The popular vernacular uses 'rejection', 'denial', and 'refusal' interchangeably. They mean that their application was accepted and processed as legitimate but failed at the decision making stage. A indication is made on the applicant's passport and it is returned to the applicant.

But from a practitioner's point of view the terms 'rejection', 'denial', and 'refusal' all have different meanings, and using the correct meanings enhances the site's credibility.

'visa-refusal' can be defined as: A refused application is a valid application which has been processed and the decision-maker has decided that the applicant fails to meet the requirements. For example, if the applicant has not demonstrated the required level of funds in their bank account or has submitted a translation which does not meet the requirements or has submitted a photocopy rather than an original document. When an application is refused, the passport is usually marked to show what has taken place and more importantly, a record is made in the sovereign's computer system.

'visa-rejection' can be defined as: An invalid application that did not reach the decision stage for any number of reasons: the wrong form was used, or the pictures were not in the correct format, or the bank declined to pay the credit card, or countless other reasons that can make an application invalid. When an application is rejected,, it will be returned unprocessed with the fee payment not taken or refunded. It will be as if an application had never been made.

In Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 (Schengen rules), the word 'refusal' occurs 12 times. The word 'rejection' is used once in a context about verifying entry conditions. The corpus of UK law and guidance uses only the word 'refusal' (This follows their policy that invalid applications should be refused rather than rejected whenever they get the chance).

The US State Department uses 'denied' and 'denials' interchangeably in their brochures as a synonym for 'refusal', but they are known formally as 'refusals' (for example their statistical reports).

In the current state of play Travel.SE uses the 'visa-rejection' tag as an all inclusive tag, and the word 'denied' in the tag definition. It's confusing. In truth, I haven't seen a question marked 'visa-rejection' that didn't REALLY mean 'visa-refusal'.


'visa-refusal' becomes the tag for an application that has failed at the decision-making stage.

'visa-rejection' becomes the tag for an application that did not reach the decision-making stage and was returned to the applicant.

OPTIONAL 'visa-denial'is a tag synonym for 'visa-refusal'

A related tag for which I have seen about 3 questions is when somebody gets bounced from a port of entry. The popular vernacular for those situations is 'deportation', but it's demeaning and horribly wrong. The correct tag is 'administrative-removal' because that's what happens when an individual fails their landing interview. You need to be convicted of a serious crime and serve a custodial sentence before you can be 'deported'.

Finally, the two other terms are 'visa-annulment' and 'visa-cancellation', but nobody has asked questions about these and so they do not need to be tags at the moment.

Sources: 'Butterworths Handbook on Immigration Law' http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Butterworths_Handbook_on_Immigration_Law.html?id=b2LONQAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

Secondary source: Immigration Law Handbook (Phelan and Gillespie) http://www.rakuten.co.uk/shop/speedyhen/product/ST0199659702/?sku=ST0199659702&sclid=a_pla_uk&pup_e=1&pup_ptid=105540316405&pup_kw=&pup_c=pla&pup_id=ST0199659702&gclid=CNqSkrqRqcICFWfKtAodOFEA_Q

  • 1
    "The difference between the /almost right/ word and the /right/ word is ... the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning." --Mark Twain
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 8, 2015 at 17:08
  • NOTE: re-tagging of the past questions completed on 13 Feb 2015. Titles with 'rejected' changed to say 'refused'.
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 13, 2015 at 0:30
  • 1
    Your links seem to suggest this division of meanings is UK-specific. Can you provide some international sources? Indeed can you find any counterexamples so we are sure to avoid cherrypicking. Feb 13, 2015 at 3:11
  • 2
    Also it's very bad form to act on things of this nature with no consensus. I saw the changes and assumed most people voted for it against my objections. But now I see that there are actually very few votes and no consensus. )-: Feb 13, 2015 at 3:12

4 Answers 4


"I applied for a visa at the Whocaresistan Consulate and when I sent it in I sent in a copy of my plane tickets. It was refused with the statement of "no proof of support"... what does that mean?" visa-denial

"I applied for a visa at the Whocaresistan Consulate and when I sent it in I sent in a copy of my plane tickets. My paperwork was returned stamped "DENIED" in big letters. What does that mean?" visa-denial

So, what does a tag do for the reader? For SEO? For us? Is that the right tag for both problems?

I think I would err on the side of Gayot Fow, and would rather see the tags be 'right' versus 'easy'. In this case, a user would more than likely start typing the word visa and the sort box (or whatever you call that thing) would show many tags, slowly narrowing down to perhaps visa and the three visa-xxx tags. The user could read the descriptions and select the most accurate.

  • Great thinking; precision is the long run value added. Trivia: nobody sends back paperwork/passport using the word 'denied'. Americans are the most subtle with refusals, they just leave the application received stamp in with nothing else. The worst is a full page "IMMIGRATION PROHIBITED" stamp, for the really bad liars (I could tell stories on that one). But never 'denied' --- just trivia.
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 12, 2015 at 18:14
  • Instead of reasoning based on "logic" I would prefer to quote some statements from the Stack Exchange blog and meta on how to tag. Because I believe this goes against what SE strives for. Tags are not the same as dictionary definitions, they're for grouping stuff and now we're splitting rather than grouping. Feb 13, 2015 at 3:40
  • Well, if we're going to go for grouping, then we should have VISA. Period.
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 13, 2015 at 13:52
  • Perhaps that would actually be best, one visa tag and one passport tag?
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 13, 2015 at 13:53

Way to overthink things!

What we need is a tag for "I applied for a visa and didn't get it", which of course can't be used for the name of a tag.

There's no universal fits every use 100% perfectly term that fits into the limits of a tag name, as with just about every single concept of course.

So we just pick a reasonable tag name. I think when I made the first one I scanned the site to count how many people worded their questions which way and went with the most popular one.

But tag synonyms are good, they help people get the right tag when they don't think of the exact word used in the tag they hit one of the words in one of the synonyms.

We should just go with any of the terms for the main tag, make synonyms for the others, and then if you're really concerned about all the possible reasons for "not getting a visa that I applied for", then you pen your wonderful discourse as the full wiki for that tag.

Simple. Now some op just go and merge the tags as synonyms, keep the one that has a wiki as the main one, and we can go from there.

  • 2
    As this goes in the same direction as the other two upvoted answers, shouldn't we go ahead and merge the tags as synonyms?
    – drat
    Feb 17, 2015 at 1:16

I tend to use explanations like “decline to process the application” for “rejection” when it's relevant in the answer. I do try to pay a little more attention to the terminology than I used to (I sometimes read the regulations in French and used “denial” or “refusal” loosely in English) but I am not sure we need to create distinct tags.

Most people won't even notice the distinction and it would just add some work to properly retag the questions that will invariably get the wrong one, with very little practical benefits.


IMHO there is no big difference between , and .

I suggest to make and synonyms of .

  • 1
    Perhaps the site quality would be improved? IMHO, there's no big difference between Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Why not dump all of those tags into synonyms?
    – Gayot Fow
    Dec 16, 2014 at 18:11

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