Integrity Legal

Archive for March, 2009

31st March 2009

There is some debate as to what type of visa is the fastest to obtain for American men married to Thai women. In the past the K-3 Visa was a quicker and more efficient way of bringing a Thai wife to the USA in comparison to the Immigrant Relative Visas (CR-1 and IR-1). However, at the time of this writing the K3 is not processing as fast compared to the CR-1 to make it a good option for most couples.

There was a time when it took 3 years for USCIS to adjudicate an I-130 application submitted by a US Citizen on behalf of his Thai wife. Since USCIS has now streamlined their adjudication process the published adjudication time frame is the same for both the I-130 application as well as the I-129f application (the I-129f application was traditionally used to apply for a K-1 Visa and when an expedited marriage visa was created in the form of the K3 the I-129f application form was chosen as the application form to obtain the visa). Since the adjudication time estimate is the same the speed factor has been nullified as a reason for obtaining a K3 over an Immigrant Visa.

Dual Petitions

The K-3 filing is a supplemental visa petition with USCIS. When one files for a K3, they must first submit an I-130 petition, then after receiving Notice of Action 1 (the letter from USCIS stating that they received the application), an I-129f petition is submitted which includes a copy of the Notice of Action 1.  Clearly, the problem facing someone attempting to self file is the fact that submitting 2 petitions requires double the paperwork.

After K3 Visa obtainment Adjustment of Status still required

In order for one to obtain permanent residence in the United States on a K3 Visa, the Thai wife must file an application to adjust status. The adjustment of status process can be somewhat costly and time consuming. However with a CR-1 or IR-1 Visa adjustment of status is unnecessary due to the fact that these visas confer permanent residence upon entry into the United States.

When comparing these two visa options, it becomes apparent that a K3 Visa with its lack of permanent residence conferral and marginally faster processing time from USCIS submission to interview at the US Embassy in Thailand is probably not the best options for most Thai-American married couples. However, there may be instances where a K3 Visa would be a better option in certain circumstances.

For more information please see: US Visa Thailand

Note: Nothing in this article should be used in lieu of competent advice from a licensed attorney.

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29th March 2009

The process of obtaining a US Visa from Thailand can be frustrating for some due to the fact that a great deal of both US and Thai government documents are necessary in order to obtain most American Visas. We will briefly discuss the time line for obtaining the US K1 Fiance Visa, K3 Marriage Visa, Conditional Resident Visa, and the Immediate Relative Visa based upon marriage. The Visa Journey can be a long process and many phases of it are “hurry up and wait,” in that there are long lulls in the process followed by burst of extreme activity where time is of the essence for meeting deadlines and getting an interview appointment.

The K1 Visa

The first step in the K1 Visa process is the filing of an I-129f fiancee visa application. This application is basically designed to confirm that the petitioner is indeed a US Citizen entitled to marry and has no criminal or immigration record that would conflict ith the provisions of the IMBRA. The USCIS will issue Notice of Action 1 which basically is an official receipt from the Immigration Service that they have obtained and will review the Petition. Should USCIS need more documentation, then they will issue an RFE (Request for Evidence), in this request they will explain what information is lacking and how the petitioner can prove up the petition.

After USCIS has adjudicated the petition, if they approve it, they will issue Notice of Action 2. This Notice informs the petitioner of the fact that the petition has been approved and it will be forwarded to the NVC (National Visa Center). The NVC will process the application and forward it to the correct Embassy for a Visa interview and adjudication by a consular officer.

At the interview the consular officer will review the petitioner’s I-134 Affidavit of Support as well as the Beneficiary’s documentation. Should the Consular officer request more information, then a 221(g) will be issued and the applicant will have 1 year to respond with the proper documentation. Upon approval the K1 Visa will be issued and the Beneficiary will need to enter the USA before the Visa expires.

Once the beneficiary enters the United States on a K1 Visa, she will have 90 days to get married and file for adjustment of status. If adjustment of status is approved then the beneficiary will be a lawful conditional permanent resident. After 2 years of lawful conditional permanent residence, the beneficiary withe the help of the US Citizen spouse will need to file for a lift of the conditionality of her visa. Once the conditions have been lifted then the beneficiary will be a lawful permanent resident of the Us without conditions.

Should the beneficiary wish to leave the USA while in K1 Status, then she would need to obtain advance parole. If she wishes to depart while in Lawful Permanent Resident Status, then it would be prudent to apply for and obtain a reentry permit.

IR-1 & CR-1 Visas based Upon Marriage

For either an IR-1 (Immediate Relative Visa) or CR-1 (Conditional Resident Visa), the same petition, the I-130, must be filed. At the time of the writing, USCIS is estimating that it takes approximately 6 months to adjudicate an I-130 petition. the process at USCIS is much the same in that both Notice of Action 1 & 2 will be issued and the file will be forwarded to the National Visa Center. Once there, it will undergo increased scrutiny than in the case of the K1 Visa and it generally takes longer for the file to be processed at NVC with an I-130 petition.

After it is processed by the NVC, it will be forwarded to the US Embassy in Bangkok, where the beneficiary must go through an interview before being granted a visa. Upon granting of the visa, the beneficiary will travel to the USA and upon entry will either be granted conditional permanent residence or lawful permanent residence without conditions. an IR-1 Visa confer permanent residence without conditions, but in order to qualify for this visa the couple must have been married for at least 2 years when the file the I-130 petition.

The K3 Marriage Visa

The K3 Visa was designed as an expedited marriage at a time when I-130 petitions were processing extermely slowly. At the time of this writing, the K3 Visa is currently processing at roughly the same rate as the I-130 petition. It is likely that filing a K3 petition will save the couple 6-8 weeks in visa processing. The major downside of the K3 is the fact that it does not confer the right to work in the USA, nor does it confer permanent residence upon entry. Adjustment of Status is necessary if a K3 holder wishes to become a permanent resident.

The K3 is a doubly filed visa petition in that one first files an I-130 petition and then an I-129f petition in order to obtain the K3 Visa. All aspects of the process are basically the same as mentioned above except for the fact that the 2 petitions are filed simultaneously and in this instance the I-129f petition is filed on behalf of a spouse rather than a fiancee.

Visas for Children of Prospective Immigrants

The Visa Journey for child immigrants is similar to that of their adult counterparts. Derivative Visas can be obtained for the children of K1 Visa seekers, K3 Visa Seekers and Immigrant Visas. In instances where a visa for a child is sought, the child will generally adjust status with their parent in order to become a permanent resident.

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29th March 2009

There is some confusion about 221 (g) refusals for US Visas from Thailand. A 221 (g) request is a refusal to grant a US Visa without further evidence. When the Consular Officers are deciding whether to issue a US Visa (for our purposes we will look at it from the context of K1 Fiance Visas, K3, or CR1 Marriage Visas) they are essentially performing a due diligence search in order to ensure that the applicant is who they say they are and are traveling to the USA for a valid purpose (in this case the reason for traveling is a family relationship to the US petitioner).

Some couples become quite distraght when a 221 (g) is issued and it can be quite inconvenient particularly in instances where the applicant is originally from a distant area of Thailand. This can be especially troublesome if the applicant’s household registration (tabien baan) is in a distant locale and it is difficult for them to travel there. Often documents are required from the local amphur office in th disrict where the applicant’s household registration exists. Although it may be a routine matter for the Embassy to issue these type of requests, it can be a major endeavor for the Thai applicant to obtain the necessary documentation.

221 (g) refusals generally allow the applicant one year to obtain the requested documentation before the Embassy will destroy the file. Failure to respond to the request for evidence could result in the underlying petition being cancelled and the process to begin anew.

Us Visa

Us Visa

To avoid 221 (g) refusals it may be wise to enlist assistance of an immigration attorney in an effort to forestall a 221 (g) denial. It should be noted that even with assistance of counsel a 221 (g) refusal may still be issued and further documentation needed. Consular Officers have wide discretion as per the doctrine of consular absolutism and therefore requests for further documentation should be taken seriously and responded to in a timely manner.

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25th March 2009

As an American Lawyer in Bangkok, I often come across many strange laws, be they American, Thai, or any other nationality. For fun I decided to compile a list of some of the more eccentric laws from around the world. It should be noted that some of these laws if taken out of context may seem odd, but after a bit of explanation make more sense. So, without further ado…

World’s Weirdest Laws

United States

In my native State of Kansas, in a town called Natoma it is illegal to practice knife throwing at men wearing striped suits.

This begs the question: Are men in non-striped suits fair game?

An effort to make the punishmnt fit the crime

An effort to make the punishmnt fit the crime

The Republic of Korea (Commonly referred to as South Korea)

In South Korea, traffic police must make a report of all bribes that they receive from drivers.

As a former long term resident of Korea, I will say that Koreans would not try to bribe a cop, but it is even more unlikely that the police would break protocol by not reporting their windfall. Korean police follow procedure to the letter.

Thanks to Korean Jurisprudence we dont need to worry about where they got the money to pay for this

Thanks to Korean Jurisprudence we don't need to worry about where they got the money to pay for this

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Commonly referred to as North Korea probably because it is neither democratic, a republic, nor in any way run by the people)

North Korea has the designation of being the only country in the world in which the Head of State is a dead man. Kim Jong-Il enacted a law declaring his father, Kim Il-Sung, Eternal President. Kim Il-Sung was his son’s predecessor and apparently still his boss.

On a side note, there is some speculation that Kim Jong-Il may in fact be dead at the time of this writing. The fact of Mr. Kim’s death may be kept hidden in order to keep the North Korean population docile. If Mr. Kim is in fact dead, but still nominally holding his title as what amounts to head of government, then North Korea would be the only country in history to be ruled by two dead men.

As if he wasnt already weird enough...

As if he wasn't already weird enough...

Singapore

The city-state of Singapore prides itself on law and order as well as boasting one of the cleanest urban centers on Earth. In Singapore, if found guilty of littering three times, then the punishment is cleaning the streets on Sundays with a bib on saying, “I am a litterer.”

Somewhere, and Indian is laughing.

... for a reason

... for a reason

The United Kingdom

All English men above the age of fourteen are to perform two hours of longbow practice a week observed by a member of the local clergy.

During the middle ages in England there was no permanent army. Therefore in wartime each feudal lord was obliged to procure a certain number of archers, knights, and infantrymen. At this time, the church was the only organization sophisticated enough to direct such a broad enterprise; hence, the enactment of this law.

Wheres the Clergyman?

Where's the Clergyman?

Argentina

Madonna may have had center stage in Evita, but her music isn’t the only thing heard in most Argentine clubs:

A law demands that Argentine DJs play as much tango music as all other genres of music combined.

Last Tango in... Argentina?

Last Tango in... Argentina?

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, children 15 and older can be put in jail for cheating on their final examinations.

I guess Bangladesh felt that destroying one’s “permanent record,” wasn’t enough.


Australia

In Melbourne it is a crime for men to parade in dresses without straps, but perfectly acceptable to cross dress in any garment bearing sleeves.

This wouldnt fly in Melbourne

This wouldn't fly in Melbourne

France

If you thought that France was the country of romance, then you haven’t read the French legal code:

It is illegal to kiss on French railways.

I wonder what would have happened to Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay had they been in France shooting the famous train scene in Risky Business.

Freeze! Move away from the Girl!

Freeze! Move away from the Girl!

And finally, we return to the USA

It is a crime in Florida for divorced, widowed, or single women to parachute in the afternoon on Sundays.

Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Thanks for Reading!


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24th March 2009

A common question for people getting married in Thailand is: can I get a prenuptial agreement in Thailand? The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Prenuptial agreements are recognized under Thai law and, if properly drafted, a Thai prenuptial agreement will be registered at the time of the Thai marriage. This is not the end of the story. There are some details that should be discussed before obtaining a Thai prenuptial agreement.

Thai Prenuptial Agreement when Registering a Marriage in Thailand


In Thailand, in order for a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable, the agreement must be registered at the time of the marriage. This is a literal statement, meaning that the agreement is attached to the marriage registration and is incorporated into the Thai marriage registration process. This is slightly different from prenuptial agreements in the US where they are simply signed before the marriage and it is somewhat separate from the marriage legalization.

Thai prenuptial agreements and US law


In a Thai prenup it is advisable to choose what type of law will govern the agreement. This means that if two people sign a prenuptial agreement that uses Idaho law, then at the time of the marriage dissolution, Idaho law will govern the agreement, regardless of where the divorce takes place. For Thai prenuptial agreements this is an important concept because it is probably not a good idea to use Thai law to govern the agreement. The reason for this is that most American jurisdictions will have a difficult time adjudicating property distributions on Thai legal principles due to the fact that those principles are foreign to concepts under common law. Also, a major reason for not using Thai law is the fact that the legislation is written in Thai and would thus be difficult to translate and interpret. This being said, a choice of law provision can be incorporated into a Thai prenuptial agreement so that US law will govern the agreement even though the agreement was executed in Thailand.

Why a US Attorney is necessary for Thai Prenuptial Agreements drafted for Americans


A US attorney in conjunction with a Bangkok lawyer can draft a prenuptial agreement that fully comports with both Thai and US law and ensure that it fully protects an American client’s assets should a divorce occur. Although Thai prenuptial agreements are not a guaranteed method of asset protection, they provide a great deal of protection for assets should a divorce arise.

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24th March 2009

The Uniting of American Families Act (UAFA) is a bill currently in Congress that would amend the US Immigration and Nationality Act in an effort to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and the trans-gendered US Immigration legislation by allowing “permanent partners” of US Citizens and permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same way as conventional spouses of American citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud related to non-bona fide “permanent partnerships.”

The most important aspect of this legislation is the addition of the term “permanent partner,” to current Immigration law. Under the proposed legislation proving permanent partnership would be defined as someone who:

(A) is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;
(B) is financially interdependent with that other individual;
(C) is not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual;
(D) is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under this Act; and
(E) is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.
...with liberty and justice for ALL

...with liberty and justice for ALL

In my opinion, these “permanent partner” visas will require a great deal more evidence to prove a relationship than a conventional marriage visa, but at the same time it could closely resemble the K1 Fiance Visa in that, the K1 is a visa not based upon a marriage but an underlying bona fide relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary.  After the sweeping election of Democrats in November there is a better chance than ever that this legislation will pass, but in order to get this through it may still require pressure being brought to bear on local Congressmen and Senators. So if this is an issue for you or someone you know, then call your local representative and tell them to vote for the Uniting of American Families Act.

Should this legislation be passed it would be a major victory for the LGBT Immigration movement. For more information please visit the following sites:

Immigration Equality

UAFA on Wikipedia

LGBT Immigration Rights

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21st March 2009

There you are, sitting in your cubicle, daydreaming about packing it all up and moving abroad. As an expat who has been living in Asia (Korea and Thailand) for nearly 2 years, I arrogantly believe that I can speak as an authority on living overseas. So here it goes…

Thail Alphabet

Thai Alphabet


Learn The Language: By the Numbers


Many people come to Asia and try to get by not knowing any of the local language (most people don’t believe me when I say this, but it’s true). When I lived in Incheon Korea, it was damn near impossible not to learn a great deal of Korean because Koreans (particularly outside of downtown Seoul) just don’t speak much English. The first few weeks I probably lost 5 pounds just because I couldn’t order food. Don’t make this mistake learn some of the local language before going to the country. A good tip: learn the numbers first. It is amazing how many transactions boil down to simply pointing at something and saying a number.

The fate of some unfortunate foreigners in Thailand

The fate of some unfortunate foreigners in Thailand

Be wary of some long time foreigners


This tip really applies more to Thailand than Korea. In Thailand there are a number of less-than-reputable expats living in the country. They are often short on funds and will use a newbie’s naiveté as a means of bilking some money out of him. Learn to ignore the line, “I’m just short right now, I’ll get you back tomorrow.”

Also, beware of anyone involved with drugs (usually this only applies to foreigners). Nearly all Asian governments despise drugs. Those Korean cops may look innocuous on the street patrolling what seems to be Mayberry, but when it comes to drugs, they don’t mess around. Right before I left Korea, a Canadian was caught with 1 marijuana plant. I believe he is still in jail and that was a year and a half ago.

Party Thai Style

Party Thai Style

Enjoy the Nightlife, but don’t let it suck you in

In Korea: its booze. In Thailand: its girls. The party seemingly never ends…until you wake up face down in a urinal at 5 am 50 mile away from your home with no money. When I was in Korea, I went out in downtown Seoul and woke up on the other end of the Peninsula, luckily I found myself ensconced with an attractive lady, so that dulled the pain of a 2 ½ hour train ride home, but just barely.

Partying with the Ladies of Bangkok

Partying with the Ladies of Bangkok

In

In Asia, if you are a Western guy:  Welcome to Paradise. If you are a Western Girl: Welcome to reevaluating what’s attractive

A girl I met in Korea said that when living as an expat she and most of her friends had come up with the “Korea Curve,” meaning that a guy who might have been a 6 on a scale of 10 back in the West, was suddenly catapulted to an 8 or even a 9 in Asia. Supply and demand also comes into play, a far larger supply of women are around for most men because they can choose from the locals as well as the female expats. Conversely, most (but not all) Western women are not particularly attracted to Asian men. From what I’ve heard from other expats, apparently Europe is a much more even playing field, if not more slanted toward the ladies, but this is conjecture on my part.

Thai buddhist temple

Thai Buddhist temple

Chill out and take it as it comes


You are a stranger in a strange land, don’t expect everything to be like it is at home. Some things about living overseas are great: good food, beautiful women, and likely a more laid back job. Meanwhile, some things about living overseas can make you crazy. In Thailand, simply walking down the street can be like pulling teeth. The Thais are so relaxed that walking isn’t the correct word for the way in which they traverse the sidewalk, meander is a more correct description. As a westerner accustomed to walking for the purpose of getting somewhere, the insanity that can arise from walking behind a slow moving Thai can be agonizing. Learn to take a deep breath and realize: the reason you moved here was to get away from a hurried lifestyle.

I would encourage anyone thinking of becoming an expat to do it, but know this: it will not always be paradise. Luckily, for the adventurous it can be the experience of a lifetime.

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17th March 2009

Many people who move to Thailand have a difficult time handling legal tasks that they take for granted in their home country. Getting a Thai drivers license is a seemingly simple task that in Thailand can be time consuming and frustrating. The Thai Department of Transportation is the agency where one can obtain a Thai drivers license.

For the long term expat living in Thailand it may become necessary to obtain a Thai Drivers License. Although Thailand does recognize international drivers licenses in practice the lack of a genuine Thai Drivers License can lead to many inconveniences. Another benefit of obtaining a Thai Drivers License is that it is a widely recognized form of identification in the Kingdom. This article is a brief summary of the process for getting a Thai Drivers License.

One of the major requirements for those seeking a Thai Drivers License, but do not wish to sit for the examination or road test is a valid driving license from another country. An international driving license can also be used for this purpose. If one does not have a valid driving license then they must sit for all portions of the Thai driving examination.

For those seeking a Thai driving license it is necessary to have a long term Thai Visa such as a Thai business visa or O Visa and to either provide a Thai work permit or an affidavit from the foreign nationals Embassy stating that they are a resident in Thailand. It will also be necessary to get a certificate from a Thai Doctor stating that the license seeker is in good health. One needs to specifically ask the Doctor for a certificate for a license.

A unique part of the Thai Driving license obtainment process is the tests of color blindness, depth perception, and reaction time. For an American, these tests can seem rather alien as they are not required to obtain a driver’s license in the USA.

Another frequently asked question is how to obtain a motorcycle license in Thailand. A Thai Motorcycle license is a different license than a license to drive a regular car. To obtain this license it may be necessary to demonstrate an ability to ride a motorbike on a track monitored by a Thai transportation officer.

If you are seeking a Thai driving license contact Integrity Legal and we can assist with the process. We will send a Thai agent with you to the Department of Transportation in order to obtain a Thai Drivers license quickly and effectively. Contact Integrity Legal Today!

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15th March 2009

The CR-1 Visa is one of, if not the, most common US Visa sought for Thai Loved ones seeking to journey to the USA (The K1 Fiance Visa from Thailand is another widely used US Immigration tool from Thailand, please see Fiance Visa Thailand for more details). The reason for this is likely due to the fact that many Thai-American couple’s situation fits the criteria of a CR-1 Visa.

CR-1 stands for “conditional resident 1,” in practical terms this means that a person in the US on a CR-1 Visa has conditional permanent residence. In practical terms, the difference between conditional permanent residence and unconditional permanent residence is that a conditional permanent resident could lose their permanent residence status. A situation in which one might lose their permanent residence would be where a Thai/American married couple obtains a Cr-1 Visa on behalf of the Thai wife. Subsequent to obtaining the CR-1 Visa and entering the US, the couple divorces, but not before they file for a “lift of conditionality.” (A lift of conditions of a CR-1 Visa is generally filed by the American Citizen spouse at the 2 year anniversary of the permanent resident’s entry into the USA) If the lift of conditions has not been granted and the couple has divorced, then the condition upon which the visa was granted has ceased to exist and therefore the visa should be revoked. There are exceptions that allow for a Cr-1 visa to have the conditions lifted without the US Citizen Spouse’s consent (Most notably the violence against women act), but these situations are limited.

An IR1 visa does not have these conditions. In order to apply for this visa, the Thai-American couple must have been married for at least 2 years. If they meet this requirement then after obtaining the visa at the US Embassy in Thailand, then the Thai spouse will enter the US on an Ir-1 Visa which confers unconditional permanent residence from the moment the Thai spouse enters the United States.

The form necessary to obtain a CR-1 Visa is the I-130 petition. It should be filed with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the area in which the US Citizen spouse resides. One of the reasons why a CR-1 Visa is sought over a K-3 in Thailand Visa is the fact that a K-3 Visa requires Adjustment of Status for a Thai wife. A Thai wife entering on a CR-1 Visa does not need to adjust her status in the USA, only obtain a lift of conditionality.

As with all US Immigration matters it is always wise to obtain the advice of a duly licensed US Immigration Attorney with experience dealing with US Immigration Law. Integrity Legal’s Managing Director is a licensed US Attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association. When seeking licensed a Immigration Lawyer AILA can be an invaluable resource.

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8th March 2009

Many Americans journey to Thailand each year for a myriad of reasons. One of the main reasons is tourism, as one of the top tourist destinations in the world Thailand boasts a thriving tourism sector. The upshot of a large tourism sector is a large percentage of American tourists coming from the US meet and form relationships with Thais. Many people each year fall in love in the Land of Smiles and seek to bring their Thai fiancée or spouse back to their home in the USA. US Immigration can be a daunting process for those unfamiliar with US Immigration laws and procedures. This is why it could be beneficial to retain the advice of a competent Immigration Attorney before filing any applications for a US Visa from Thailand.

What is a K1 Fiancée Visa and is it the proper American visa for my Thai Fiancée?

The K1 Fiancée Visa is a hybrid visa in that it is technically a non-immigrant visa, but it is a non-immigrant visa issued for the sole purpose of traveling to the US for the purpose of getting married and adjusting status to permanent residence. In order to get a K1 fiancée Visa in Thailand an I-129f petition for a K1 Visa must first be submitted to the USCIS (Immigration) office with jurisdiction over the American Citizen’s residence. After approval, USCIS will forward this I-129f application on to the National Visa Center and ultimately the US Embassy in Bangkok, where the Thai fiancée will conduct her visa interview.

How long does it take to get a K1 Visa for a Thai?

The K1 Visa sought in Thailand is generally the fastest family based visa to obtain. It usually takes approximately 6 months from submission of the I-129f petition at USCIS until the Thai fiancée receives the Fiancée Visa from the US Embassy in Bangkok.

Getting Started: How do I begin the K1 Visa Process from Thailand?

The best way to begin the K1 Visa process is to contact Integrity Legal at Info@integrity-legal.com or call us today. Let Integrity Legal help your Thai loved one obtain a K1 Visa in the fastest most efficient way possible.

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