Integrity Legal

Archive for September, 2013

30th September 2013

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul in conjunction with his ASEAN counterparts as well as US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the American relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Informal ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The informal Ministers’ Meeting was conducted while the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly was held in New York City, the Thai Government Public Relations Office reported.

The Thai Foreign Minister noted his approval of efforts being made in the United States to encourage green energy initiatives as such programs could prove beneficial in the Southeast Asia region especially as climate change becomes an increasingly important concern. The Foreign Minister also appears to have commented positively regarding American efforts with respect to Syria citing his desire to see a political solution to those issues being promulgated through a forthcoming United Nations Security Council resolution. It should be noted that, Thailand has officially stated its intention to seek a non-permanent seat on an upcoming UN Security Council. Meanwhile, The Foreign Minister also pointed out the significant positive impact that the United States has on the ASEAN region as cooperative efforts between the United States and the jurisdictions which comprise ASEAN have resulted in greater security and economic gains for all parties concerned.

The US-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement Initiative was cited as a particularly encouraging development which could result in further trade and foreign investment for the ASEAN region. The Lower Mekong Initiative was also noted as a program which has improved the region academically, agriculturally, and environmentally. The Foreign Minister also urged the United States to assist in improving regional law enforcement capabilities by further mutual cooperation and increased training. One method of increasing training capability would be through establishment of a series of International Law Enforcement Academies

Further US-ASEAN cooperation could also lead to better security for the Southeast Asia region. The Foreign Minister noted that further ASEAN-US cooperation in the realm of cyber security may assist in inoculating the region from dangers arising in cyber space. The Foreign Minister also expressed his desire to see the United States continue its support for ASEAN’s endeavor to see an expeditious completion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Relations between the United States and ASEAN have become of recent interest to many who follow foreign policy issues. As ASEAN’s eventual economic integration draws nearer the United States seems to acutely realize that there is a strong prospect of future benefits which may be derived from substantial ties to the region.

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23rd September 2013

According to the website Khaosod it appears that Bangkok Metropolitan Police are preparing to implement a program whereby individuals in Bangkok may file complaints and police reports online. This program is designed to add convenience for members of the public wishing to make a police report and to decrease the costs associated with traditional methods of filing such reports.

“88 police stations in Bangkok Metropolis area will run ′online stations′ of their own” Police Major General Adul was quoted as saying, “The online gadget will allow public to access notification and complaint submissions, fine payment, document transaction, e-library, e-learning, games, e-investigation, and station contact.” He went on to note, “Moreover, in terms of lawsuit submission, instead of the paperworks the police will just send all the relevant data via electronic forms to prosecutors right away, which should make the whole process progress faster and more economical”

In this same report, a new Closed Circuit Television program was also discussed. The project, known as “Miracle Eyes” aims to see the installation of some one million CCTV cameras throughout the Bangkok Metropolis. The cost of installing these camera systems are  to be borne by the property owners where the cameras are situated. The operation of these proposed cameras will be undertaken by police officials and connected to a central database maintained by the Metropolitan Police. In emergency situations the police will be able to notify those maintaining these cameras via text messaging to registered numbers. Plans to install such cameras in various other locations such as bank branches, shops, and gas stations are also being discussed. The official announcement and roll-out of this program is expected to occur sometime in November of this year.

Officials throughout Bangkok have routinely sought the implementation of measures to improve safety in the city and provide further convenience to Citizens. It appears that the online police report system is designed to accomplish both of these aims. Meanwhile, the CCTV program appears designed to better monitor activity in the metropolitan area with an eye toward thwarting criminal activity more efficiently and effectively. This blogger must admit, however, that the thought of one million new cameras monitoring everyone in the city should give one pause. Notwithstanding the fact that an argument can be made that such surveillance could produce marked decreases in crime statistics, there is something rather eerie about the notion of authorities being able to monitor virtually everyone’s comings and goings remotely and rather passively. That being stated, the scope of this program remains to be seen.

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22nd September 2013

The following are the estimated processing times for petitions submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). These processing time estimates are quoted directly from the official website of USCIS:

Field Office Processing Dates for California Service Center as of: July 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 2.5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Blanket L 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker E – Treaty traders and investors 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Visa to be issued abroad 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Change of status in the U.S. 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Extension of stay in the U.S. May 24, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-2A – Temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-2B – Other temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-3 – Temporary trainees 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker L – Intracompany transfers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker O – Extraordinary ability 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker P – Athletes, artists, and entertainers 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Q – Cultural exchange visitors and exchange visitors participating in the Irish Peace process 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker R – Religious occupation 5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker TN – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional 2 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-3/K-4 – Already married – spouse and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 November 15, 2011
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 March 11, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 November 3, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 June 21, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister February 11, 2010
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants 5 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant Religious workers 5 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications May 30, 2012
I-526 Immigrant Petition By Alien Entrepreneur For use by an entrepreneur who wishes to immigrate to the United States March 16, 2012
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change status to the F or M academic or vocational student categories 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change of status to H or L dependents 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change Status to the J exchange visitor category 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other change of status applications 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for F or M academic or vocational students 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of stay for H and L dependents 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for J exchange visitors 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other extension applications 2.5 Months
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility 4 Months
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement Application for a waiver of the 2-year foreign residence requirement based on exceptional hardship or persecution 4 Months
I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents 6 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] July 2, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for Honduras/Nicaragua [(c)(19), (a)(12)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing 3 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition 3 Months
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) May 16, 2012
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) based on PL107-273 September 12, 1997
Field Office Processing Dates for Nebraska Service Center as of: July 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 May 16, 2013
I-131 Application for Travel Document Refugee or asylee applying for a refugee travel document 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document Permanent resident applying for a re-entry permit 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) dependent applying for advance parole 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) principal applying for advance parole 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Extraordinary ability February 2, 2013
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Outstanding professor or researcher 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Multinational executive or manager March 2, 2013
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Skilled worker or professional 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Unskilled worker 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability requesting a National Interest Waiver 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Schedule A Nurses 4 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants 5 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Under the Indochinese Adjustment Act 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Based on grant of asylum more than 1 year ago 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Based on refugee admission more than 1 year ago 4 Months
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility March 2, 2013
I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition Petition for accompanying family members of a refugee or an asylee 5 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved asylum application [(a)(5)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] 3 Weeks
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition March 15, 2013
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document U.S. citizen applying for a replacement of naturalization or citizenship certificate 6 Months
Field Office Processing Dates for Texas Service Center as of: July 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 2.5 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-3/K-4 – Already married – spouse and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Extraordinary ability 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Outstanding professor or researcher 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Multinational executive or manager 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Skilled worker or professional 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Unskilled worker 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability requesting a National Interest Waiver 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Schedule A Nurses 4 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants December 31, 2012
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Based on grant of asylum more than 1 year ago 4 Months
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility 4 Months
I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition Petition for accompanying family members of a refugee or an asylee March 2, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] 3 Weeks
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program 6 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition March 7, 2013
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document U.S. citizen applying for a replacement of naturalization or citizenship certificate 6 Months
Field Office Processing Dates for Vermont Service Center as of: July 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 2.5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Blanket L 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker E – Treaty traders and investors May 10, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Visa to be issued abroad April 10, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Change of status in the U.S. April 10, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Extension of stay in the U.S. April 10, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-2B – Other temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-3 – Temporary trainees 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker L – Intracompany transfers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker O – Extraordinary ability 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker P – Athletes, artists, and entertainers 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Q – Cultural exchange visitors and exchange visitors participating in the Irish Peace process 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker R – Religious occupation 5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker TN – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional 2 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 October 22, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 April 30, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 April 30, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 April 9, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister March 20, 2011
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants February 20, 2013
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) August 6, 2012
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications November 19, 2012
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change status to the F or M academic or vocational student categories April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change of status to H or L dependents April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change Status to the J exchange visitor category April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other change of status applications April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for F or M academic or vocational students April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of stay for H and L dependents April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for J exchange visitors April 10, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other extension applications April 10, 2013
I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents 6 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] 3 Weeks
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for El Salvador [(c)(19)(a)(12)] April 24, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for Honduras/Nicaragua [(c)(19), (a)(12)] April 24, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program 6 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador extension April 24, 2013
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador initial or late filing April 24, 2013
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension April 24, 2013
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing April 24, 2013
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition 3 Months
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card Initial issuance or replacement 3.5 Months
I-90A Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card Initial issuance or replacement for Special Agricultral Workers (SAW) 3.5 Months
I-914 Application for T Non-immigrant Status Provide temporary immigration benefits to an alien who is a victim of trafficking in persons, and immediate family 4 Months
I-918 Petition for U Non-immigrant Status Provide temporary immigration benefits to an alien who is a victim of qualifying criminal activity, and their qualifying family June 25, 2012

It should be noted that the time it takes to process an immigration petition with USCIS is not the same as the time it takes to undergo the entire US visa process since processing at the National Visa Center and Consular Processing at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad can be very time consuming.

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19th September 2013

Recent reports indicate that Thailand is preparing to launch court proceedings at the Suvarnabhumi airport. On September 17th 2013, the Airports of Thailand PLC (AOT) approved a proposal to establish a court at the aforementioned airport. It appears that the airport court will be a division of the provincial court for Samut Prakan. The court is to be tasked with adjudicating cases involving infractions against foreign nationals. As of the time of this writing, the new court is supposedly scheduled to commence proceedings on Monday September 23, 2013.

Officials with the AOT have reported that within the past year there have been almost 2,000 crimes reportedly committed at the Suvarnabhumi airport. Although most such allegations involved mere petty crime. The establishment of the “airport court” is apparently an attempt to bolster the image of Thailand as a safe and tourist-friendly destination which takes crimes committed against foreign nationals seriously. Apparently, it may be possible for foreign nationals to schedule their cases with an eye toward maintaining their departure schedule from Thailand. Furthermore, any legal grievance which may arise at the airport could be dealt with at the airport court.

In a recent posting on this blog it was pointed out that Thai authorities had approved the commencement of proceedings at a recently established Tourist Court in the resort town of Pattaya. It was further pointed out that six more similar courts were scheduled to commence proceedings in the coming months. It would appear that the establishment of an airport court is in line with what appears to be an overarching Thai policy designed to provide new venues for tourists who have grievances in the Kingdom. That being stated, it currently appears that the airport court is modeled after traditional Thai courts while the tourist courts are more akin to arbitration venues. Those monitoring the justice system in Thailand are likely to be interested in the effectiveness of the new tourist court as well as the new airport court since no similar tribunals have ever existed in Thailand.

As in the case of the recently established tourist court, the airport court at Suvarnabhumi is to be the first court of its type to be established in Thailand. Thai officials have explained that there are plans to establish another two airport courts at Don Mueng (another airport in Bangkok) and at the international airport in Phuket, Thailand. Hopefully these new venues will provide an efficient and convenient avenue for tourists in Thailand to seek redress of grievances.

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18th September 2013

Reportedly, Thai human rights officials and Parliament members are poised to bring forth a bill to legalize same sex marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand. Apparently, these moves are being made in attempt to equalize the discrepancy between marital benefits enjoyed by different-sex couples when compared to their same-sex counterparts. Similar to the recent United States Supreme Court decision which compelled the United States Federal government to recognize same sex marriages which were duly legalized in the states allowing such unions, the proposed bill would provide marriage equality to same sex couples in Thailand and also equalize tax and pension benefits for those same sex couples who register their marriage in Thailand. Other parliament members were reportedly called upon to add their signatures to the bill in an effort to show broad based support for such legislation. For further information on this recent report please see the official website of The Nation.

There are a few lingering issues that remain to be answered regarding this subject as the prospect of same sex registered marriage in Thailand could be deemed a “civil union”. As civil unions in the USA are not currently accorded the same legal status as marriages the prospect of Thai same sex civil unions (although, from a legal standpoint, very advantageous for those living in Thailand) may not accord the same United States Immigration benefits as Thai same sex marriages, if the two are considered mutually exclusive under Thai law. That stated, currently Thailand has no other type of state sanctioned domestic union other than registered marriage, in a sense, all registered marriages in Thailand could be deemed “civil unions” since it is the civil registrar who registers them. The marriage ceremony is performed in Thailand with no legal effect. Therefore, many couples undertake a marriage ceremony with no legal effect and do not register their marriages, in such cases such couples are still eligible for a US fiance visa. The recent report notes that the bill would provide complete equality between same sex and different sex unions. As a result, it could be inferred that future same sex unions will be viewed in exactly the same light as different sex unions under Thai law. Should this prove to be the case, then it may be possible for future same sex couples with a registered marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand to apply for United States Immigration benefits such as the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa in the same manner as Thai-American different-sex married couples. In any event, the recent announcement is a significant positive signal that Thailand may become the first nation in Asia to legalize same sex unions.

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18th September 2013

Officials at Thailand’s Ministry of Labor are currently in the process of promulgating guidelines pertaining to the issuance of Thai work permits for ASEAN citizens, according to an official report from the Government Public Relations Department. These measures are being implemented in an attempt to better manage what are perceived to be substantial future inflows of skilled and professional labor coming from the other jurisdictions which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). For those unaware, the ASEAN economic community (AEC) is currently poised to economically integrate in 2015.

According to officials at the Ministry of Labor, initially work permits may be issued for citizens of other ASEAN nations in twenty-five career fields. This prospective policy is in keeping with the provisions of the ASEAN Agreement on the Movement of Natural Persons (MNP). Professionals operating in areas involving: computers, advertising, marketing research, research and development, agriculture, telecommunications, management, education, finance, health, translation services, construction, engineering, and transport services (to name a few areas) may be eligible for a Thai work permit. Labor Ministry officials are apparently poised to utilize the National Skill Standard in order to ascertain whether approval of a work permit application for an ASEAN citizen is warranted. This measure is being undertaken in an effort to insure that only qualified workers are granted a work permit. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Commerce are preparing to work in conjunction with the Management System Certification Institute (Thailand) in an effort to set policies aimed at providing temporary status for qualified ASEAN citizens wishing to enter the Kingdom of Thailand.

All of these measures appear to be designed to provide ASEAN citizens with the rights and privileges that come with work authorization in Thailand. It is thought that as ASEAN becomes increasingly integrated larger numbers of foreign workers will descend upon Thailand as increasing numbers of Thai nationals seek employment opportunities in other ASEAN countries.

At the time of this writing, virtually all foreign nationals working in the Kingdom of Thailand are required to obtain work authorization in the form of a Thai work permit. Except in the case of a foreign national married to a Thai, such individuals are also required to obtain a Thai business visa in order to be eligible to apply for a work permit. As can be inferred from the information noted above, notwithstanding the integration of the ASEAN economies, foreign nationals from ASEAN countries are also likely to be required to obtain business visas and work permits before being able to legally undertake employment in the Kingdom.

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17th September 2013

Since the relatively recent decision from the United States Supreme Court known colloquially as the Windsor decision, there have been a few lingering questions from members of the LGBT community regarding the United States immigration options now available for same sex couples.

Due to section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the past it was not possible for same sex married couples (even those with a valid marriage in one of those American jurisdictions permitting same sex marriage) to receive federal benefits based upon their marriages. This lack of federal recognition precluded the possibility of a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident sponsoring a foreign spouse or fiance for a US marriage visa or a US fiance visa. With the high Court’s pronouncement that same sex marriage should be accorded the same recognition as different sex marriage this all changed.

Section 3 of DOMA reads as follows:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

From the moment the Supreme Court ruled this section unConstitutional, the Federal government was instantly required to allot the same benefits to lawfully married same sex and LGBT couples as would be allotted to different sex couples in similar circumstances. What does this mean from an immigration standpoint? LGBT and same sex couples are now permitted to petition and apply for the same types of visas as their different sex counterparts. Therefore, a couple of the same sex who is already married in the U.S. or a foreign jurisdiction recognizing such unions may now apply for a U.S. marriage visa such as the CR1 visa, the IR1 visa, or the K3 visa. Furthermore, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made it clear that they will also adjudicate K1 Visa petitions (petitions for immigration benefits for foreign fiances of U.S. Citizens) for same sex couples in the same way that such petitions are adjudicated for different sex couples.

The Catch Section 2

One issue that has been of concern for experts studying this issue is the practical impact of the Court’s seeming unwillingness to speak to the issue of the Constitutionality of Section 2 of DOMA. Section 2 of DOMA reads as follows:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

The fact that Section 2 of DOMA has not been overturned means that same sex couples may NOT receive the same STATE benefits as their different sex counterparts depending upon the local laws of the couples’ State of residence and notwithstanding the fact that the couple may have a perfectly legal marriage in one of those U.S. jurisdictions allowing such marriages. An example of how this could work in a practical sense would be a situation where the same sex couple is married legally in one state, but resides in a state which forbids same sex unions, a spouse having state retirement benefits may not be able to fully pass on their retirement benefits to their same sex spouse. How would this work in an immigration context? USCIS and the Department of State have already issued answers to a series of frequently asked questions regarding LGBT immigration. On the question of US fiance visas, the USCIS as well as the State Department have noted that so long as the couple has a bona fide intention to celebrate their marriage in one of those states which permit such unions then the immigration petition and application will be adjudicated no differently than a similarly situation petition or application for a different-sex couple.

One issue which may be concerning for same sex partners in the Kingdom of Thailand arises from the fact that, at present, same sex marriage is not legal under Thai law and therefore authorities in Thailand will not register a marriage to two people of the same sex. That stated, there is currently legislation being drafted to allow same sex marriage in Thailand. However, as of the time of this writing it is not clear whether the Thai government will ultimately pass said legislation. As there is not another jurisdiction in the region which recognizes same sex unions, it may not be feasible for same sex partners to marry prior to submitting a US marriage visa petition. This leaves many same sex Thai-American couples in a position where their only option is to apply for a K-1 fiance visa and marry in the United States.

For related information, please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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13th September 2013

It appears that Thailand intends to implement an E-visa system by the year 2015, Thailand Television Channel 3 is reporting. Apparently, the plan will allow visa seekers to apply for a Thai visa online. Currently, those seeking tourist visas and non-immigrant visas (such as the Thai business visa, the Thai O visa, and the Thai ED visa) are required to apply at the nearest Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulate in their country of origin or residence. As of the time of this writing, it is not clear which visa categories will be available online. It is also unclear whether passport holders from all countries outside of Thailand will be eligible to apply for an e-visa online, or if e-visa application will be restricted to foreign nationals from certain jurisdictions. In contrast to the current method of obtaining a Thai visa, which requires a physical visa stamp or visa sticker being placed in a traveler’s passport, the new system will not require any stamp or sticker in the passport itself. Instead, the proposed plan will create a system where the e-visa will be connected to the traveler’s passport number via computer and thereby accessible to Royal Thai Immigration officers as well as airline personnel.

The topic of e-visas was recently raised by officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a spate of incidents occurred which resulted in the disappearance of a number of Thai visa stickers destined for various Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad. It is thought that by creating an e-visa protocol the security of both the Thai Immigration and the Thai Foreign Service systems would be enhanced.  As pointed out  previously on this blog, Thai Honorary Consulates abroad have been in the process of changing their visa processing procedures as heavier scrutiny seems to be being placed upon long term Thai visa applicants. The proposed e-visa system may be implemented in order to provide prospective travelers with both a convenient avenue for obtaining a Thai visa as well as a system which maintains the integrity of the Thai visa application process.

Currently, it is possible for foreign nationals of some countries to enter the Kingdom of Thailand without applying for a visa since Thai Immigration officials routinely grant 30 day visa exemption stamps to many travelers arriving in Thailand by air, and 15 day visa exemption stamps to those being admitted into Thailand via a land border. Whether or not the new e-visa system will affect the current visa exemption system remains to be seen. Also, as noted previously, questions remain as to the types of visas which will be made available via online application. Thai Immigration officials have apparently noted that further information regarding specific aspects of the proposed e-visa program will be available in upcoming announcements.

On a regional level, many officials from the jurisdictions which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have expressed a desire to promulgate a pan-ASEAN visa scheme which would allow holders of such visas to gain admission to multiple ASEAN countries on one travel document. As of now, the prospect of a single ASEAN visa scheme is still being discussed.

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11th September 2013

It was recently announced that the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, believes that the Thai economy would improve notwithstanding economic slowdown around the world. In recent comments the Prime Minister noted that even though there have been signs of economic turmoil in more sophisticated economies such as the United States and the European Union, Asian nations have shown signs of growth. This growth is particularly noticeable, according to the Prime Minister, in those jurisdictions which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Thai premier went on to note that the so-called “quantitative easing” measures implemented in the United States (as well as other jurisdictions) had created a situation in which capital began flowing into the Thai markets. The challenge for Thailand’s government requires seeing to it that such inflows are converted into investment in the Kingdom with tangible results. Furthermore, Thailand’s economy has been undergoing a sort of metamorphosis in recent years as the Kingdom’s largest export markets have been dealing with economic problems, Thai businesses have had to rely increasingly upon domestic demand for Thai products and services. This transition has caused a degree of hardship for some Thai businesses, especially those dependent upon exports. The Government appears to be seeking a way in which to adjust the current relationship between domestic revenue and revenue derived from exports.

On the issue of exports, it appears that the government in Thailand is attempting to implement policies which would allow for more exports to nations which border Thailand, while encouraging further trade relationships with the other ASEAN members. The Prime Minister apparently believes that Thai exports in the last six months of 2013 will outpace those in the first six months of the year.

Foreign tourists appear to be arriving in increasing numbers and it is hoped that foreign tourists will reach a total of 22 million in the year 2013. Foreign nationals living and working in Thailand may be pleased to note that the Permanent Residence quotas for 2013 have been announced. As in previous years, in 2013 the Royal Thai Immigration Police will be accepting Thai Permanent Residence applications from one hundred (100) individual foreign nationals from each country outside of Thailand. Also, the recent announcement regarding permanent residence applications noted that fifty (50) stateless persons will be eligible to apply to become permanent residents of Thailand. The annual quota noted above is imposed by immigration officials and represents the maximum number of applications which will be considered. Generally, Thai permanent residence applications are submitted during December with a final deadline coming before the start of the new year.

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4th September 2013

It would appear that the newly established tourist court is opening in Pattaya, Thailand today. This initiative was instigated due to a desire by Thai officials to provide foreign tourists with a forum to lodge complaints and seek redress of grievances. The new tourism court will be a “night court” as hearings will be held from 4:30pm until 8:30pm. Although the court appears to be prepared to hear some cases of a general nature (which involve tourists) it seems the court will primarily concern itself with cases involving consumer protection issues as well as tourist safety.

Of further interest to those who may have a case to bring before the Tourist Court is the announcement from Thai officials that such cases will likely be decided in the relatively quick period of one day as opposed to the customary 6 months usually required for traditional Thai courts to render a decision in a given adjudication. It appears that matters arising before the tourist court are likely to handled in much the same manner as arbitration proceeding since an emphasis will be placed upon negotiation rather than litigation. Cases of a more serious nature may be removed to the traditional Thai court system depending upon the issues involved.

It appears that Pattaya is not to be the only jurisdiction with a Court of this kind as it appears that there will be six additional Tourist Courts added to the system in the future. Thai officials intend to have these new Tourist Courts convened in the Silom area of Bangkok (with Pathum Wan District to be the venue) and the Khao San area of Bangkok (Dusit District). While Tourist Courts in Samui, Krabi, Phuket and Chiang Mai are expected to be convening soon as well. It should be interesting to see how decisions by these new Courts will be enforced since one of the parties to a given case may have returned to their homeland before the court has rendered a final decision. That stated, due to the fact that many of these Courts’ decisions are likely to be handed down in one day it stands to reason that many of the parties bringing cases will see resolution rather quickly.

This first Tourist Court in Pattaya is intended to act as a sort of a beta test for the Tourist Court system as a whole. As Thai officials, citizens, and foreign nationals get a glimpse of how these Courts will actually operate those experiences should be used to assist in making later established Courts more efficient. In recent years, Thailand’s government has implemented policies to discourage scams perpetrated against tourists as tourism is an important facet of the  Thai economy. The establishment of a Tourist Court appears to be logical extension of previously promulgated policies.

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