Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘lgbt immigration’ Category

26th June 2015

In a historic decision the United States Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriage across the United States of America. The decision coming approximately 2 years after the important decision which provided Federal recognition to same sex marriages performed in States where  such unions were legal; the Supreme Court has ruled that same sex couples have a right to marry in any State throughout the country. As noted in a recent article in the Washington Post, Justice Kennedy pointed out the blatant inequality of the legal situation prior to this ruling:

“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest,” he wrote. “With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”

This ruling is certainly a major victory for the LGBT community. For those who live overseas or who have a same sex partner abroad the ruling smooths out some of the rough edges of the United States Immigration process for same sex couples. In the past, a same sex couple could obtain a K1 Visa (for a fiance) in much the same way that a different sex couple could. However, if the couple intended to reside in a State that did not recognize same sex unions, then the couple might then be required to travel to a State which recognized such unions. With this recent ruling, that issue is effectively resolved. As has been previously noted on this blog, the US visa process for same sex couples has become essentially the same as the process for different sex couples. A Thai-American same sex couple may now opt to seek a fiance visa based upon an intention to marry in any US jurisdicition, or if already legally married the couple may choose to seek either and IR-1 or CR-1 immigrant visa based upon legal marriage to an American citizen.

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27th January 2014

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that Vietnam has legalized same sex wedding ceremonies performed in that Southeast Asian nation. Prior to this announcement it was illegal for same sex couples to have a marriage ceremony performed in Vietnam and also illegal for same sex couples to cohabit without fear of government reprisal. It should be noted that these recent measures only allow same sex couples to have a marriage ceremony, notwithstanding the fact that such ceremonies will have no legal recognition in Vietnam (or elsewhere). However, many LGBT rights activists believe that this is a significant step towards eventual marriage equality in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Thailand the struggle still continues to see the full marriage equality. Unlike Vietnam, Thailand has allowed same sex marriage ceremonies within their jurisdiction for some time. It should also be noted that Thailand is one of the most tolerant nations in Southeast Asia when it comes to LGBT issues. However, the law in Thailand still stipulates that a legally recognized marriage is a union between one man and one woman. There are many activists in the Kingdom hoping to change these rules in order to allow same sex couples the right to get married. With recent political turmoil in the Kingdom and uncertainty surrounding upcoming elections it remains to be seen whether any change to the current law will speedily occur, but some believe that the tolerant attitude in Thailand will lead to changes in the law especially in light of the fact that recent proposals in the Thai parliament would, if adopted, allow same sex couples to legalize their marriages.

The issue of same sex marriage legalization is of concern to many same-sex bi-national couples since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision granting federal recognition of same sex unions. One result of this decision was that same sex couples and spouses are now eligible to receive United States visa benefits in the same manner as different sex couples. Therefore, visas such as the CR-1 visa and IR-1 visa are now available to same sex couples who are already married. Although this may not be a highly sought after category in Southeast Asia at this time as no jurisdiction in the region currently recognizes same sex marriage, it could be of substantial importance in coming years as laws may be amended to equalize marriage laws for the LGBT community. Meanwhile, officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as well as the Department of State have noted that same sex couples, where one of the partners is American, who maintain a bona fide intention to marry in the USA may be eligible for the K-1 visa (more commonly referred to as a fiance visa). This type of visa allows the foreign fiance of an American citizen to travel to the United States for 90 days for the express purpose of getting married and filing for adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Residence.

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5th December 2013

Updated USCIS Processing Times

Posted by : admin

The administration of this blog routinely posts the updated processing times for the various service centers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The following is quoted directly from the official website of USCIS:

Field Office Processing Dates for California Service Center as of: September 30, 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. 2 Months
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 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 February 12, 2013
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 May 13, 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 July 15, 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)] 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 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-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program May 25, 2011
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: September 30, 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-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 February 12, 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 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 May 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 May 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 May 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: September 30, 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 July 15, 2013
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 U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 February 12, 2013
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-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 May 16, 2013
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 April 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 April 4, 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: September 30, 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 July 13, 2013
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 29, 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 August 7, 2013
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 February 12, 2013
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 August 21, 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 5 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) April 24, 2013
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications 4 Months
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-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 February 28, 2013
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 December 10, 2012

It should be noted that the above quoted processing estimates may not accurately reflect the entire visa process as Consular Processing may be required at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. Concurrently, the above cited processing time estimates may not accurately reflect the time it takes process an immigration petition at a USCIS field office abroad or through the process once referred to as Direct Consular Filing.

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21st October 2013

Updated USCIS Processing Times

Posted by : admin

The administration of this blog routinely posts the updated processing time estimates for the Service Centers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The following was quoted directly from the official website of USCIS:

Field Office Processing Dates for California Service Center as of: August 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. 2 Months
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 5 Months
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-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program May 25, 2011
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: August 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 June 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 March 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 April 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 April 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-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program May 30, 2011
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 April 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: August 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 June 2, 2010
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 May 2, 2013
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 16, 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 17, 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: August 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 H-1B – Specialty occupation – Visa to be issued abroad April 17, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Change of status in the U.S. April 17, 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 July 3, 2013
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 March 27, 2013
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 27, 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) October 8, 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 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change of status to H or L dependents April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change Status to the J exchange visitor category April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other change of status applications April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for F or M academic or vocational students April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of stay for H and L dependents April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for J exchange visitors April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other extension applications April 17, 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 February 28, 2013
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 these processing time estimates do not reflect the time it takes to obtain a US visa as the US visa application process can be time consuming even after an initial immigration petition receives approval since processing at the National Visa Center and/or a US Consulate or US Embassy abroad may also be required.

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13th October 2013

A frequently asked question from those wishing to sponsor a foreign fiance or spouse for a US Fiance Visa or US Marriage Visa is: do I make enough income to act as a sponsor for my loved one? The answer to this question involves the affidavit of support which is a primary component of the visa application process. When a fiance or spouse visa application is adjudicated by a Consular Officer at a US Embassy or US Consulate overseas part of the application includes either and I-134 or I-864 affidavit of support. This document allows the adjudicating Consular officer to make a determination as to whether or not the US Citizen spouse or fiance has the income necessary to support their fiance or spouse in the United States. This affidavit also acts as a sort of third party beneficiary contract between the American spouse and the United States government in order to make certain that the American spouse pays the US government for any means tested benefits that the foreign spouse may acquire while in the USA.

When determining whether or not an American spouse or fiance can support a foreign spouse or fiance the adjudicating officer will first look to the American’s adjusted annual income on his or her income tax return. In order to meet the minimum eligibility requirements the American spouse or fiance must earn 125% of the federal poverty guidelines for a family of their size. The current federal poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous States as well as Alaska and Hawaii can be found below (as quoted from the official website of Housing and Human Services):

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,020 for each additional person.
1 $11,490
2 15,510
3 19,530
4 23,550
5 27,570
6 31,590
7 35,610
8 39,630

 

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR ALASKA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,030 for each additional person.
1 $14,350
2 19,380
3 24,410
4 29,440
5 34,470
6 39,500
7 44,530
8 49,560

 

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR HAWAII
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,620 for each additional person.
1 $13,230
2 17,850
3 22,470
4 27,090
5 31,710
6 36,330
7 40,950
8 45,570

SOURCE: Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, January 24, 2013, pp. 5182-5183

Those wishing to ascertain whether they are eligible to sponsor their foreign fiance or spouse should use the above figures to determine 125% of the poverty guidelines for a family of their size (including the foreign family member(s)). It should be noted that active duty members of the United States Armed Forces must only meet 100% of the federal poverty guidelines in order to be eligible to sponsor a foreign fiance or spouse. Those unable to meet the 125% income level noted above may be able to use assets to offset the difference between their level of income and the 125% requirement. For affidavit of support purposes, a prospective sponsor of a Thai fiancee or wife can make up the difference in income between what is actually earned and what is legally required by providing evidence of assets which equal 5 times the difference between what a prospective sponsor earns and the level required by law. Thus, if a prospective sponsor fall short of the 125% level by 5,000 USD, then the prospective sponsor can show proof of assets in the amount of 25,000 USD in order to overcome the disparity.

It may also be possible to use the income and assets of a joint sponsor if the person petitioning for the foreign national’s visa is unable to overcome the income and asset requirements. It should be noted that only the I-864 affidavit of support (that used in cases involving the application for a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa) may utilize a joint sponsor. Those seeking a K-1 visa are not eligible to use a joint sponsor, therefore, only the American Citizen fiance’s income and assets will be adjudicated during the K1 visa application process. In the past, Consular Officers at the US Embassy in Bangkok were known to accept joint sponsors in K-1 visa application adjudications. However, as of the time of this writing that practice has ceased.

Those interested in learning more on these topics are encouraged to click on the following link: Affidavit of Support.

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1st October 2013

The United States government has recently shut down due to the inability of Congress to make a deal regarding the budget and current debt ceiling level. The reverberations from this recent turn of events will likely be felt in many sectors of the United States government and by those who may have business with the US government. As a general matter, governmental functions which are deemed essential will still be available. However, those governmental activities and employees deemed non-essential will likely be discontinued and work furloughed until such time as Congress reaches an agreement. It has been 17 years since the United States government last shut down. As of the time of this writing, the Office of Management and Budget has instructed supervisors of various governmental entities to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown.”

What is the practical impact of the government’s closure upon the immigration process? It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the following has been posted on the official website of the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand:

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and Consulate General Chiang Mai remain open to the public. As always, our priorities remain providing safety, security, and service to U.S. citizens. We are open for all consular services, including visa processing.

It could be inferred that the Embassy is attempting to dispel rumors that a shutdown will negatively impact the processing of US visa applications as well as applications for US passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and various notarial services requested by Americans living in Thailand. Hopefully, the recently announced government shutdown will not last long and thus not cause any great problems for those seeking visas to the United States of America. However, a protracted shutdown could mean that processing of US visa applications could move at a slower pace, or, in a worst case scenario, be discontinued until such time as a budget is agreed upon. Hopefully, this will not happen and the processing of applications will continue apace.

Meanwhile, it is likely that the shutdown will not affect processing of immigration petitions at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). As USCIS is funded by the fees paid by petitioners, it seems likely that a government shutdown will not adversely impact those seeking immigration benefits from USCIS. Again, as the United States has not seen a government shutdown in nearly two decades some of the details about the impact of the current shutdown remain somewhat speculative. Readers of this blog should take note that further information will be provided herein as it becomes available.

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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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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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8th August 2013

Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) couples have questions regarding United States Immigration in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s finding in the Windsor case that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unConstitutional. Both the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of State have previously issued answers to frequently asked questions on this topic. In a previous posting on this blog, USCIS’s answers to these FAQs were discussed. However, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the USCIS has issued further answers to such FAQs to further clarify their position on this issue. To quote directly from these new answers to FAQs on the official website of the USCIS:

Q1: I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national. Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa? NEW
A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Clearly American Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents may petition for an immigrant spouse visa such as an IR1 visa, CR1 visa, or by extension a K3 visa (as the K-3 visa petition is a supplementary petition based upon the initial petition for an immigrant visa). Furthermore, when applying for the visa at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad during the Consular Processing phase of the US immigration process the application will be viewed in the same way as an application based upon a different-sex marriage. Also, adjustment of status applications for the same sex spouse of a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident will be adjudicated in the same manner as a similar application for a different-sex spouse.

A question for many same sex and LGBT couples concerns the State of the couple’s residence versus the State of marriage since there are only a few States which allow such marriages while other states either do not recognize such unions or specifically forbid such unions. USCIS issued further clarification on this issue in their recently updated FAQ section:

Q3: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state or a foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse? NEW
A3: Yes. As a general matter, the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes.  Just as USCIS applies all relevant laws to determine the validity of an opposite-sex marriage, we will apply all relevant laws to determine the validity of a same-sex marriage..

There may be some limited circumstances where the law of the couple’s residence may determine their legal standing on certain issues. However, as can be seen from the above quoted FAQ, the USCIS appears to primarily defer to the law of the State which legalized the marriage when determining whether the couple is eligible for immigration benefits.

Finally, this blogger does not recall the USCIS previously answering questions regarding immigration petitions which were filed with USCIS prior to the Supreme Court’s holding that Section 3 of DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution. The following section of USCIS’s recently expanded FAQ section would appear to respond to this inquiry:

Q5. My Form I-130, or other petition or application, was previously denied solely because of DOMA.  What should I do?
A5.  USCIS will reopen those petitions or applications that were denied solely because of DOMA section 3.  If such a case is known to us or brought to our attention, USCIS will reconsider its prior decision, as well as reopen associated applications to the extent they were also denied as a result of the denial of the Form I-130 (such as concurrently filed Forms I-485).

  • USCIS will make a concerted effort to identify denials of I-130 petitions that occurred on the basis of DOMA section 3 after February 23, 2011.  USCIS will also make a concerted effort to notify you (the petitioner), at your last known address, of the reopening and request updated information in support of your petition.
  • To alert USCIS of an I-130 petition that you believe falls within this category, USCIS recommends that you send an e-mail from an account that can receive replies to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov stating that you have a pending petition.  USCIS will reply to that message with follow-up questions as necessary to update your petition for processing.  (DHS has sought to keep track of DOMA denials that occurred after the President determined not to defend Section 3 of DOMA on February 23, 2011, although to ensure that DHS is aware of your denial, please feel free to alert USCIS if you believe your application falls within this category.)
  • For denials of I-130 petitions that occurred prior to February 23, 2011, you must notify USCIS by March 31, 2014, in order for USCIS to act on its own to reopen your I-130 petition.  Please notify USCIS by sending an e-mail to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov and noting that you believe that your petition was denied on the basis of DOMA section 3.

Once your I-130 petition is reopened, it will be considered anew—without regard to DOMA section 3—based upon the information previously submitted and any new information provided.   USCIS will also concurrently reopen associated applications as may be necessary to the extent they also were denied as a result of the denial of the I-130 petition (such as concurrently filed Form I-485 applications).

Additionally, if your work authorization was denied or revoked based upon the denial of the Form I-485, the denial or revocation will be concurrently reconsidered, and a new Employment Authorization Document issued, to the extent necessary.  If a decision cannot be rendered immediately on a reopened adjustment of status application, USCIS will either (1) immediately process any pending or denied application for employment authorization or (2) reopen and approve any previously revoked application for employment authorization.  If USCIS has already obtained the applicant’s biometric information at an Application Support Center (ASC), a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be produced and delivered without any further action by the applicant.  In cases where USCIS has not yet obtained the required biometric information, the applicant will be scheduled for an ASC appointment.

  • If another type of petition or application (other than an I-130 petition or associated application) was denied based solely upon DOMA section 3, please notify USCIS by March 31, 2014, by sending an e-mail to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov as directed above.  USCIS will promptly consider whether reopening of that petition or application is appropriate under the law and the circumstances presented.

No fee will be required to request USCIS to consider reopening your petition or application pursuant to this procedure.  In the alternative to this procedure, you may file a new petition or application to the extent provided by law and according to the form instructions including payment of applicable fees as directed.

Clearly, USCIS is committed to implementing policies and regulations based upon the US Supreme Court’s recent finding. By reopening previously denied petitions and taking steps to provide same sex couples with the same standing as different-sex couples in future immigration adjudications this agency is making great strides toward equalizing the US family immigration process for families of all kinds.

To review the recently released information on this topic from the Department of State please see: Consular Processing.

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5th August 2013

In a previous posting on this blog, the recently released answers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to frequently asked questions regarding same sex immigration petitions were analyzed. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American State Department has released a similar set of answers to FAQs regarding this topic.  To quote directly from the official website of the U.S. State Separtment:

Q: How does the Supreme Court’s Windsor v. United States decision impact immigration law?

A: The Supreme Court has found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.   This means that the same sex spouse of a visa applicant coming to the U.S. for any purpose – including work, study, international exchange or as a legal immigrant – will be eligible for a derivative visa.  Likewise, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriages can also qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status. [italics added]

As previously discussed on this blog, the fact that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been found unConstitutional by the United States Supreme Court means that an American Citizen, or lawful permant resident, can now petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for imigration benefits for a same sex spouse (or fiance, so long as the petitioner is an American Citizen). However, the US State Department, which is responsible for Consular Processing of visa applications, had yet to make specific comments regarding adjudication of visa application based upon a same sex marriage (or fiance) immigration petition. As can be seen from above, the Department of State has brought their procedures into line with the recent Supreme Court decision.

Of interest to many same sex couples is the issue of jurisdiction as same sex marriages are only recognized by a limited number of US States. The following portion of the aforementioned FAQ focuses on this point:

Q: Do we have to live or intend to live in a state in which same sex marriage is legal in order to qualify for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa?

A: No. If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for immigration purposes.  For more information, please review the following page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) website. [italics added]

As there are a limited umber of U.S. jurisdictions which recognize and solemnize same sex marriage as well as a number of States in which such marriages are forbade, there have been questions among legal professionals as well as same sex couples regarding whether the U.S. Immigration officers and Consular Officers at various U.S. posts abroad would fail to approve visa applications and immigration petitions based upon the fact that an LGBT couple may be married in one State and residing in another. In a previous posting on this blog, the USCIS’s answer to this question rested on the “law of the place where the marriage took place“. Basically, USCIS appears willing to approve an otherwise valid immigration petition based upon a same sex marriage if the same sex marriage is performed in a State which allows such unions. Apparently, the Department of State has set a similar policy, thereby allowing an otherwise valid same sex marriage visa application, based upon an USCIS-approved immigration petition, to be approved. However, there are some jurisdictions around the world which may recognize same-sex unions, but do not necessarily categorize them as “marriages”. In those circumstances the Department of State had the following to say:

Q: I am in a civil union or domestic partnership; will this be treated the same as a marriage?

A: At this time, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for  immigration purposes. [italics added]

Although the above answer appears to be rather straightforward, there is one question, of possibly more significance, that many unmarried same sex couples may be pondering:

Q: I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex.  We cannot marry in my fiancé’s country. What are our options? Can we apply for a fiancé K visa?

A: You may file a Form I-129F and apply for a fiancé(e) (K) visa.  As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage.  For information on adjusting status, please review the following page on USCIS’s website:

Since same sex unmarried couples are now permitted to apply for a K-1 visa, it would now appear possible for the LGBT fiance of an American Citizen to apply for a US fiance visa with the intention of marrying in one of those jurisdictions in the United States which recognize same sex marriages.

Another issue which may arise in the context of same sex marriage is the issue of non-immigrant visas (also known as NIVs). These are visa categories which do not confer immigrant status upon those who use them. The Department of State website posted the following information regarding NIVs for same sex married couples:

Q: Can same sex couples now apply for visas in the same classification?

A: Yes. Starting immediately, same-sex spouses and their children are equally eligible for NIV derivative visas.  Same-sex spouses and their children (stepchildren of the primary applicant when the marriage takes place before the child turns 18) can qualify as derivatives where the law permits issuance of the visa to a spouse or stepchild.  In cases where additional documentation has always been required of a spouse applying with a principal applicant, such documentation will also be required in the case of a same-sex spouse… [italics added]

Finally, a point to note for those LGBT couples who are in a situation in which the foreign spouse has children:  

Q: My foreign national spouse has children. Can they also be included with my spouse’s case?

A: Yes, the children of foreign national spouses can be considered “step-children” of the U.S. citizens and can therefore benefit from a petition filed on their behalf in the IR2 category.    In other categories, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriage can qualify as beneficiaries (F2A) or for derivative status (F3, F4, E1-E4, or DV).  You and your spouse must have married before the child turned 18. [itlaics added]

Clearly, the Department of State allows for step-children of Americans or lawful permanent residents to immigrate where the LGBT couple was married prior to the step-child’s 18th birthday. From the information posted on the State Department’s website regarding non-immigrant visas one could infer that an American Citizen’s prospective step-children (i.e. the children of a foreign fiance) may also be eligible to obtain a K-2 visa based upon the bona fide intention of the American Citizen and his or her foreign fiance to marry in the United States.

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