Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘Adjustment of Status’ Category

30th April 2010

Repeatedly, this author uses this blog as a platform to try to educate the public regarding the US visa process and the problems that can arise during that process. In many cases, people are simply unaware of the rules regarding US visa issuance and this blog attempts to provide relevant information that readers may find beneficial. That being said, another frequently discussed topic is the unauthorized practice of law by “visa companies” and “visa agents” or those claiming to be American attorneys. This is not simply a tirade against such practices, but is intended to provide information regarding the detrimental impact that these individuals can have upon the interests of their “clients”.

Under section 292.1 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations a licensed attorney is entitled to represent clients before the United States Department of Homeland Security, specifically the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) which is tasked with adjudicating US visa petitions. Many are unaware of the fact that those who assist individuals in preparing visa petitions are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law if they are not: licensed to practice law in at least one US jurisdiction while being eligible to practice law in all US jurisdictions or certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Licensure is no small matter, especially for those individuals who are “represented” by those claiming to be attorneys who are not, in fact, licensed. For example, if an American talks to an unlicensed individual about sensitive matters, then such communications would not be confidential and also would not be protected under the attorney/client privilege. If one is communicating in confidence to a licensed attorney, then such communication is “out of bounds” for US Courts. However, the same communications with one who is unlicensed could be used as evidence in a US court proceeding. Therefore, licensure is extremely important particularly in US Immigration matters involving a legal ground of inadmissibility or an I-601 waiver as certain information could be very detrimental to clients’ interests and if imparted to a licensed American attorney would be confidential, but if imparted to an unlicensed “fly by night” operator such information could be used against the client at a later date.

For all of these reasons, when an American is outside of the USA it is always prudent to check the credentials of anyone claiming to be an attorney from the United States. An individual can provide adequate credentials if they can show their license to practice law before at least on State Supreme Court in the US, or a Federal license to practice law in the USA, or a license to practice law in one of the US territorial jurisdictions (Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, etc). Anyone who refuses to provide any such credentials and yet still asserts that they are an American attorney should be avoided until proof of credentials can be provided.

For further information about US Immigration from Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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6th April 2010

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is responsible for overseeing the United States naturalization process. Each year, many Immigrants in the United States take advantage of the ability to naturalize to US Citizenship. For some, the Naturalization test is a daunting prospect. In order to help inform the public, USCIS has provided a video on their website that can be of assistance to those looking into the naturalization process. To quote the USCIS website directly:

“The USCIS Naturalization Interview and Test was developed as an informational resource for individuals interested in learning more about the naturalization process. The 16-minute video provides an overview of the naturalization process including the eligibility requirements, the application process, preliminary steps, the naturalization interview, the English tests and the U.S. history and government test (civics). The video includes two simulated interviews between applicants and USCIS Officers. Individuals applying for naturalization may use this video as a reference tool to prepare for the naturalization interview. Teachers and volunteers can use this video to complement classroom instruction.”

Although naturalization is the most common method employed by foreign nationals seeking US citizenship. Few are aware that there is another method of obtaining Citizenship for the children of United States Citizens who did not receive Citizenship at birth. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 provides a legal means for the minor children of United States Citizens to obtain American Citizenship.

Another interesting program for those interested in becoming United States Citizens is the expedited naturalization program for those foreign nationals enlisted in the United States military. The expedited naturalization process is a major benefit to foreign nationals and their families who choose to serve in A the United States trmed Forces.

Some are unaware that those who gained United States Lawful Permanent Residence based upon marriage are entitled to faster naturalization. For those who enter the United States and take up Permanent Residence based upon employment, the naturalization process generally takes about 5 years. However, for those married to a US Citizen the process takes 3 years from the time Permanent Residence is approved. This means that the naturalization “clock” starts running for K1 visa holders after the adjustment of status is approved. A CR1 visa holder who enters the country with conditional lawful permanent residence at entry begins accruing  presence that can be used toward naturalization at entry. This being said, a CR1 visa holder must still get a lift of conditions before they will be entitled to a 10 year “Green Card.”

For information about US Immigration from Thailand Please See: American Visa Thailand.


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1st April 2010

As we have previously discussed on this blog, the K1 visa (the category that is used to denote the US fiance visa) has a derivative counterpart that allows for the children of a foreign fiance or fiancee to travel to the United States with their parent. From a legal standpoint, there is nothing particularly interesting about this, but it does become interesting when holders of K2 Visas apply for adjustment of status in order to obtain United States Lawful Permanent Residence also referred to as a “Green Card.” Under the current rules, there is some question as to whether or not a K2 visa holder is allowed to adjust status after they turn 21 years of age. In a recent article posted on the Immigration Slip Opinion Blog, the author noted that issues surrounding K2 adjustment have yet to be fully addressed, but upcoming cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) may clarify this vexing issue:

“‘Aging out’ issues: K-2 and CSPA

There are at least seven cases currently before the BIA that raise the question of whether Congress intended that a K-2 visa holder, admitted to the United States as the child of a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen, would become ineligible for adjustment of status upon turning 21. In briefs submitted as amici curiae, the American Immigration Council (Immigration Council) and AILA argue that such a result would produce absurd results and could not have been Congress’s intent. After all, the statute permits – and DHS practice allows – a child of a fiancée to enter the country on a K-2 visa up until his or her 21st birthday. In numerous cases, children enter with only a few days to spare before turning 21. Interpreting the statute as allowing these children to enter until age 21, but then also requiring that an adjustment be completed before they turn 21, is simply unreasonable. The only reasonable interpretation of the statute is that a K-2 child must be under 21 at admission but not at the time of adjustment. A recent favorable 10th Circuit decision doesn’t go quite this far, but should help convince the BIA that DHS is wrong. We have asked the BIA to schedule oral argument on this issue and to decide these cases together.”

This author has yet to be convinced of Congress’s original intent, but this issue is interesting and it will be fascinating to see how this issue plays out in the Immigration Courts. A favorable decision could lead to major benefits for children of the Thai fiancees of American Citizens.

For general information about US Immigration from Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

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31st March 2010

The issue of advance parole can be extremely important for those enter the United States on a K1 visa. A K1 visa is a US fiance visa that allows the fiance of a US Citizen to enter the United States for a period of 90 days in order to marry and apply for adjustment of status. Adjustment of Status is the process of acquiring Lawful Permanent Residence (Also Known as a “Green Card”). For those who are awaiting the approval of an adjustment application a sense of being in “limbo” can set in as the applicant does not yet have permanent residence and they cannot leave the United States without falling out of status and thereby, often inadvertently, causing the entire visa process to begin anew.

There is a way that a foreign national can keep from falling out of status and still leave the United States. If the foreign national petitions for, and obtains, advance parole, then they may leave the United States and preserve both their Fiance Visa and their adjustment application.

In the past, applications for advance parole were adjudicated by local USCIS offices. However, in a recent USCIS announcement distributed by AILA, this procedure is changing:

“WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced revised filing instructions and addresses for applicants filing an Application for Travel Document (Form I-131). The change of filing location is part of an overall effort to transition the intake of some USCIS forms from USCIS local offices and Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. By Centralizing form and fee intake to a Lockbox environment, the agency can provide customers with more efficient and effective initial processing of applications and fees.”

“Beginning March 19, 2010 applicants will file their applications at the USCIS Vermont Service Center or at one of the USCIS Lockbox facilities. Detailed guidance can be found in updated Form I-131 instructions page at www.uscis.gov.”

Many people may already be asking themselves: What if I inadvertently filed my advance parole application at the wrong location because I was unaware of the change? Luckily, USCIS is dealing with this internally, at least for now:

“The USCIS Service Centers will forward incorrectly filed Form I-131 applications to the USCIS Lockbox facilities for 30 days, until Monday, April 19, 2010. After April 19, 2010, incorrectly filed applications will be returned to the applicant, with a note to send the application to the correct location.”

Since USCIS will discontinue forwarding incorrectly filed applications, those seeking advance parole should carefully study this issue before submitting an application as failure to do so could cause delays in being granted permission to leave the USA and preserve one’s status.

For further information about American Immigration from Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

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17th March 2010

Many people contact this author in order to ask questions about the United States Immigration process. Sometimes, a question becomes so common that I feel the need to post an article about the subject on this blog. The question that has been recently posed with great frequency is: Can I get my Thai girlfriend to the United States on a US tourist visa? Strictly speaking, yes, but this answer needs to be highly qualified. Anyone who is approved for a US tourist visa can go to the United States and request admission, but obtaining approval of a US tourist visa application can be difficult for the boyfriend or girlfriend of an American Citizen. The difficulty arises under the provisions of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act.

Pursuant to Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act a Consular Officer at a United States Embassy or United States Consulate-General is required to make a presumption that a non-immigrant visa applicant is actually an intending immigrant unless they can prove otherwise. This, in turn, leads to a factual analysis by the Consular Officer. The Consular Officer must believe that the applicant has “strong ties” to their home country, or any other country outside of the USA, and “weak ties” to the United States. In many cases, the mere existence of a US Citizen boyfriend or girlfriend will mitigate against any “strong ties” abroad and lead to a visa denial under section 214(b). This reasoning on the part of US Embassy personnel should not be misconstrued as a personal denial. Instead, the officer is legally compelled to deny a tourist visa application if the applicant cannot overcome the presumption imposed by section 214(b).

Many people then ask the question: can this visa denial be appealed? No, although an applicant may ask for a tourist visa application to be reopened. That being said, in virtually all cases, the denial will be upheld. A Consular Officer’s factual findings are not subject to appeal based upon the doctrine of Consular Absolutism. However, a legal finding may be subject to reversal. With that in mind, one should recognize that a visa denial under section 214(b) is a factual determination and therefore not generally subject to reversal.

If a couple truly has a bona fide intention to marry in the USA and apply for adjustment of status, then a tourist visa is really not the correct travel document as it specifically precludes immigrant intent (unlike a dual intent travel document such as a K1 visa or an L1 visa). Therefore, if the couple wishes to marry and adjust status, then a Fiance Visa is a more appropriate travel document. However, the couple must have a truly bona fide intention to marry and not simply a pretextual intention in order to pursue US Immigration benefits.

For further information for about visas in general and the complex issues surrounding family based petitions please see: US Visa Thai Girlfriend.

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11th March 2010

There are many people of all nationalities who submit applications for a US Tourist Visa at the US Embassy Thailand. Although these applications are quite common, they are becoming increasingly subject to denial pursuant to section 214(b) of the United States Citizenship and Nationality Act. This provision basically requires that the Consular Officer make a presumption that the tourist visa applicant is an undisclosed immigrant unless the applicant can provide strong evidence to the contrary. This creates the “strong ties” vs. “weak ties” analysis which requires that the applicant show “strong ties” to a country outside of the United States and “weak ties” to the USA. This can be a very problematic provision especially for those Americans who wish to bring a Thai significant other back to the US.

The existence of an American Citizen boyfriend can be very detrimental for a Thai’s B2 visa application (or any non-immigrant visa application for that matter ex: F-1 visa, J-1 visa, B-1 visa, etc). The detriment arises from the fact that the applicant has a primary relationship with an American and therefore could be construed to have a “strong tie” to the USA. Some couples try to get around this problem by “not mentioning” the existence of a relationship with an American. This is not a good idea, in this author’s opinion, because any dishonesty, even dishonesty by omission, is unethical and could be viewed by the Embassy and/or Consulate as an attempt to defraud the US government. For an American Citizen, a finding of fraud and misrepresentation could lead to penalties, but such a finding could have a highly negative impact upon the applicant’s chances of ever obtaining a US visa in the future as fraud and misrepresentation is considered a legal grounds of inadmissibility to the USA that would likely only be remedied upon the approval of an I601 waiver.

However, the DS-156 form that is used to apply for a US tourist visa does not ask “do you have an American boyfriend/girlfriend?” Instead the forms asks:

“Are Any of The Following Persons in The U.S., or Do They Have U.S. Legal Permanent Residence or U.S. Citizenship? Mark YES or NO and indicate that person’s status in the U.S. (i.e., U.S. legal permanent resident, U.S. citizen, visiting, studying, working, etc.)”

The form then allows the applicant to note family relationships, including “fiance/fiancee.” The reason this is being discussed is due to the fact that the rest of the form’s questions can be relatively easily answered. For example,  one can say with near certainty if they have a US Citizen husband, but “fiance” is another, more opaque, concept. Defining “fiance” is difficult as relationships, prior to marriage, are fairly fluid from a legal standpoint. In this author’s opinion, if the applicant has a romantic relationship with an American Citizen, then this fact should be disclosed to the Consular Officers either in writing or at the visa interview, but if there is any inkling that marriage and adjustment of status may be a possibility, then it may be better to forgo an attempt at a tourist visa, as this is not really the proper travel document, and submit a petition for a K1 visa.

For further information, please see: US Visa Thailand.

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1st March 2010

Those going through the US visa process may be aware of the I-864 affidavit of support. This document is used in order for the United States government to receive assurance that the prospective immigrant will not become a public charge in the United States. In family based immigrant visa cases involving visas such as the CR1 Visa or the IR1 visa the I-864 is used. The I-864 should not be confused with the I-134 affidavit of support which is often utilized by those seeking either a K1 visa or a K3 Visa. However, at the time of this writing, it is highly likely that use of the I-134 in K-3 cases will fall by the wayside as fewer K-3 visa applications will be forwarded on to US Embassies and Consulates abroad due to the administrative closure of new K-3 applications at the National Visa Center. That being said, non-immigrant dual intent travel documents such as the K1 fiance visa and the K3 marriage visa do not use the I-864, but use the I-134.

There are certain Immigrant visas which do not utilize the I-864 as the affidavit of support requirement is waived. These type of cases require the submission of the I-864w. To quote the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in their own instructions for the form itself:

“The Form I-864 is legally required for many family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate means of financial support and that they are not likely to become a public charge. Certain classes of immigrants are exempt from the I-864 requirement and therefore must file Form I-864W instead of Form I-864 or Form I-864EZ.”

Under the Child Citizenship Act of the year 2000, there are certain children who enter the United States and become United States Citizens by operation of law upon admission at a port of entry by the Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP). These children may then apply for a certificate of citizenship which is somewhat similar to a naturalization certificate except for the fact that the child is not naturalized, but a citizen statutorily. In cases where the child would become a citizen upon entry, the obligations incurred by an I-864 would automatically extinguish upon entry since the child would be a US Citizen. Therefore, the need to adjudicate means of support are made somewhat redundant. This may be the policy reason underlying the promulgation of the I-864w.

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9th February 2010

The method of making an appointment at the US Embassy in Bangkok depends upon the reason for the appointment. For example, the appointment process for obtaining a Consular Report of Birth Abroad is different than the process for obtaining an appointment for a non-immigrant visa interview.

Many expatriates in Thailand seek such services as: Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (a document akin to a birth certificate) , notarization, visa page replacement, and new passport issuance. Virtually all of the issues surrounding these services can be dealt with at the American Citizen Services Section of the United States Embassy in Bangkok.  For those interested in making an appointment with the American Citizen Services Section of the US Embassy in Bangkok, it may be wise to click on this link.

For those who need a non-immigrant visa to the United States a visa interview appointment will likely be required. For those unfamiliar with the US visa process, a non-immigrant visa is granted to an individual who does not have the intention of remaining in the USA. Popular non-immigrant visa categories are the J1 visa, the F1 visa, the B1 visa, and the B2 visa (also known as a Tourist visa). The aforementioned visa categories are not the only non-immigrant visas, but they are currently the most popular among those interviewing at the US Embassy in Bangkok. For those interested in more information about non-immigrant visas please click here.

Another common reason for needing an appointment at the US Embassy in Bangkok is the need to finish the American Immigration process. For those who wish to immigrate to the United States, in order for a US visa to be issued, the applicant must undergo a visa interview. In Thailand, the popular immigrant visas are category CR-1 and IR-1 for Thai spouses. Although not immigrant visas in the strict sense of the word, the K1 visa and the K3 visa are treated as immigrant visas because they are dual intent travel documents. A dual intent visa (travel document) is designed for a foreign national to enter the United States in non-immigrant status with the option of adjusting status to that of an Immigrant at a later date. For many, the Immigrant visa process is time consuming and the final phase of the process can cause anxiety in many applicants. However, for the applicant who tells the truth and is forthright in their application, there is usually no reason to be anxious as the visa interview is nothing more than an exercise of due diligence on the part of the Consular officers. For more on immigrant visas please click here.

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30th January 2010

The US visa process is a time consuming endeavor, but for those who eventually obtain a visa the process can seem well worth the wait as United States Permanent Residence entails both the right to remain in the USA as well as the right to take up employment. The Resident Alien Card, also know as the “Green Card,” is a very important document for US permanent residents. Upon entry in the United States on an Immigrant visa (such as an IR-1 visa or CR-1 visa), the entrant is given an I-551 stamp in his or her passport. This stamp is, for all intents and purposes, the entrant’s “green Card,” until a proper resident alien card is issued. In the past, Resident Alien Cards were sent to American lawful permanent residents by mail, but there were situations where the Resident Alien did not receive there “Green Card” and this caused problems. In a recent USCIS stakeholder’s meeting this issue was discussed as the following question was posed:

“According to current USCIS practice, when a green card is sent to an address, but the applicant does not receive it, and the package is not returned to USCIS as undeliverable, the client must pay a $370 fee to request another card. This is very difficult for indigent clients. Given the importance of this document, could USCIS institute a policy of sending green cards by certified mail, return receipt requested?”

The issues involved in this question impact aliens in the USA on a daily basis and luckily the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) appears to have come up with a solution to deal with this problem. The details of this solution are contained in the Service’s response below:

“USCIS has developed a means to deliver our secure documents called the Secure Mail Initiative (SMI). This involves sending the secure documents using U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. Using this process allows us to track each individual piece of mail electronically through the U.S. Postal Service and speeds our delivery time while enhancing accountability to customers. Currently, we are experiencing tremendous success with SMI in our travel booklet product line (Refugee Travel Documents, Form I-571 and Re-entry Permits, Form I-327).”

Hopefully the Secure Mail Initiative will solve this problem in the vast majority of cases. Although no plan is perfect, it seems like this new method of mailing important immigration documentation will ensure document receipt in most cases as the recipient, or someone in the same household, will be required to confirm delivery of this documentation.

This issue is not only relevant for those with an Immigrant visa, it is also of importance for those who enter the USA on a K1 visa or a K-3 Visa as these travel documents are dual intent visas and require adjustment of status in order for the alien spouse to remain in the USA in Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Assuming that the I-485 adjustment of status application is approved, the alien will receive his or her resident alien card in the mail as well. Due to timing issues, the Secure Mail Initiative may be as beneficial, if not more so, to immigrants in these visa categories as it is more likely that these aliens will have changed their address while awaiting approval of the adjustment of status application.

We at Integrity Legal commend USCIS for taking this issue seriously and providing a workable solution to what can be a difficult problem.

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26th December 2009

For Thai-American couples the most common method of immigrating to the USA is through use of a K1 visa. The K1 visa is a fiancee visa granting the bearer 90 days of lawful presence in the United States of America with the option to apply for adjustment of status. If an adjustment of status application is submitted and approved then the Thai fiancee will be granted conditional lawful permanent residence for 2 years. After nearly 2 years the couple should submit a petition for a lift of conditions of the Thai spouse’s permanent residence. Should this petition receive approval, the Thai spouse will become an unconditional lawful permanent resident of the United States of America.

There are some travel restrictions placed upon permanent residents of the United States. Namely, they cannot be outside of the USA for more than one year without endangering their resident status in the USA. For those who remain abroad for more than one year it may be necessary to apply for an SB-1 visa. This is a visa specifically meant for returning residents of the USA. For those who plan to be outside of the USA for a substantial period of time there is a way to forestall a finding of residential abandonment: a US reentry permit. This is a travel document that is very similar to advance parole in so far as it preserves the status of the lawful permanent resident while they remain abroad. These travel documents are generally granted with a validity period of 2 years from issuance.

Recently, this author came into contact with an individual who had lawful permanent resident status in the US, but had lost his Resident Alien Card (“Green Card”) and needed to return to the US. This individual still had a valid US reentry permit. After some research, this author discovered that a United States lawful permanent resident may reenter the country without a proper visa provided that they have a valid United States reentry permit.

To directly quote from the website of the US Embassy in Mumbai:

“Per 8CFR 211.1, an alien in possession of a valid form I-327, Permit to reenter the United states (i.e. reentry permit), does not require a visa to reenter the United States.  Therefore, [one] may travel [to the USA] with [only one's] valid reentry permit.”

In a way, the United States reentry permit is akin to a passport for lawful permanent residents although it is inherently more restrictive than a US passport. For those lawful permanent residents thinking of leaving the USA for a prolonged period of time it may be wise to seriously consider applying for a reentry permit because it provides not only the peace of mind that comes from preserving one’s status, it can also act as a backup travel document in the event one loses their resident alien card.

For related information please see our postings about losing a US passport and obtaining a new one from American Citizen Services at a US Consulate in Thailand.

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