In fact, it is usually expressed as they “refused” to immigrate legally, as they could have, but didn’t. I’ve encountered a number of people in the United States that will describe a process where a foreigner enters a U.S. Consulate, fills out an application, and waits (hinting that it takes “years”) for an immigrant visa. Some even phrase it as an application for U.S. citizenship (this may stem from the belief of their ancestors coming “legally” to become citizens, which will be another possible misconception addressed here later).
It may also be a confusion with the Diversity Immigrant Visa program that started in 1990. However, nationalities with higher immigration rates (more than 50,000 over the period of the five previous years) are disqualified from the Diversity Visa, and it is limited to 55,000 immigrants worldwide per year. This misconception is also phrased as any average person being able to apply, not as an “Investor Visa” or “Extraordinary Ability Visa”. I’ve never heard the misconception resolved to a specific immigration form, it is just a myth passed around.
As I explained on previous misconceptions, two-thirds of all legal immigration is from a relationship to a U.S. citizen, for a full fourth of the total that relationship is marriage: A spouse. There are the employment-based visas, and the other types I’ve mentioned in this article, but typically the reality of immigration is that you will be related (parent, child, spouse, or sibling) to a U.S. citizen. It isn’t a “refusal” when you have no other way.
Trust me, we will discuss illegal aliens being related to U.S. citizens, but that is something for another time…