Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘Upcoming Legislation’ Category

4th June 2016

In recent weeks the Bangkok Post has reported on a great many changes that are currently being undertaken by officials in the Thai government. In fact, it appears that the judicial system in Thailand has been the subject of rather drastic reform in recent years. To quote directly from an article posted on the Bangkok Post official website on May 18th:

Up to 35 laws concerning judicial affairs have been amended over the past two years…Of the 35 laws amended in the past two years, 11 have come into effect, he said. They are the land transport act; the bankruptcy act, the act on prevention and suppression of terrorism financing; the the anti-money laundering act; the justice fund act; the ministerial, departmental, and divisional improvement act; the act on amendments of the Civil Procedure Code. Also on the list are the act on the procedure of suspect detentions under the 1963 and the 2016 versions of the Criminal Code…

The reforms noted above have only been implemented relatively recently so it may take some time before the effects of these measures can be readily ascertained. At the same time, measures have been put in place in an attempt to thwart transnational criminals in the form of protocol changes regarding the sharing of information regarding criminal matters arising in Thailand. It also appears that new measures have been promulgated in an effort to curb corruption. Apparently, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission is poised to begin more assiduous corruption suppression initiatives.

The judiciary is not the only sector seeing reform initiatives recently. The tax authorities appear to be taking measures to make the Thai tax system more equitable, especially for those employed by Thai companies operating outside of Thailand. To quote from an article from the aforementioned website from May 23rd:

The Finance Ministry is poised to adjust the personal income tax system for Thais working abroad and foreigners who work here to create fairness and attract foreign direct investment…According to the Revenue Code, employees working for companies incorporated in Thailand are subject to personal income tax regardless of where they work…The way Thailand charges personal income tax is based on where employers have been set up rather than the source of income as in other countries…Thailand’s taxation of personal income is not fair and needs to be adjusted…

It appears that the Permanent Secretary plans to propose an amendment to the Revenue code to address the currently perceived unfairness in the Revenue Code. How such a proposed amendment will ultimately fare remains to be seen, but should the amendment be adopted it would be beneficial for some employees of corporations incorporated in Thailand.

In light of these stories it is interesting that the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand has noted Thailand’s readiness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (also known as the TPP). For those unaware, the TPP is a trade agreement composed of 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam). Other nations have expressed interest in joining the TPP in recent years. To quote the Bangkok Post article on this issue from June 1st:

Mr Somkid said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has confirmed the country’s readiness to join the TPP, and a committee chaired by Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn has been set up to prepare for the move…”Thailand cannot afford to be complacent. We can take lessons from other member countries. At this point, we are ready to join the TPP. It depends on when they will accept us…”

Clearly, officials in the Thai government seem enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the TPP. However, the article goes on to note that measures are being taken to assess the ramifications of Thailand becoming a TPP member. It was also noted that Thailand would monitor the effect the TPP has had on other countries prior to making firm commitments to join the TPP. It seems likely that analysis of the experiences of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore within the TPP framework will be utilized in order to better determine Thailand’s official petition to join the trade bloc and the timing thereof.

Thailand is clearly taking steps on many fronts to bring governance and regulations into line with global standards. When and how these efforts will bear fruit remains to be seen, but it is definitely an interesting time for students of Thai legal and regulatory matters.

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5th December 2015

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal a new bill proposed by the United States Congress was discussed:

Under a new law expected to take effect in January, the State Department will block Americans with “seriously delinquent” tax debt from receiving new passports and will be allowed to rescind existing passports of people who fall into that category. The list of affected taxpayers will be compiled by the Internal Revenue Service using a threshold of $50,000 of unpaid federal taxes, including penalties and interest, which would be adjusted for inflation.

Clearly this proposed legislation could have significant ramifications for Americans living abroad. Presently, Americans abroad could only see their passports rescinded or applications for renewals denied where said applicants have outstanding criminal warrants in the United States of America or are delinquent on their child support. The proposed legislation comes after the relatively recent  implementation of FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which requires foreign banking institutions to report the financial activities of American citizens making financial transactions abroad. There have been some who disapprove of FATCA and there have been moves made in the US Federal Court to challenge the law’s constitutionality. However, at present the law remains part of the current American legal framework with respect to overseas bank accounts. As a possible consequence, in recent years there have been a growing number of individuals who have opted to renounce their United States Citizenship. It is clear that more and more people are opting to renounce their United States Citizenship. Each individual’s renunciation is likely based upon a different calculus, but it seems clear that recent changes to American tax policy have had a significant impact upon Americans living abroad.

The recent announcement that passports could be revoked as a consequence of tax delinquency seems likely to cause the number of Citizenship renunciations to increase. Although, it remains to be seen if this new policy will have a significant impact upon renunciations. Regardless of the fact that 50,000 USD seems like a substantial amount of money it will be interesting to see if the proposed legislation will allow for a form of COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) style system whereby the amount of money in tax delinquency which would trigger a passport renunciation would increase year by year in order to track inflation. It is unlikely that such a scheme would be implemented because Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) requirements have not changed since the late 70′s. Therefore it stands to reason that the passport issuance requirements will stay frozen. Therefore, this legislation, although unlikely to have a significant impact upon Americans abroad anytime soon could have serious ramifications for Americans in 15-20 years time when 50,000 USD is not the representation of wealth that it is today.

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1st August 2015

In recent weeks there has been a great deal of speculation and confusion surrounding the implementation of an alcohol ban in Thailand. Initially it was reported that a new nationwide ordinance was to come into effect whereby no one would be permitted to sell alcohol near schools in Thailand. It was then reported that such an ordinance had in fact been signed. This placed some business proprietors in Thailand into a state of consternation as the effect of the new rules would have significant impact upon their businesses. Furthermore, there were those who speculated that property owners in the relevant areas might lose real estate value in light of the new regulations.

However, Thai officials apparently reversed their decision at the last minute. Notwitstanding the fact that the proposed ordiance was signed by relevant officials, the text of the newly promulgated regulation was apparently not published in the Royal Thai Gazette and it would seem the proposed regulation has been withdrawn for the time being in order to more thoroughly review the overall policy regarding alcohol consumption and distribution in Thailand.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that from the 30th through the 31st of July, Thailand maintained an effective ban on alcohol pursuant to previously enacted legislation barring alcohol sales during significant Buddhist holidays. Notwithstanding the fact that the regulatory changes noted above were rescinded it remains illegal in Thailand (except under narrow circumstances) to sell alcohol during major Buddhist holidays.

In recent years there has been an upsurge in ordinances regarding alcohol sales. It appears that officials in Thailand are attempting to balance the need to maintain tourism with the conservative outlook of the majority of Thai people, especially on the issue of alcohol consumption. Where the balance will ultimately rest remains to be seen, but it is logical to infer that the alcohol laws in Thailand may be altered in the near future. Such changes seem unlikely to be as stringent as the recently proposed rules, but some form of regulatory change may be on the horizon.

Failure to comply with relevant regulations regarding alcohol sales could result in civil and criminal penalties for individuals and companies in Thailand. As of the time of this writing this blogger has been made aware of numerous anecdotes noting heightened police presence in entertainment areas in an effort to suppress alcohol sales during the Buddhist holidays. Thai authorities take violations of alcohol regulations seriously and this is especially the case during major Buddhist holidays in Thailand. Those establishments violating alcohol regulations could see their Thai alcohol licenses suspended or even rescinded depending upon the circumstances of the situation. Liquor sales in Thailand are often a significant component of a restaurant or entertainment venue’s revenue and therefore complying with relevant regulations could prove vital to such businesses in Thailand.

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27th March 2011

The administration of this blog has been monitoring the evolving situation in the United States of intrastate legislation among some of the sovereign 50 States to reform legal tender laws. There are some recent developments regarding this interesting and legally complex issue that could have ramifications for the global commodities markets, global business community, APEC, ASEAN, Thailand, and China. To quote directly from Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, in a post on the TruthAlliance.net website entitled “Utah Senate Passes Gold/Silver Legal Tender Law; Awaits Governor Signature“:

The Utah Legislature on Thursday passed a bill allowing gold and silver coins to be used as legal tender in the state — and for the value of their precious metal, not just the face value of the coins.

In a previous posting on this blog it was noted that the lower chamber of Utah’s government, the Utah House of Representatives, had passed the legislation referred to above, but at that time there seemed to be little information pertaining to the reasoning behind the passage of such legislation. The article cited above is quite informative in its coverage of this unfolding situation. To quote further from the aforementioned article:

The legislation directs a state committee to look at whether Utah should recognize an official alternate form of legal tender which could become a path for creating a formal state gold standard.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, said he has not yet taken a public stance on the bill.

State Rep. Brad J. Galvez, the chief sponsor of the measure, said he views it as a preliminary step on the path toward securing Utah’s business climate.

“If the dollar continues to fall, what this will do will help stabilize the value of the dollar in Utah, so it helps stabilize the economy,” Mr. Galvez, a Republican, said.

While similar legislation has been proposed in nearly a dozen states, Mr. Galvez said that if Mr. Herbert signs his bill, Utah will be just the second state to official recognize the coins as legal tender. Colorado has recognized gold and silver for decades, he said.[sic]

Those reading this posting are encouraged to click on the hyperlinks above to read the text of this article in full.

Clearly, Utah is not the only American State that is taking monetary measures with an eye toward maintaining a comparative advantage in the national and international business markets along with a healthy State economy. It will be interesting to see what position will ultimately be taken by the Governor of Utah as his stance on the issue has yet to be discerned as of the time of the writing cited above. Issues involving the currency within States can have tremendous ramifications and it would appear that due consideration is being taken.

The article was also notable for this blogger as it elucidated a thought from a legislator in Virgina who is advocating for similar legislation in that State. To quote further from the article by Stephen Dinan:

In Virginia, Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a Republican, successfully pushed through a bill — not yet signed by the governor — that authorizes the state to mint gold, silver and platinum coins. He said that there is probably a good market for collectors who would prefer not to have to buy federally minted coins and said state-minted ones would create a backstop against inflation.

“I’m looking at Congress, and I’m looking at what the Chinese are doing, and I don’t have a lot of confidence in what’s going on there,” Mr. Marshall said. “This is one way where Virginia can help our citizens as a security hedge against the inflationary action of Congress.”

This was an interesting insight for this blogger because it provides hope that more legislators on the State level are looking abroad when formulating policies which are designed to have a direct impact upon the lives of State Citizens. Although the United States Federal government’s enumerated powers provide wide latitude in matters of an international character, some international trends can have a significant economic impact upon the economics of a purely intrastate nature. Therefore, in the world in which we now live even legislators at the State level must have an eye on the evolving business and economic dynamics of countries as far geographically afield as Thailand, China, or any of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member states in order to make fully informed decisions regarding the enactment of legislation which could impact those within that legislature’s jurisdiction.

As noted in the quotation above, the Governor of Virginia has yet to sign the legislation pending in that State. Therefore, the ultimate outcome remains to be seen, but one thing remains clear: few lawmakers are taking this legislation lightly as evidenced by the alacrity of these legislatures’ votes and the taciturn position of these States’ respective Governors.

This issue is coming to the foreground of the national political spectrum at a time when the legal issues surrounding the issue of same sex marriage and interstate Full Faith and Credit Clause interpretation versus the Federal-State sovereign relationship in the context of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized pursuant to the laws of sovereign American States is coming to the attention of the United States Federal Appellate Courts in the form of cases which have the potential to directly contravene the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In an American Immigration context, Federal legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York have continued to push legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would allow the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to adjudicate petitions for same sex “permanent partners” of United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents in the same manner as different sex couples.  How the issues associated with legal tender reform and the issues associated with Full Faith and Credit for State recognized same sex marriages will be resolved remains to be seen, but clearly such issues will remain noteworthy as time goes on.

For information related to these issues please see: US Visa Thailand or Same Sex Visa.

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13th February 2011

This blogger writes this blog post with an eye on the news circulating from the United States Congress. As a United States Citizen and as a Citizen of the State of Kansas this blogger would ask the United States Government: think what you are asking America to stomach this February 2011, and then understand our frustration at your seeming unwillingness to properly discuss the issues that impact Americans’ lives most

The question of the so-called Patriot Act. You ask us to support the extension of a bill that, to quote Mr. Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune on the website NOLA.com:

The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was Section 215, the so-called library records provision that gives the FBI court-approved access to “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation.

The third deals with the “lone-wolf” provision of a 2004 anti-terror law that permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. people not known to be affiliated with a specific terrorist organization.

America, the land of the Free and the home of the Brave allows access to “any tangible thing” relevant to a “terrorism investigation” and calls this compliance with the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution? Furthermore, so-called “roving” wiretaps, a term which could, and possibly should, be interpreted incredibly broadly; may allow government access to a huge range of private personal correspondence at little government effort. The extreme nature of the Patriot Act’s provisions beg the question: why is the issue of the American people being further subjected to the provisions of this law being seemingly fast tracked? Furthermore, why is this legislation being fast tracked in light of recent findings that the FBI may systematically have violated many Americans 4th amendment rights on a regular basis?

As a Citizen of the State of Kansas and as an American Citizen Resident Abroad I must take exception with the proposed extension of the so-called “lone wolf” surveillance noted above. Is this what we want to show our allies (and, dare I say, our enemies) at a time we need their goodwill the most? Are we going to show that we continue to endorse this sort of behavior on the part of our government as it pertains to “non-U.S.” people? Then if it is such a good idea, why not debate the matter? Why attempt to “fast track” this legislation through? Why is there never enough time to discuss these issues? In a recent posting on the website opencongress.org, the poster, Donny Shaw noted how seemingly obsessed the US House of Representatives seems to have recently become with some of the minutia of Congressional business while trying to quickly pass the Patriot Act extension brooking little discussion:

On Wednesday the Rules Committee got together for 10 minutes to decide that extending the three most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act would be allowed 1 hour of debate on the floor. The day before that they met for more than an hour and decided to give 9.5 hours of debate to …wait for it… a non-binding resolution directing committees to hold hearings on regulations that businesses don’t like.

Distinguished Gentlemen and Gentlewomen who make up our legislative branch of government, can you see from the above citation how the common American might view your handling of this Patriot Act extension matter as rather, well, perfunctory? I would hope that you do not take this the wrong way, but as a law abiding tax paying Citizen I want some oversight! I want some debate! I want someone to stand up and take notice of the giant wall of lies that has been built up around the Patriot Act and the way in which it is utilized. The 4th Amendment of the Constitution is not just some ordinary document that is tread upon with impunity. The Constitution is woven into the inherent fabric of the American being. The 4th Amendment of the Constitution contains the reference to the preexisting and inalienable right of the People of the United States to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Yes, a RIGHT! Citizens have them. States have them, human beings have them!

When one attempts to restrict or infringe upon something that is inherent to the being of a natural person or a body politic then that person or body politic cries out. This outcry occurs in much the same way as the human body cries out in pain as someone or something tries to harm it. In fact, to capture the zeitgeist of President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that type of cry from the body politic comes with the “fierce urgency of now!” The body politic is crying out with a fierce urgency and it is crying for an end to the Patriot Act.

112th United States Congress, this blogger asks you to ponder this: personal freedom is not a partisan issue. To quote Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” And to drive home the point further this blogger must quote Republican President Ronald Reagan when he stood at the Eastern outpost of the Free World and demanded at the Brandenburg Gate that the Soviet Union “Tear Down This Wall!” This blogger was a toddler when that event unfolded, but it may be the defining moment of a generation as the shackles of tyranny were loosed and the mighty Titans known as Liberty and Freedom were once again free to take their rightful place in Central and Eastern Europe. These notions have flourished in these locations, but the tree from whence this fruit has sprung is sickly as of late. That is why this blogger urges Congress to tear down this law! Show the world that we are America, land of the free!

This blogger was unhappy to watch a recent YouTube interview in which it was noted by Representative Ron Paul, a staunch opponent of the so-called “Patriot Act,” that the United States Congress was apparently wanting to pass the “Patriot Act” extension “as quietly as possible”. Why does this legislation need to be passed as quietly as possible? Is it because it might be MASSIVELY UNPOPULAR! No one really cares about polls and focus groups when it comes to matters of freedom from government surveillance. To put it simply: people do not like the Patriot Act. In fact, it would appear that notwithstanding little floor time devoted to discussion on the matter of the possible extension, there appears to be a very broad cross-section of the American body politic that does not favor extending the restrictions imposed by the Patriot Act. Representative Dennis Kucinich has recently made his feelings on the matter heard when he noted that it would “behoove the White House to align itself with the Constitution.” Representative Kucinich has also praised the Tea Party movement, or perhaps specifically the core of the Tea Party Movement, for adhering to the Constitution in voting to not extend the any provisions of the so-called Patriot Act. Perhaps the same bi-partisan accolades could be extended to the Republicans? Although this would seem unlikely as the so-called “Mainstream” Section of the Grand Old Party seems to hope for quick passage for the extension of the restriction of Americans’ right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. That said, some “Mainstream” Republicans broke away and voted against the extension. Such activity should be encouraged and hopefully others from the GOP will see “the light” and follow suit.

The Patriot Act, in many ways, is a symbol of everything that is going wrong within the American System. The negative reverberating clang from the Patriot Act can be felt when the American people have their private parts groped prior to boarding virtually any conveyance for air travel. That same reverberation can be felt when body scanners bombard American travelers with questionably healthy levels of radiation. The reverberation can be felt when the free flow of ideas is chilled by legislation designed to stifle the inherent rights guaranteed in the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Constitution is not a “talking point” it is not a “sound bite” it is not a “meme”. It is the Supreme Law of The United States of America and its provisions are to be guarded zealously. The efforts and votes of the triumvirate of the Tea Party Caucus should not be overlooked in this posting. To quote directly from the Washington Post:

The Republicans who voted no Tuesday night included Roscoe G. Bartlett (Md.), Paul Broun (Ga.) and Walter B. Jones (N.C.), all of whom were original members of the House Tea Party Caucus when it was founded last summer.

The administration of this blog highly recommends interested parties click on the link above to read the full posting by the Washington Post and receive a more precise breakdown of the voting on this issue. From all of the evidence presented above, it is clear that the movement to let the Patriot Act expire has been given a boost by the incoming Congress. To the Federal legislators who voted for the Patriot Act extension, bear this in mind; the voters are watching this issue carefully. As a legislator, one could look at this as an opportunity. This blogger must ask any legislators reading this to imagine Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Peter Venkman, in the original Ghostbusters movie when reading the following line: if you, the US Congress vote against this measure, then YOU, the legislators, could save the rights of millions of registered voters!

To those Federal legislators debating which way to vote on this issue, ponder this: you do not need to “enhance your credibility” when you vote in favor of the United States Constitution. There need be no “spin”. You just tell the people something like this: “Yeah, the Patriot Act, it violates our rights, I voted against it, next question.” An easy one, isn’t that a Win-Win? In the era of politics 2.0 the electorate is acutely aware of the activities of our elected representatives and we expect our interests to be taken into consideration when voting on matters that pertain to our civil and Constitutional rights.

To the legislators who voted against the Patriot Act, thank you, your courage will not be forgotten. To those who continue to vote for this legislation please be advised: 2012 is coming and electorate 2.0 has a surprisingly longer memory than you might think.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For related information please see: Patriot Act Extension.

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1st October 2010

As the previous post on this blog pointed out the issue of LGBT Immigration and the cause of same sex bi-national couples seeking equal rights in the realm of American immigration law has been an issue for some time. It has recently been noted on the lezgetreal.com website that Senator Robert Menendez has introduced a new proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, to quote Melanie Nathan of the aforementioned website directly:

Kathy Drasky from OUT4Immigration, the group responsible for most of the grass root outreach and letter writing campaign announced on the www.Out4Immigration.org blog today that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has introduced comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation that is truly comprehensive – it includes provision for same-sex binational couples.

“This monumental achievement comes after months of phone calls, letters and visits to Congressional representatives and their staffers by Out4Immigration, Immigration Equality and many, many other individuals and groups dedicated to ending immigration discrimination against LGBT Americans with foreign partners or, as we are collectively known, same-sex binational couples.

It remains unclear whether this legislation will ultimately be adopted by the United States Congress and become US law, but introduction of this legislation in combination with two pending cases in the United States Federal Courts drastically increases the odds of seeing at least some form of change in the restrictions imposed upon same sex bi-national couples under the language of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

That said, there are some who feel that passage of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill may not necessarily mean that this current bill’s UAFA-like language will be included in the final draft. As legislation does not become law until final adoption by both the United States Congress and Senate with Presidential approval. Should the President opt to veto the legislation, then there may be no change to the current immigration restrictions placed upon same sex couples (even those legally married in a US jurisdiction) seeking American visa benefits. Furthermore, should the language of this bill change prior to final adoption, then there may be no change to the current circumstances in which many same sex bi-national couples find themselves in. Therefore, until this legislation is fully adopted, it remains likely that supporters of this legislation, as well as opponents, will remain active in promoting their respective causes.

For related information please see: Same Sex marriage visa.

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9th August 2010

Those who keep up with Immigration news have no doubt noticed the increasing tensions that have been caused by problems along the Southwestern Border of the United States. In a recent announcement distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association it was noted that a new Senate Bill was passed which could provide new funding for increased border security initiatives. To quote the announcement directly:

On 8/5/10, with hours left before the beginning on the August recess, the Senate passed a $600 million emergency spending bill aimed at increasing border security. The bill, titled the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, was passed by a voice vote.

Senator Schumer (D-NY), along with several Democratic colleagues, introduced the Border Security Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 (S.3721) and used it as a substitute amendment to H.R. 5875, a bill passed by the House of Representatives on 7/28/10. Further action is required before H.R. 5875, as passed by the Senate, can be sent to President Obama’s desk for signature.

It is unclear at this point if the House of Representatives, which is set to return for a short two day session on 8/09/10, will take up the Senate measure or whether they will wait until September…

In response to the passage of this Bill, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, made the following statement:

“I commend the Senate for passing the Southwest Border bill to add important, permanent resources to continue bolstering security on our Southwest border. These assets are critical to bringing additional capabilities to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons. Over the past eighteen months, this Administration has dedicated unprecedented personnel, technology, and resources to the border and we will continue to take decisive action to disrupt criminal organizations and the networks they exploit. I encourage the House to act quickly on this bill to strengthen our historic border security efforts.”

The final resolution remains to be seen, but there are many who feel strongly about this issue and it is likely that the subject of undocumented immigration will remain controversial heading into the upcoming Congressional elections. That said, Comprehensive Immigration Reform may still be on the horizon notwithstanding bills passed in an effort to deal with the current issues along the US-Mexican border.

For related information please see: Comprehensive Immigration Reform. For information about bringing a loved one to the United States with proper documentation please see: K1 visa or US Marriage Visa.

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21st July 2010

In a recent press release from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it was announced that a fee waiver form has been proposed in an effort to streamline the process whereby indigent aliens in the USA apply for relief from Immigration fees. To quote the announcement, as promulgated by USCIS and distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed for the first time a standardized fee waiver form in an effort to provide relief for financially disadvantaged individuals seeking immigration benefits…

Apparently, the current version of the fee waiver form is the product of time, research, and study as USCIS has attempted to provide relief to those who cannot pay the government processing fees while still maintaining the integrity of the overall system. To quote the aforementioned announcement further:

The proposed fee waiver form is the product of extensive collaboration with the public. In meetings with stakeholders, USCIS heard concerns that the absence of a standardized fee waiver form led to confusion about the criteria that had to be met as well as the adjudication standards. USCIS worked with stakeholders in developing the fee waiver form that is now posted for comment. “Our goal is to bring clarity and consistency to our processes,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “We are doing so now in the critical area of providing the financially disadvantaged with access to immigration benefits.”

Mayorkas further stated that the method by which the proposed fee waiver form was devised – through extensive collaboration with the public – will be a hallmark of his approach to improving agency processes. Currently, applicants requesting a fee waiver must do so by submitting an affidavit or unsworn declaration requesting a fee waiver and stating the reasons why he/she is unable to pay the filing fee. The new proposed fee waiver form is designed to verify that an applicant for an immigration benefit is unable to pay the fee for the benefit sought. The proposed form provides clear criteria and an efficient way to collect and process the information.

It is admirable to see USCIS taking an active interest in providing relief to those customers who are truly in need. That said, it remains to be seen how this proposal will be received particularly in light of the fact that USCIS has recently announced shortfalls in its budget. Some feel that providing this type of relief runs counter to the notion of USCIS as a self-funded agency. In any case, this author hopes to see this proposal passed if it increases the probability of providing much needed assistance to those wishing to travel to, or remain in, the United States of America for bona fide reasons.

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26th June 2010

In a recent posting on the Chiang Mai Mail website, issues surrounding foreigners’ rights in Thailand were discussed. The issues came up in the context of a recent road show conducted by the Thai Ministry of the Interior. Foreigners residing in Thailand sometimes find it difficult to fully exercise their rights as the rules themselves can be somewhat vague. For example, the issue of alien registration on a Thai Tabien Baan can be confusing as few foreign nationals are fully aware of their right’s regarding registration. To quote the Chiang Mai Mail’s report about the recent Interior Ministry Roadshow:

Holders of Permanent residency can get a blue book (Tor Ror 14) and holders of temporary visas can get on the yellow book (Tor Ror 13) before they can apply for naturalization. The Provincial Administration reiterated an important point, that foreigners have the right to be listed on the census registration, “It is not well known even among officials. We have contacted registration officials that you have this right and you should insist on it.”

For many, registration on a Yellow Tabien Baan is beneficial because many Thai government offices view a Tabien Baan as definitive proof of lawful presence in Thailand and use the information in the Tabien Baan accordingly. Another issue that came up at the aforementioned roadshow was the issue of naturalization of those seeking Thai Citizenship. In the past, the language requirements for naturalization were rather stringent. During the recent roadshow the spokesperson for the Interior Ministry commented upon the revised linguistic requirements for naturalization to Thai Citizenship:

The requirements for naturalization were laid out, including the income requirements for both those married to Thais and those not married to Thais. The linguistics requirement has been reduced but the applicant must be able to sing the National and Royal anthems. Speaking and listening is mandatory but reading and writing is no longer required.

Finally, of particular interest to many foreign nationals in Thailand is that of the 90 day “check in” for foreigners present in the Kingdom on a “temporary” visa such as a Thai business visa or a Thai O visa. Regarding the Ministry of Interior’s stance on the issue, the Chiang Mai Mail was quoted as saying:

The next issue under discussion was Immigration and the right of habitation. Immigration officials discussed the various visas and how to obtain them as well as how to obtain Permanent Residency. The main issue of contention brought up by multiple Consul Generals, including Japanese Consul General Junko Yakata, was that of the 90 day reporting required of all foreigners on long stay visa extensions. Consul General Yakata told the officials that there are 3,000 Japanese nationals living in Northern Thailand. She requested a simplification of the process, perhaps by extending the length of time needed in between reports.

Chinese Consul General Zhu Weimin requested a change in the 90 day reporting procedure as well, citing the large numbers of Chinese students who attend Chiang Mai schools who cannot take time off from school to travel to Immigration to report. He suggested they open on the weekends for those who have jobs and classes.

The official justified the 90 day reporting by saying “it allows us the best possible protection. If someone goes missing then we have more recent information as to their whereabouts to give to the Embassy.”

90 day reporting is currently required of those foreigners remaining in Thailand on a Thai visa extension. Anyone in the Kingdom on an extension must report their address every 90 days. As can be gathered from the above quotation, some foreign nationals in Thailand feel that the 90 day reporting requirement is cumbersome. However, Thai authorities seem unwilling to change the rules as the current system would seem to provide the most efficient method of maintaining records as to the last known addresses of foreign nationals in Thailand. This is important as Thai authorities can use the data from 90 day reporting to apprise foreign governments of the location of their citizens for purposes of death or disappearance in Thailand. In this author’s opinion, the 90 day reporting scheme is rather cumbersome, but no one, as of yet, has provided a feasible alternative which would comport to the needs of all concerned.

For Related Information please see: Thailand Permanent Residence.

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23rd June 2010

On this blog we often discuss issues associated with US passports and US Immigration. Recently, this author discovered that the Department of State (DOS) is seeking comments regarding a proposed rule change which would alter the way in which DOS collects information prior to American passport issuance. The following excerpts are taken from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website. To quote one page from the AILA website:

The Department of State is seeking Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for the information collection described below. The purpose of this notice is to allow 60 days for public comment in the Federal Register preceding submission to OMB. We are conducting this process in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995….

Abstract of proposed collection:

The information collected on the DS-3053 is used to facilitate the issuance of passports to U.S. citizens and nationals under the age of 16. The primary purpose of soliciting the information is to ensure that both parents and/or all guardians consent to the issuance of a passport to a minor under age 16, except where one parent has sole custody or there are exigent or special family circumstances.

Methodology:

Passport Services collects information from U.S. citizens and non- citizen nationals when they complete and submit the Statement of Consent or Special Circumstances: Issuance of a Passport to a Minor under Age 16. Passport applicants can either download the DS-3053 from the Internet or obtain one from an Acceptance Facility/Passport Agency. The form must be completed, signed, and submitted along with the applicant’s DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport…

Clearly the Department of State wishes to use the DS-3053 in order to collect what they deem to be the necessary information before issuing a passport to a minor child. The public policy reasons for this change of rules is somewhat obvious as the Department is likely concerned about improper issuance of a US passport to minor.

To quote another page on the AILA website:

60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Form DS-5504, Application for a U.S. Passport: Name Change, Data Correction, and Limited Passport Book Replacement, OMB Control Number 1405-0160…

The Department of State is seeking Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for the information collection described below. The purpose of this notice is to allow 60 days for public comment in the Federal Register preceding submission to OMB. We are conducting this process in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995…

We are soliciting public comments to permit the Department to:

Evaluate whether the proposed information collection is necessary for the proper performance of our functions…

The information collected on the DS-5504 is used to facilitate the re-issuance of passports to U.S. citizens and nationals when (a) the passport holder’s name has changed within the first year of the issuance of the passport; (b) the passport holder needs correction of descriptive information on the data page of the passport; or (c) the passport holder wishes to obtain a fully valid passport after obtaining a full-fee passport with a limited validity of two years or less. The primary purpose of soliciting the information is to establish citizenship, identity, and entitlement of the applicant to the U.S. passport or related service, and to properly administer and enforce the laws pertaining to the issuance thereof…

In this instance, it would seem that the Department of State is primarily concerned with collecting necessary data so as to issue US passports only to those individuals who are legally entitled to such travel documents. US Citizenship has many benefits that are not accorded to Non-US Citizens. Therefore, those issuing US passports must take appropriate measures to ensure that US passports are not issued to individuals who are not legally entitled to such status. With laws such as the Child Citizenship Act, these measures are likely to become more necessary as individuals are deriving their US Citizenship in different way compared to Americans in previous generations.

For those interested in obtaining a US Passport in Thailand or information about visa services please see: American Citizen Services or US Embassy Thailand.

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