen. USCIS will not accept electronic signatures.

You must fill out all green card application forms entirely. Even if a question does not apply to your specific circumstances, you should not leave it blank. Instead, you should write “N/A” to signify that a particular question does not apply to you or your sponsor.

8. Your Examiner

From what we have gathered most examiners for the extraordinary visas are science focused, they may not readily relate to your artist application. If you are hit with an extremely detailed RFE you can do your best to respond with evidence for every ask as much as possible. If you are still denied you can respond to the NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny) too. If all else fails and you believe in your application re-submit the same application in the hopes that you get another examiner that will agree with your arguments.

9. Incorrect Fees Paid at Time of Filing

They are funded solely by fees. It is important to check the USCIS form pages for the most up to date fees at the time of your application. It is your responsibility to confirm current prices before submitting. Many believe that the fees are expensive. Think through everybody that will touch your application. The person who collects your application in the mailroom, the people who scan your application in on the office, then the examiner who reads your application, when it is approved it gets sent to the National Visa Center, those officers then look at all of your other information and send your application to the FBI to be checked, from there it may go to a Embassy/Consulate or to an immigration interview session where you will be interviewed. The visa application fee really is a good deal when you consider all the employees that get paid to look after your application. Your fee also subsidizes refugees, battered spouse applicants and others in need of protection.

10. Incorrect Forms Submitted at Time of Filing

The USCIS update their forms too. Administration changes can mean updated forms. The pandemic brought in other form changes, for example, updates to the Medical Form. It is your responsibility to confirm current forms on the USCIS website.

11. Errors on Forms

All forms are in English – even if your mastery of English is excellent it is worth having your forms and petition letter proof-read. Language difficulties account for so many errors. Note, many applicants accidentally enter their birth date in the wrong format. It should be US format MM/DD/YYYY. The name on the form should be your birth name and correspond with the government documents that you have from your home country not your stage name/nickname.

12. Inability to follow Instructions

The USCIS need you to follow instructions. Doing this helps them speedily process your case. If the form asks for you to write in Black ink you don’t use Red. The USCIS use a machine to read and enter your application digitally. The red ink cannot be read by this machine. If your application cannot be read it may not be manually typed into the system and so you run the risk of your application being denied. They do not offer refunds so your application fees will be lost.

If you are going through Consular Processing and their requirements are that you give them a stamped self addressed envelope of a particular size – do not go to your interview without it.  This may come across as basic common sense but we were witness to this at our consulate interview. In fact the person in front asked the officer if they had a stamp they could buy “We are the US Embassy not the Postal Service was the response.” Obviously they were not getting their visa that day. They were instructed to make another appointment and return fully prepared. Don’t be that person. If you are applying for the genius visa don’t let not following basic instructions be your downfall.

You will receive notices of next steps, follow them.

13. Not responding to an RFE

1 in 5 applications results in an RFE (Requests for Further Evidence). RFEs typically list out the evidence you submitted in your application and suggestions of evidence the examiner needs to approve your application. Your RFE will contain a response deadline to submit that evidence. If you miss your response deadline, USCIS will deny your green card application. [Learn how to avoid RFEs in our guide.] Many people can be overwhelmed and don’t respond. Make note of the deadline and get to work. The majority of applicants that respond are approved. GO FOR IT!

14. Outdated Medical Form

Medical Forms update regularly. It is your responsibility to confirm current form number on the USCIS website. Please do not rely on the Civil Surgeon you are seeing to have the correct Medical Form. Bring your own version. On the front of their form you can see the form status. Also confirm that the doctor you are being examined by is a US government approved Civil Surgeon. Do not open the sealed envelope that the doctor gives you. This is to be sent untampered to the USCIS.

15. Health Conditions

During your Medical Exam, USCIS interview and Border Control entry you will be assessed for physical and mental disorders.

Vaccine hesitancy is a potential reason to be denied. There is a list of vaccinations required by the US and the Civil Surgeon will only sign off on your Medical if you have had them all or a produce a vaccine waiver.

If you have a communicable disease your Civil Surgeon will draw your attention to it. You will be required to seek treatment before you are permitted to enter the US. Perhaps you have returned from a country that has a current outbreak of a disease, you may be required to return after an incubation period.

If you have a history of alcohol and/or drug arrests even if you have never been diagnosed with addiction you may be found inadmissible on health grounds.

You may be deemed to be a potential ward of the public. The US Government will not want to have you enter the USA on a green card if there is a chance your ailment will prevent you from working and require government financial assistance in the future.

16. Non-disclosure of Criminal Record

If you have a criminal record it does not necessarily mean that your chances of coming to the US are impossible, but, it is imperative that you are upfront and honest about it. If you fail to mention it on your application you are running the risk of your application being rejected. The USCIS run FBI checks on you. It is best that if they find something that you have mentioned previously.

Investigate how you can prove that you are worthy of a visa. Perhaps you can show evidence of having served your time, show you have worked hard on proving yourself as a valuable member of society since.

17. US National Security

You may have the same name as a terrorist or an international wanted criminal. This happens more often than you might think. Even a similar family member name can trigger a denial. This will be indicated by a code in your denial letter. It is imperative that you respond to this and try rectify the error as fast as possible.

18. Never showed up for the Required Appointments or Missed Deadlines

People get approved all the time and then do not go to the final interview! You would be very surprised how often this happens!

Many people miss the next steps because they changed their mailing address or they had a specific email address created for their application that they forget to keep checking in on it. You may miss USCIS’s RFE’s or responses, National Visa Center request, Interview with your local US Embassy/Consulate office. Update the USCIS whenever your mailing address changes so that you do not miss important messages or requests.

Set a calendar alarm for any upcoming deadlines.

19. Prior Removals or Overstaying of Previous Visa

When you enter the USA on a visa make note of the I-94 – the expiration date here is the last day you are allowed stay in the USA. Anything over this date is classified as an overstay. If you overstay in the USA without a visa you should be strategic in judging when to reapply. You begin to accrue unlawful presence – amount of time you spend in the United States without lawful immigration status – the day after your authorized period of stay expires.

There are consequences based on the length of your unlawful presence, a 3-year bar if you stay 180 days or more (but less than one year) or if you stay longer a 10-year bar. If you are in the US without lawful immigration status you can also risk deportation.

If you have overstayed by a couple of days or weeks coming back to the USA is not impossible. It is by the discretion of the Custom and Border Patrol to allow you entry. Perhaps there was a good excuse for your overstay – if so, have evidence with you. Also, have evidence that your presence is required back in your home country – family, work or medical reasons and have evidence of a return flight booked if you are coming to the US on a temporary visa or on vacation. If you are interviewing at a Consulate you must provide proof to convince them that you will not repeat your past behavior and overstay. If you overstayed longer you might consider filing Form I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. This can be filed from within the US.

It is recommended that you find an attorney that specializes in overstays of visas to guide you through this process.

It is very important that you do not overstay and that you are in the US legally, especially, if you are an artist and potentially in the public eye. As your success increases so too does the risk of your deportation. You must consider your future.

20. Previously worked Illegally in the USA

There was an artist working in USA on an O-Visa. On returning to the US from a vacation abroad they had their bag searched by CBP. They found a car dealership business card with the artist’s name on it. The artist was deported for working illegally in the USA. Be sure to understand the limitations of your work visa and work within those confines. This is why if on an O visa your sponsor is incredibly important. Our guides explain how to choose the correct sponsor.

Some musicians have previously played music festivals in the US without a visa – they may have received a fee. Through the festival promotion this may be public knowledge and can get them barred from re-entering. Artists in the public eye should act smart and not chance their future in the USA.

21. USCIS or your Consulate made Processing Errors

Errors happen. Perhaps they misspelled your name, incorrectly listed your date of birth, or your notices were mislaid. Read everything twice.

Recently an actor using our guide noticed that her O visa was awarded and stamped into her passport in her stage name not her official government name. A quick follow up and she had the corrected version in a few days.

22. Received a ‘No’ at the Interview

Your interview is important. You should show up to your interview with your evidence package. You will be asked why you are extraordinary – artists that have written their own petition know the criteria they applied under and so this question should not be difficult. Here is the USCIS note about it.

23. Received a ‘No’ at the Border

You have just stepped off the long flight to JFK or LAX. You are not firing on all cylinders, perhaps a bit cranky. The Custom and Border Patrol understand this, however, if you are rude or ill-behaved this can result in you returning on the next flight home. Your appearance matters. They can judge by your appearance if you are worthy of entry. If your behavior is erratic they can decide you unfit for entry. They have the right to search your bags. If you are carrying prescription drugs this can also lead the officers to deciding not to let you cross the border. If they ask to search your phone or computer and you refuse to provide they password you run the risk of being denied entry. If a CBP officer searches and/or confiscates your laptop or cell phone make sure you get a receipt for your property. Even if you have a visa your entry is not guaranteed. If you have WhatsApp it downloads received images automatically – this has been the reason for many deportations. Be aware of virus software, some are designed to download compromising images on your computer. Give all your devices a check before you fly.

CBP Officers decisions are final and so all dealings with them should be taken seriously. It’s not the time to joke around. Act like a normal, sane human – this can be difficult as artists. If you are denied you can fill out the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program form available from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

24. Controversial Social Media

A few years ago a young man from UK posted on social media ““Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America.” ‘Destroy’ as slang for ‘epic partying’ – he was questioned, denied entry and deported. Check all public posts and comments you have made on the internet to make sure they are not anti-American. The FBI may google you to so check your online presence.

25. Your Case is not Strong Enough

This may be hard to hear it but your career might not ‘extraordinary’ yet. This doesn’t mean that all is lost. If you are denied it is not held against you. Check the Extraordinary Criteria here. Take a moment and look at your application strategically. Re-read the USCIS criteria and concentrate on the 3 that you can control and actively focus on them. You may have to wait for another couple of contracts to come in etc. Set a deadline for yourself and work to it.

26. No proof that you will work in your specialty

Artists that have been denied a green cards because in their petition letter and supporting evidence they showed that they will teach but not perform. If you are claiming extraordinary ability as a concert violinist, for example, you must show evidence that you will continue to work as a concert violinist. It is not good enough to show evidence that you will work teaching violin. You must be coming to the US to benefit using your special skill.

27. Your union is currently on strike

USCIS will deny an O petition if there is a certified strike or labor dispute involving a work stoppage in progress in the occupation at the place where you will be employed, and the employment would adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. If your petition has already been approved, but you have not yet entered the US the approval of the petition is automatically suspended and application for admission will be denied.

28. Claiming to be a citizen

It is a federal crime to claim that you’re a U.S. Citizen. Some non-immigrants and immigrants have voted in violation of federal, state, or local laws. You can have your visa, green card taken from you and even get prosecuted and/or deported. Claiming citizenship can even hurt you from becoming a citizen in the future.

Why you found this post…

You are here because your visa has been RFE’d or denied or perhaps you are getting ready to apply – our guides can help. Check them out.

A denial is not the end of the world. If you received a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) or final denial notice and are confident that an immigration agency has made an internal mistake while processing your application or you feel they haven’t processed your case fairly, you may be able to file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). Note too, a denial is never really a denial, you can respond with a letter to a NOID with extra evidence. You can also file an appeal or motion to reopen your green card case after denial.