Integrity Legal

Archive for August, 2010

31st August 2010

Adoption is one of the greatest things that people can do to provide love and care to orphaned children. This is especially true in cases where American or bi-national couples adopt orphans from less prosperous nations abroad. In the past, many Americans and foreign nationals have traveled to Nepal in order to adopt children from this small Asian nation. In a recent press release from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), under the authority of the US Department of Homeland Security, it was announced that there will be new processing procedures in cases where Americans petition for immigration benefits in connection with adoption of orphans from Nepal. To quote the press release directly:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced that any U.S. citizen seeking to adopt a Nepali child, whose case is not affected by the suspension of processing of adoption cases involving Nepali children claimed to have been found abandoned, should file the Form I 600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, with the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Usually, Immigrant visa petitions are initially adjudicated by a USCIS office in the United States. This change to processing procedures seems to indicate that special considerations are being taken by Immigration officials tasked with adjudicating Nepali adoption based immigration petitions. To quote the aforementioned press release further:

This change in the filing location for the Form I-600 petitions applies to two groups of prospective adoptive parents who are not affected by the suspension. The first group is those who received a referral letter from the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare before Aug. 6, 2010, informing them of a proposed match of an abandoned child. The second group is those who seek to adopt Nepali children who were relinquished by known parent(s) and whose identity and relationship can be confirmed.

USCIS strongly encourages prospective adoptive parents to follow this procedure for their own benefit, based on growing concerns about unreliable documents, irregularities in the methods used to identify children for adoption in Nepal, and the resulting difficulties in classifying those children as orphans under U.S. immigration law. Please see the Aug. 6, 2010 announcement online regarding the suspension.

Verifying documentation can be a major issue in any Immigration proceeding, but this problem can be particularly acute in cases involving adoption. A decision, one way or the other, in an immigrant adoptee’s adjudication proceeding could have a tremendous impact upon the lives of everyone involved. Therefore, caution is required in order to attempt to ensure an equitable decision. The press release went on to state:

To file the Form I-600 petition with the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, prospective adoptive parents should complete and sign the Form I-600 and send the Form I-600 with all required supporting documents and evidence, other than the adoption or custody decree, to their respective local agency representatives in Nepal…Based on this filing, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu will then complete the required orphan determination before prospective adoptive parents travel to, or adopt a child in, Nepal.

Following this procedure will protect the interests of the prospective adoptive parents and the children by ensuring that the adoptive children will be eligible to immigrate to the United States before the prospective adoptive parents travel to Nepal and complete the Nepali adoption process. It is anticipated that most determinations will be completed within 90 days of receipt of the case by the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu.

If, after completing its investigation of the case, the Embassy finds that the child qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the prospective adoptive parents will be notified in writing that they may travel to Nepal to complete the adoption process.

It would seem that this new policy is designed to allow for increased scrutiny of relevant documentation in Nepali adoption cases. Consular Officers are often in a unique position to adjudicate pending immigration applications abroad. Should the officer find that the application is bona fide then he or she can issue the visa. If, on the other hand, the Consular Officer finds that there are further issues to be explored, then he or she can issue a 221g refusal and request for further evidence or deny the application outright based upon a ground of inadmissibility. In most immigrant visa applications, when Consular Officers deny the application, they usually do so pursuant to section 221(G) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act which allows the applicant to rectify the problem through presentation of further documentation or evidence.

For further information about American Immigration from Asia please see: US Visa India or K1 Visa Vietnam.

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30th August 2010

In previous posts on this blog, this author has discussed so-called visa companies and other organizations that claim to be licensed to provide legal services to immigrants and prospective immigrants. In a previous post, the New York Attorney General’s campaign to combat fraudulent immigration practitioners was discussed at length. It would appear that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is still intent upon seeing that this type of activity is thwarted. To quote directly from a press release distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

NEW YORK, NY (August 17, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the latest actions in his ongoing effort to combat scams that target New York’s immigrant communities. As part of his broad investigation into immigration fraud, Cuomo has shut down seven companies and sued two other organizations for providing fraudulent legal services to immigrants.

The following seven companies and their owners have been permanently barred from operating any immigration services businesses and must collectively pay $370,000 in damages to the State of New York: (1) Centro Santa Ana, Inc. and Ana Lucia Baquero, in Queens; (2) Margo’s Immigration Services and Margarita Davidov a/k/a Margo Davidov, in Queens; (3) Miguel Fittipaldi, J.D., Ltd. and Miguel Fittipaldi, in Manhattan; (4) Arthur C. Hurwitz, in Manhattan; (5) Oficina Legal Para
Hispanos, P.C. and Geoffrey S. Stewart, in Manhattan; (6) Asilos and Camilo Perdomo, in Queens; and (7) Mision Hispana, Inc. and Mayra Liz, in Queens.

The Attorney General began an investigation and issued subpoenas to these companies after receiving information that they were engaged in fraudulent and illegal business practices. The illegal conduct included, among other things, misrepresenting their authorization to submit documents on behalf of immigrants to the government and giving legal advice to immigrants. Further, some of these companies involved attorneys who aided others in the unauthorized practice of the law and simply lent their name to provide legitimacy to the business. Collectively, these companies abused hundreds of immigrants.

This author is pleased to see Attorney General Cuomo taking such a keen interest in an often overlooked problem plaguing the United States at large as well as immigrant communities in the USA. These immigrant groups are often targeted by unlicensed “visa agents” or “Immigration specialists” who prey upon uninformed consumers.

This can be a real problem outside of the United States as well. In Asia, there are many unlicensed practitioners who claim to be authorized to practice US law. When dealing with someone who claims to be US lawyer abroad it is always wise to ask for credentials in order to ascertain whether or not an individual really is qualified to provide legal advice on American immigration matters. An American attorney’s credentials can be proven by producing either a State of Federal license to practice law or a Bar Association membership card for a State or Federal Bar Association. Even after production of such documents consumers are well advised to check with the attorney’s licensing body in order to verify that the individual in question is a licensed practitioner.

For related information please see: US Attorney Bangkok

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29th August 2010

At first glance, the rise of legal process outsourcing services might seem like a detriment to the legal profession in the United States of America. In this author’s opinion this is not the case as legal process outsourcing is a natural and organic by-product of gloablization and will likely lead to more demand for legal services both in the United States and throughout the world. This increasing demand should result in new business for American attorneys in the United States and abroad. This demand is likely to increase on both a local and international level as new technologies and methods of doing business create new demands for legal services.

One of the reasons that this trend is so important is due to the fact that legal process outsourcing is poised to change the very nature of legal service. Many are accustomed to the notion of a “Brick and Mortar” law office, but, like many other fields, “Brick and Mortar” enterprises are being replaced by more flexible and adaptable legal service providers that can quickly adapt to client needs and requirements. Mobile technologies and high speed internet makes it likely that flexible legal processing solutions will be sought out by more individuals and businesses in the future. That said, there are many ethical considerations that must be dealt with as legal service becomes a globalized industry. The American Bar Association has provided some insight into the ethics of legal process outsourcing, to quote directly from the ABA’s Formal Opinion on the subject of legal process outsourcing:

There is nothing unethical about a lawyer outsourcing legal and nonlegal services, provided the outsourcing lawyer renders legal services to the client with the “legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation,” as required by Rule 1.1. Comment [1] to Rule 1.1 further counsels:


In determining whether a lawyer employs the requisite knowledge and skill in a particular matter, relevant factors include the relative complexity and specialized nature of the matter, the lawyer’s general experience, the lawyer’s training and experience in the field in question, the preparation and study the lawyer is able to give the matter and whether it is feasible to refer the matter to, or associate or consult with, a lawyer of established competence in the field in question. There is no unique blueprint for the provision of competent legal services. Different lawyers may perform the same tasks through different means, all with the necessary “legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation.”One lawyer may choose to do all of the work herself. Another may delegate
tasks to a team of subordinate lawyers and nonlegal staff. Others may decide to outsource tasks to independent service providers that are not within their direct control. Rule 1.1 does not require that tasks be accomplished in any special way. The rule requires only that the lawyer who is responsible to the client satisfies her obligation to render legal services competently.

The above cited passage should not be construed as definitive. Those interested in the ethical issues arising from legal process outsourcing should read the above cited opinion in detail to obtain a deeper insight into all of the ramifications of legal process outsourcing.

In this author’s opinion, the demand for legal services in America is going to increase exponentially as more individuals and companies begin conducting business on the internet. This will lead to an increasing demand for adaptable, creative, and innovative legal services that can be provided with alacrity by American firms utilizing outsourced legal processing services. Law firms in the 21st century must be prepared to provide clients with fast effective legal service in a relatively short period of time. The upside of legal process outsourcing is that it frees up time for American attorneys to provide evermore streamlined services to increasing numbers of clients.

For related information about the impact of the internet upon legal services please see: Ecommerce.

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28th August 2010

The spread of Ecommerce is one of the major business trends of the past 15 years. As the internet and world wide web have become ubiquitous throughout the world the international economy has seen an overall increase in sales of goods and services over the internet. Communications technology has allowed online businesses, big and small, the opportunity to deal with customers directly. However, many once settled legal issues are the topic of much discussion in legal circles as the multi-jurisdictional nature of the world wide web has completely changed the landscape of international trade and commerce.

An example of the legal paradigm shift in contract law can be seen in the drafting of so-called “Terms of Service” Agreements or TOS agreements. These types of agreements are becoming increasingly common as more social and business interaction occurs online. TOS agreements generally stipulate the type of services that will be provided by a website, or network of websites. Furthermore, the TOS agreement usally stipulates what type of conduct will be permitted on a given platform and the type of conduct which may give rise to a termination of services. Some in the legal community feel that usage of Terms of Service Agreements (TOS Agreements) is likely to increase in the foreseeable future. However, the increased usage of such agreements is likely to occur in countries which may not use English as a primary language. This is particularly the case in emerging markets where the language of courts and tribunals is not necessarily English. This will likely lead to an increasing demand for legal professionals from non-English speaking countries to assist in the drafting of TOS agreements. How non-English speaking courts view these types of agreements remains to be seen in some jurisdictions, but this author has little doubt that drafting of TOS agreements will be increasingly necessary as global ecommerce increases in markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, China, Africa, Brazil, Greater South America, and Oceania.

Transactional Law is a key component of ecommerce as usage of credit cards and other online financial instruments has increased exponentially with the spread of the world wide web. As established payment platforms grow and new payment platforms come into existence, the role of legal professionals will change dramatically as lawyers and attorneys are likely to be sought to assist in both the structuring of online payment platforms and drafting of documents ancillary to online payment for goods and services. Specialized legal counsel may be necessary for e-businesses, depending upon the structure of a given online enterprise and its payment platform.

As the needs of international business evolves so too will the services provided by legal professionals. As the internet creates new opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs, lawyers and attorneys will likely be providing ever more innovative legal solutions for Ecommerce business owners, managers, and professionals.

For related information about the rise of outsourced legal processing services please see: Legal Process Outsourcing.

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27th August 2010

Those with pending visa petitions and applications may have only had a passing experience dealing with the National Visa Center. For example, the National Visa Center plays a rather small role in the K1 visa process. Meanwhile those seeking a CR1 Visa or an IR1 Visa have probably had extensive dealings with the National Visa Center (NVC). In recent weeks, the NVC changed some of their processing policies for certain US Marriage Visas. Therefore, many of those seeking K3 Visa benefits have seen their application “administratively closed” by the NVC where the underlying I-130 arrived prior to, or contemporaneously with, the I-129f petition. In a recent announcement from the American State Department it was announced that NVC has begun a pilot program that many hope will eventually lead to simplification of the NVC document compilation process. To quote directly from the State Department’s announcement, as distributed through AILA:

The Immigrant Visa Electronic Processing Program is a pilot project which uses electronic communication and documentation methods to simplify and accelerate the immigrant visa application process. This program uses e-mail for communication and submission of all forms and documents to the NVC using the Portable Document Format (PDF). Under the Electronic Processing Program all forms will be downloaded, completed, signed (if required), scanned, saved as PDF files, and e-mailed to the NVC. Required civil documents and supporting documents must be converted to PDF files by scanning and e-mailed to the NVC. After the NVC has completed processing the applicant’s petition, the applicant will need to present the original physical documents to the US Embassy/Consulate at the time of the applicant’s visa interview. Failure to do so may cause a delay or denial of the visa being sought.

It is this author’s opinion that this policy change will have a tremendous impact upon the US visa process and will likely lead to faster visa processing in general. It will be interesting to see how this new program will impact US Consular Processing abroad. As noted in the announcement, original documentation will not be required by the NVC in some cases. Those who did not remit original documentation to the NVC may need to do so at the visa interview which usually occurs at a US Embassy or US Consulate with appropriate jurisdiction. Those who fail to remit such documentation may be subjected to a 221g refusal. In some cases, issuance of a 221g can delay a case by weeks, or in a limited number of cases the case could be delayed by months.

That said, those seeking visas to the United States are still well advised to seek the assistance of a competent licensed American attorney from the USA. Regardless of increased processing efficiency, there are many factors which can affect a visa application and competent advice and counsel can forestall unforeseen problems.

For related information please see: US Attorney Thailand.

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26th August 2010

Fee Increases for the L1 Visa

Posted by : admin

The United States L-1 visa can be a very useful travel document for those who wish to work in the United States for a multi-national corporation. In recent months, many of the fees associated with visa processing have increased. For example, the Consular Processing fees for the K1 visa and the K3 Visa have risen as demands upon resources required an adjustment of costs payable by customers. Other visa categories were also subjected to fee increases.

The L1 visa is the latest subject of a fee increase as noted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in this quotation from a press release distributed through their network:

WASHINGTON—On Aug. 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law Public Law 111-230, which contains provisions to increase certain H-1B and L-1 petition fees. Effective immediately, Public Law 111-230 requires the submission of an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after Aug. 14, 2010, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status. Petitioners meeting these criteria must submit the fee with an H-1B or L-1 petition filed:

• Initially to grant an alien nonimmigrant status described in subparagraph (H)(i)(b) or (L) of section 101(a)(15), or

• To obtain authorization for an alien having such status to change employers. USCIS is in the process of revising the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), and instructions to comply with Public Law 111-230.

To facilitate implementation of Public Law 111-230, USCIS recommends that all H-1B, L-1A and L-1B petitioners, as part of the filing packet, include the new fee or a statement of other evidence outlining why this new fee does not apply. USCIS requests that petitioners include a notation of whether the fee is required in bold capital letters at the top of the cover letter. Where USCIS does not receive such explanation and/or documentation with the initial filing, it may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to determine whether the petition is covered by the public law. An RFE may be required even if such evidence is submitted, if questions remain. The additional fee, if applicable, is in addition to the base processing fee, the existing Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and any applicable American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) fee, needed to file a petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), as well as any premium processing fees, if applicable.

A Request For Evidence (RFE) is analogous to the 221g refusal in that both are requests for further documentation. These types of requests essentially “freeze” the application or petition until the Petitioner, Beneficiary, or their attorney provides the requested documentation or evidence. That said, waiting too long to respond can cause problems as the case could be deemed to have been abandoned. Generally, such forms are issued when the adjudicating officer feels that further evidence is necessary in order to decide the case.

Those interested in learning more about RFEs and visa refusals should see: US Visa Denial

To learn more about L1 visas in the context of American LLC formation please see: US Company Registration.

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25th August 2010

Those who read this blog regularly will no doubt have noticed that we frequently post the holiday closing schedules for US Embassies and Consulates throughout the region. This is done in an effort to forestall unnecessary trips to a US Embassy or US Consulate as many foreign nationals are unfamiliar with American holidays and many American Citizens may be unfamiliar with local holidays.

Every year, Americans travel to American missions abroad in order to obtain certain services which cannot be performed by anyone except a Consular Officer. Generally, each American Mission has an American Citizen Services Section to provide vital services to Americans abroad. Services of this nature include, but are not limited to, Consular Report of Birth Abroad issuance, new US passport issuance, notarization services, addition of new visa pages, and in rare cases Americans seek a Consulate in order to renounce their US Citizenship (in recent months this has been on the rise, but those thinking about renouncing their US Citizenship would be wise to consult an American attorney about the ramifications of such a decision).

Those wishing to partake of services from a US Embassy abroad should look at the Post’s official website in order to learn if they make appointment online. If so, this can save the American Citizen a great deal of time and trouble as the Consular Officers can better anticipate the American’s needs prior to his or her arrival at the post. Furthermore, complicated requests could be more easily streamlined where the officers’ have been placed on notice.

Those seeking assistance from a Visa Unit attached to an Embassy or Consulate overseas are well advised to contact the Post directly in order to ascertain how interview appointments at Embassies are processed and scheduled.

Those seeking information related to US visas should see the following: US Visa Thailand or K1 visa

The holiday schedule posted below is quoted directly from the official website of the US Embassy accredited to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu:

Listed below are Fiji and U.S. National holidays on which the Embassy is closed.

Holiday Date Observed
New Year’s Day Friday, Jan 01, 2010
Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday Mon, Jan 18, 2010
President’s Day Mon, Feb 15, 2010
Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday Mon, Mar 1, 2010
National Youth Day Mon, Mar 22, 2010
Good Friday Friday, Apr 2, 2010
Easter Saturday Sat, Apr 3, 2010
Easter Monday Mon, Apr 5, 2010
Memorial Day Mon, May 24, 2010
Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day Fri, May 28, 2010
Queen’s Birthday Mon, Jun 14, 2010
Independence Day Mon, July 5, 2010
Labor Day Mon, Sep 6, 2010
Fiji Day/Columbus Day Mon, Oct 11, 2010
Diwali Fri, Oct 5, 2010
Veterans Day Thurs, Nov 11, 2010
Thanksgiving Day Thu, Nov 25, 2010
Christmas Day Mon, Dec 27, 2010
Boxing Day Tue, Dec 28, 2010

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24th August 2010

Those familiar with this blog may recall that new measures have been implemented that can have an effect upon those traveling to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program. The Department of State (DOS) recently released a cable which outlines soon-to-be implemented changes to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The following is quoted directly from the Department of State Cable as distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

Summary: This cable provides additional information on implementation of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (TPA) and fee collection for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), requests posts to engage in outreach, and provides talking points. End summary.


3. As previously reported (Ref a), President Obama signed the TPA into law on March 4, 2010. The TPA will create a partnership between the U.S. government and the private sector to market the United States as a travel destination for international visitors. Fees collected from international travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, matched by private sector contributions, will fund the Corporation for Travel Promotion. The fees will be collected through the ESTA system, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) administers.


4. On August 6, 2010, DHS announced an interim final rule that amends DHS regulations to require travelers from VWP countries to pay operational and travel promotion fees when applying for ESTA beginning September 8, 2010. The total fee will be $14.00, with $4.00 to recover the cost of administering the ESTA system and $10.00 as mandated in the TPA.


5. The Department is working with DHS and the Department of Commerce to notify foreign and domestic media, the travel industry, and other stakeholders about this change. The Department requests that consular officers in VWP countries, in coordination with DHS and Commerce representatives, meet with host government officials, and airline, tourism, and other stakeholders to inform them of the new fee provisions connected to ESTA. Please contact the ESTA Program Management Office [redacted] for outreach materials or requests for ESTA representatives to travel in-country. They will do their best to accommodate. This cable is being sent as an ALDAC to facilitate all posts answering questions from citizens of VWP countries and the general public.


6. The Department supports the TPA goal of attracting international visitors to the United States. Our greatest diplomatic tool for sharing American values is America itself, and we recognize the critical importance of travel and tourism to our economy and job creation. The Department looks forward to working with the Corporation for Travel Promotion to ensure that prospective visitors to the United States receive comprehensive, up-to-date information on travel documents and requirements for entry.

The Travel Promotion Act mentioned above will likely have significant consequences for those foreign nationals traveling to the United States pursuant to the conditions of the visa waiver program. Therefore, those originating in a country that has visa-free travel privileges to the USA may be wise to research both the US Visa Waiver Program and the ESTA program. Fortunately, the aforementioned cable also included a Frequently Asked Questions Section. The following FAQ’s were quoted from the previously mentioned DOS cable distributed by AILA:

Q. What is the new fee charged to travelers?
A. It is $14.00. Since the implementation of ESTA, DHS has had discretion to charge a fee to cover administrative costs. DHA determined that cost to be $4.00 per registration. The TPA fee adds an additional $10.00.


Q. When will the fee go into effect?
A. ESTA registrations on or after September 8, 2010, will be subject to the fee.


Q. How do travelers pay the fee?
A. At this time, payment is required through the following credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover. Payments can also be made with a debit card that holds the Visa or Mastercard symbol. Please check with your bank on the compatibility of your debit card. We are continuing to explore other payment measures. The ESTA registration form already in use will walk users through the payment process.


Q. What types of privacy protection exist on the website?
A. “Pay.gov” uses advanced encryption to protect transactions while applicants are logged in. When accessing a profile, any account numbers entered will be masked on-screen.


Q. How long are ESTA approvals valid?
A. Each approved ESTA application will be valid for a period of two years unless the traveler’s passport expires sooner. It allows for multiple visits to the United States within that application.


Q. If I have a valid ESTA, will I have to re-register when the new fees go into effect?
A. No, existing ESTA registrations remain valid for travel through their expiration date.


Q. Is ESTA approval like a visa?
A. An ESTA approval is not a visa under U.S. law, nor does it confer the same benefits as a visa.


Q. Will this attract more international visitors to the United States?
A. Oxford Economics, a leading economic forecasting consultancy, estimates that the TPA program will generate $4 billion in new visitor spending, and lead to the creation of 40,000 new jobs.


Q. Why do VWP countries have to fund this travel promotion program through ESTA fees?
A. Some countries fund tourism promotion through airline or hotel taxes. The Travel Promotion Act legislation specified that the U.S. government fund this program through a $10 fee added to ESTA registration.


8. The following are Visa Waiver Program member countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom…

At the time of this writing, the Kingdom of Thailand is not a member of the United States Visa Waiver Program. Therefore, ESTA rules have little impact upon most Thai nationals. That said, as pointed out in previous blog posts, relevant regulations may require those who have been issued a 221g refusal to disclose this refusal as a “visa denial” for purposes of travel to the USA on the Visa Waiver Program. It would seem that at the time of this writing the Department of State and the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP), an agency under the authority of the US Department of Homeland Security, view 221(G) refusals differently. Those who have been issued a 221g who still wish to travel to the United States may be wise to contact a US lawyer in order to deal with a pending 221g refusal.

Those who are from countries that do not participate in the Visa Waiver Program should seek a US visa before traveling to the USA. For information about the US Tourist Visa please see: B2 visa.

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23rd August 2010

Laypeople sometimes confuse the process of adjustment of status with the change of status process. This confusion is directly related to the subject of this post: change of status from US Tourist Visa status to US Student Visa status. Many are under the mistaken impression that it is legal to attend school in the USA on a tourist visa. This is not the case. In a recent announcement promulgated by the US Department of Homeland Security and distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the question was posed: “Is it permissible to enroll in school while in B-1/B-2 status?” The answer is quoted directly from the aforementioned announcement:

No, it is not. The regulations, at 8 CFR 214.2(b)(7), specifically prohibit study in the United States while in B-1 or B-2 status.


Before enrolling in classes, individuals who are in B-1 or B-2 status must first acquire F-1 (academic student) or M-1 (vocational student) status. Enrolling in classes while in B-1/B-2 status will result in a status violation. Individuals in B-1 or B-2 status, who have violated their nonimmigrant status by enrolling in classes, are not eligible to extend their B status or change to F-1 or M-1 status. Theseregulations provide no exceptions.

If you currently hold B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant status and would like to enroll in classes, you may apply for a change of status to F-1 or M-1, as appropriate, if:


You have not yet enrolled in classes
Your current status has not expired
You have not engaged in unauthorized employment


To change your nonimmigrant status from B-1/B-2 to F-1 or M-1, you must file an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539), and include the required fee and documents listed in the filing instructions.

Please Note:


If you enroll in classes before USCIS approves your Form I-539, you will be ineligible to change your nonimmigrant status from B to F or M. If you are applying to extend your B-1/B-2 stay and you have already enrolled in classes, USCIS cannot approve your B-1/B-2 extension because of the status violation.

For some, the change of status process can be confusing and difficult as few are familiar with DHS forms and protocols, but for those who obtain an F1 visa, the educational rewards can offset the time and resources expended obtaining the visa. Those who are not eligible to receive a change of status may find the following excerpt from the previously mentioned announcement helpful:

If you are not eligible to change your nonimmigrant status to F-1 or M-1, you may apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa at a consular post abroad…We encourage all students and prospective students to work closely with their designated school official (DSO) to coordinate the timing of applying for change of status and enrolling in classes.

Those staying in the United States on any type of visa are required by law to fully comply with the terms of their visa. Failure to do so could lead to severe civil and criminal penalties. Those wishing to travel to the United States of America are well advised to seek the type of visa that truly comports with proposed activity in the USA. As extraneous circumstances can cause unforeseen problems it may be necessary to apply for a change of status if one’s current visa does not provide proper benefits.

Adjustment of status, which can be confused with changing status, is the process of switching a foreign national from a non-immigrant visa to Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card). Those traveling to the United States of America on a K1 visa must adjust their status within 90 days of their arrival after their marriage to the US Citizen petitioner.

For more about adjusting status please see: adjustment of status.

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21st August 2010

The New York Times website reported the following:

BANGKOK — Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman who is expected to face gun-running charges in the United States following his extradition from Thailand, expressed confidence on Friday that he would ultimately be exonerated.

Those who are unfamiliar with this case may remember an American film which is supposedly based upon Mr. Bout’s life. The aforementioned article went further to note that:

Mr. Bout, who inspired the movie “Lord of War,” starring Nicolas Cage, is suspected of running a large-scale trafficking organization that provided weapons to governments, rebels and insurgents across the globe.

As a general rule, international extraditions in cases which are covered heavily by the media can be exceptionally tense especially where two different countries wish to see differing outcomes. In this case, the extradition request could be viewed as highly complex, both from a legal as well as political standpoint, and this proceeding would seem to represent an important achievement for American officials as the article went on to observe:

The court decision on Friday… was a victory for the Obama administration, which summoned the Thai ambassador in Washington to the State Department this week to “emphasize that this is of the highest priority to the United States,” a spokesman said. “There have been a lot of conversations of senior administration officials with their Thai counterparts about this,” said one American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity after staying up until 2 a.m. awaiting the news from Bangkok. American officials had feared that Russian pressure would prevail and Mr. Bout might be flying home. “This really was a welcome surprise,” the official said of the court’s decision.  Russia, which had been seeking to prevent Mr. Bout from being placed in the American legal system, reacted angrily. “We regret what, in my view, is an illegal political decision taken by the appellate court in Thailand,” Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Friday, according to the Interfax news agency. “Based on the information we have at our disposal, the decision was made under very strong outside pressure. This is lamentable.”

The United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand share a long and amicable relationship as the two countries have a history of friendly bilateral political and economic relations. One of the foremost examples of this relationship is the US-Thai Amity Treaty. That said, the recent decision would seem to have be made on legal grounds and not based upon political considerations. However, not everyone was happy to hear the Thai court’s decision:

After the ruling, Mr. Bout embraced his wife and daughter, who wept. He said nothing to reporters in the courtroom as he was led out in leg irons. The court ordered his extradition within three months… Mr. Bout’s lawyers had argued that the extradition request was part of a pattern of the United States’ reaching beyond its borders to punish its enemies. Chamroen Panompakakorn, Mr. Bout’s principal lawyer, alluded to the rendition of terrorist suspects by the American government and argued that the overall credibility of the United States government had been tarnished after the failed search for unconventional weapons in Iraq.

Regardless of one’s opinion about the decision itself, this case may represent a major milestone in international jurisprudence as the Kingdom of Thailand, the United States of America, and many other jurisdictions around the world continue to work together to bring international and multi-jurisdictional criminal suspects before lawful tribunals in both the USA and abroad. Extradition represents one area of international criminal law where cross border cooperation by authorities is leading to apprehension of suspected criminals all over the globe. In another posting on this blog, the issue of Royal Thai Immigration‘s decision to connect to American warrant databases was discussed. In an increasingly “globalized” world, it is becoming evermore difficult for international criminal suspects to evade government authorities. Meanwhile, American authorities’ efforts to apprehend those with an American criminal warrant, fugitive warrant, bench warrant, or arrest warrant continue unabated. Those who find that they have an outstanding American warrant are well advised to seek the assistance of competent counsel in the form of a licensed American attorney in order to deal with the matter in accordance with all applicable laws.

For further related information please see: Warrant For My Arrest.

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