Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘Visa Waiver’ Category

27th July 2013

Periodically, the administration of this web log post the estimated processing times from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). It should be noted that the following processing time estimates are exxactly that: estimates. Some petitions may process more quickly while other petitions may proccess more slowly. To quote directly from the USCIS official website:

Field Office Processing Dates for California Service Center as of: May 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 November 15, 2011
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 February 1, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 October 4, 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)] 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)] 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 November 28, 2011
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador extension 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador initial or late filing 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing 3 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition 3 Months
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) May 16, 2012
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) based on PL107-273 September 12, 1997
Field Office Processing Dates for Nebraska Service Center as of: May 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 March 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 January 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 January 16, 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 January 16, 2013
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 4 Months
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)] May 8, 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 El Salvador [(c)(19)(a)(12)] 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 6 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador extension 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador initial or late filing 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing 3 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition January 15, 2013
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) 6 Months
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) based on PL107-273 6 Months
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: May 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-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 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 Based on grant of asylum more than 1 year ago 4 Months
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility 4 Months
I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition Petition for accompanying family members of a refugee or an asylee 5 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)] 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 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 January 7, 2013
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) based on PL107-273 6 Months
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: May 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 July 1, 2012
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 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-2B – Other temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-3 – Temporary trainees 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker L – Intracompany transfers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker O – Extraordinary ability 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker P – Athletes, artists, and entertainers 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Q – Cultural exchange visitors and exchange visitors participating in the Irish Peace process 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker R – Religious occupation 5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker TN – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional 2 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 April 16, 2012
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 9, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 April 9, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 March 5, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister December 4, 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 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) May 7, 2012
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications April 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-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)] March 27, 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 El Salvador [(c)(19)(a)(12)] October 31, 2010
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for Honduras/Nicaragua [(c)(19), (a)(12)] January 6, 2011
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 October 31, 2010
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador initial or late filing October 31, 2010
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension October 31, 2010
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing October 31, 2010
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition 3 Months
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card Initial issuance or replacement 3.5 Months
I-90A Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card Initial issuance or replacement for Special Agricultral Workers (SAW) 3.5 Months
I-914 Application for T Non-immigrant Status Provide temporary immigration benefits to an alien who is a victim of trafficking in persons, and immediate family 4 Months
I-918 Petition for U Non-immigrant Status Provide temporary immigration benefits to an alien who is a victim of qualifying criminal activity, and their qualifying family May 7, 2012

It should be also noted that although these USCIS estimated processing times can provide a general framework for understanding the time frames for petition adjudication by USCIS, these estimates do not necessarily reflect the estimated time frame for the entire US visa process especially if the unique circumstances of a given case requires Consular Processing of a US visa application at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad.

For a married couple seeking an IR1 visa or a CR1 Visa for a foreign spouse of US Citizen the process begins at the USCIS where the initial petition will be adjudicated. Assuming USCIS approves the initial petition, then the petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC will require certain documents before forwarding the application to a US Embassy or Consulate abroad where a foreign spouse must undergo an interview prior to the Consular Officer making a decision regarding visa issuance. In some cases, the Consular Officer may approve the visa application at the interview. Meanwhile, in some circumstances, the officer may deny the application (especially where a ground of inadmissibility is found to exist in the case and under such circumstances the applicant must be granted an I-601 waiver, or something similar, prior to the application receiving further favorable treatment). In some cases, the officer may simply find that some further evidence of the relationship or documentation pertaining to the foreign national is lacking and will thereby deny the application pursuant to section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under these circumstances, the 221(G) denial may be overcome by presenting further evidence to the Consular Officer and upon their finding that the relevant requirements have been met the application may be approved.

As one can infer from the above example, the USCIS estimateed  processing times may not accurately reflect the total time it may take to obtain a US visa since the process is sometimes more complex than simple USCIS petition approval.

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26th July 2013

It has come to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a new set of answers to frequently asked questions stemming from the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court which overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In previous postings on this blog the fact that lawful permanent residents and American Citizens with same-sex spouses can now file for immigration benefits for their same sex spouse has been discussed at length. That said, USCIS discussed this issue in their recently issued FAQ release, to quote directly from the USCIS website:

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?
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 automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage. [italics added]

As previously pointed out on this blog, the ability of American Citizens to file for immigration benefits for a same-sex foreign spouse is a fairly clear cut result of the recent Supreme Court decision finding Section 3 of DOMA unConstituional. It should be noted that the USCIS seems to also imply that a K3 visa would also now be a possibility for same sex couples as it could be construed to be an “applicable accompanying application”. However, an issue that was not so clearly dealt with by the Supreme Court’s decision pertains to the K-1 visa (US fiance visa). As Fiance visas are, by  definition, not based upon a marriage, but an intended marriage; further clarification from USCIS on these types of visas post-DOMA is considered by some to be quite helpful. To quote further from the aforementioned USCIS FAQ section:

Q2. I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex.  Can I file a fiancé or fiancée petition for him or her?
A2. Yes.  You may file a Form I-129F.  As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for marriage. [italics added]

This clarification from USCIS regarding the fiance visa in the context of same sex marriage, while helpful, is slightly qualified by the next section of the same FAQ page:

Q3: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?
A3: Yes, you can file the petition. In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward. [italics added]

Clearly, the US fiance visa is now a viable option for same sex couples with a bona fide intention to marry in those jurisdictions of the United States which recognize same sex marriage. Since the jurisdiction of the celebration of the intended marriage is USCIS’s primary concern it would appear that a K1 visa itself will be a possibility for same sex couples in the future. However, it would appear that some ancillary immigration benefits may or may not be available at this time for some same sex bi-national couples depending upon the unique residency circumstances of those couples.

Of further interest to some same sex couples will likely be the fact that there are benefits for the foreign same sex spouse of an American Citizen with respect to naturalization:

Q8. Can same-sex marriages, like opposite-sex marriages, reduce the residence period required for naturalization?
A8. Yes.  As a general matter, naturalization requires five years of residence in the United States following admission as a lawful permanent resident.  But, according to the immigration laws, naturalization is available after a required residence period of three years, if during that three year period you have been living in “marital union” with a U.S. citizen “spouse” and your spouse has been a United States citizen.  For this purpose, same-sex marriages will be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex marriages. [italics added]

Therefore, the same sex spouse of an American Citizen will be treated the same way as the opposite sex spouse of an American for purposes of obtaining US Citizenship based upon the couple’s marriage and lawful permanent residence obtained thereby. Finally, of further note in this recently issued USCIS FAQ page relates to the I-601 waiver process:

Q9. I know that the immigration laws allow discretionary waivers of certain inadmissibility grounds under certain circumstances.  For some of those waivers, the person has to be the “spouse” or other family member of a U.S. citizen or of a lawful permanent resident.  In cases where the required family relationship depends on whether the individual or the individual’s parents meet the definition of “spouse,” will same-sex marriages count for that purpose?
A9.Yes.   Whenever the immigration laws condition eligibility for a waiver on the existence of a “marriage” or status as a “spouse,” same-sex marriages will be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex marriages. [italics added]

Waivers of inadmissibility can be difficult to obtain under certain circumstances as they are, by definition, a discretionary waiver. However, one major hurdle for many same-sex bi-national couples in the US immigration sphere has been cast aside by the comendable decision of the United States Supreme Court. USCIS deserves comendation as well for their efforts to quickly and decisively implement policies which bring immigration regulations in line with changes in the law.

Readers are encouraged to read the USCIS website and the FAQ section quoted above to find out further details regarding immigration regulations pertaining to same sex couples.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand.

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16th September 2012

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that leaders from the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (sometimes colloquially referred to as Burma) are set to travel to the United States of America. In fact, popular pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi appears poised to make a sojourn to the US, her first in some time. To quote directly from the official website of Voice of America, voanews.com:

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is set to embark on a visit to the United States, highlighted by awards and meetings with senior U.S. government leaders and the Burmese community… In her first trip to the United States in two decades, Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be given awards for her long struggle for political reform in Burma and will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama…

Readers are encouraged to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full.

For those unfamiliar with the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi it should be noted that notwithstanding overwhelming adversity she has remained a staunch supporter of democracy for citizens of Myanmar and was recently elected to that nation’s lower house of parliament. However, she is not the only official from Myanmar who appears set to make a notable trip to the United States. It would appear that the current President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, is also slated to make a US voyage. In order to provide further elucidation regarding these events it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Jakarta Globe, TheJakartaGlobe.com:

Naypyidaw, Myanmar. Myanmar leader Thein Sein is to visit the United States for the first time as president of the fast-reforming nation, officials said Wednesday, after Washington waived visa restrictions…“The president will visit the UN and US for three days,” a Myanmar official told AFP, adding that the Myanmar leader is set to leave for the US on September 24. US President Barack Obama last month ordered an exception to a visa ban on Myanmar’s leaders to let Thein Sein travel freely during the UN summit…

The administration of this web log asks that readers click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail.

Those unfamiliar with current US-Myanmar relations should note that there are a number of restrictions placed upon Burmese leaders when it comes to US travel. Some could speculate that the exception granted to the President of Myanmar in the form of a visa waiver could be a sign of an increased desire to normalize relations between the somewhat reclusive member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the USA. That said, the future status of relations between the US and Myanmar remains to be seen.

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17th March 2011

In recent months the likelihood of a government shutdown seems to be increasing as the politicians in the United States capital seem to be more polarized than ever. Meanwhile, some are arguing in favor of a shutdown (even going so far as to advocate for an extended period of governmental closure). At the same time, others argue against a shutdown. Regardless of one’s opinion either way, it seems possible that a shutdown may occur, and in the event that a shutdown does come to pass, those processing an immigration matter may be prudent to research the impact that a shutdown might have upon the immigration process.

The following was quoted directly from a recent posting on the website CaldwellTeaParty.org:

The next month will be marked by intense negotiations on the debt ceiling, and the GOP will then have to decide on a shutdown or a bipartisan budget deal with Kent Conrad and his allies.

The above citation most clearly and concisely sums up the current state of affairs regarding the possibility of a government shutdown. The administration encourages readers to click on the above links as this issue is quite complex. Those interested in understanding the ramifications of a government shutdown may be best informed by this administration quoting directly from Wikipedia:

A government shutdown occurs when a government discontinues providing services that are not considered “essential.” Typically, services that continue in spite of a shutdown include police, fire fighting, armed forces, utilities, air traffic management and corrections.

A shutdown can occur when a legislative body (including the legislative power of veto by the executive) cannot agree on a budget financing its government programs for a pending fiscal year. In the absence of appropriated funds, the government discontinues providing non-essential services at the beginning of the affected fiscal year. Government employees who provide essential services, often referred to as “essential employees”, are required to continue working.

Although the above citation clears up the issue of what constitutes a government shutdown, the question likely on the mind of those with foreign loved ones processing through the immigration system is: how would a government shutdown impact the processing of my loved one’s visa? The answer: a Federal government shutdown would result in a sort of “freeze” of most of the immigration apparatus as this falls within the bailiwick of the Federal government. Therefore, a Federal shutdown would likely result in little, if any, action being taken with regard to adjudication of visa applications  at each US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. For further insight it may be best to quote directly from a recent posting on the Diplopundit blog:

In 1995, all visa applications are walk-in.  Today, a good number of consular sections have online appointment systems. Which means, visa appointments will have to be canceled and rescheduled if there is a shutdown.  Consular sections may only be open for life and death emergencies. That means lost passport applications, reports of births abroad, adoption cases, notarials, etc. will all have to wait until the Federal government reopens.

The administration of this blog highly encourages readers to click on the above hyperlinks as the quotation above was found in a very interesting and detailed posting dealing with these issues.

Clearly, the ramifications of a government shutdown will be severe for those awaiting processing of a visa application. Meanwhile, it would appear as though USCIS will continue to operate as normal despite a possible shutdown. To quote directly from the website Martindale.com:

USCIS has announced that, because it is funded by filing fees, it should remain open during a government shutdown. The operations of the four Service Centers should remain largely unaffected. Local USCIS District Offices should also remain open.

Again, this blogger highly encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks above to learn more.

Notice that the above quotation uses the word should. This blogger only points this out as it goes to show how difficult it is to foretell what the impact of a government shutdown would be on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) since that agency has attempted to remain self-funded through application fees. That said, the overall issue of government shutdown has yet to fully manifest itself, but that should not be construed to mean that it will not. In fact, those seeking American visas are likely to see an overall slowdown in the overall processing of cases as a result of a shutdown (should one actually occur, which remains to be seen).

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16th January 2011

There was a recent story on the Telegraph.co.uk website entitled, “Boy, 9, has Disney World trip ruined after US Immigration rules him a threat” it was reported that a 9 year old child was denied a US tourist visa to the United States. To quote directly from the article:

They said there was a risk he would not leave the US at the end of his holiday and refused his application under Section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

This blogger noticed in the title of the original article that the use of the term “US Immigration” may have been somewhat opaque as the visa application was likely filed with a US Consulate under the jurisdiction of the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom and not the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in the USA. That said, the article describes the visa application of a child in the United Kingdom and the denial of the application. The child’s parents were attempting to surprise him with a trip to Disney World in the US State of Florida. To quote further directly from the article itself:

Micah [the proposed beneficiary of the US B-2 Visa sought] was born in Britain and has lived in Middlesex all his life with his mum Claudia Lewis.

He holds a South African passport because his grandparents Kathy and Edward, who have lived and worked in Britain since 1990, only got him a South African passport.

They are originally from South Africa.

A letter from Micah’s primary school was included in his visa application confirming he attended the school.

But the US Embassy’s rejection letter to Micah said: “Because you either did not demonstrate strong ties outside the United States or were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the US would be consistent with the visa status, you are ineligible.”

His grandmother Kathy, from Brixton, South London, said: “It was going to be a total surprise. He would have loved it.

This blogger highly recommends that those interested in this heartfelt story go to the Telegraph website and read further.

Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act is a provision which creates a legal presumption in the eyes of adjudicating Consular Officers at every US Mission abroad (US Embassy, US Consulate, American Institute, Visa Units, etc.) that an applicant for a United States visa is actually an undisclosed intending immigrant. Overcoming this presumption often occurs when a Consular Officer feels that, as opposed to the factual citing from the denial noted above, the applicant has shown “strong ties” to their country of origin, or another country abroad, and, simultaneously, “weak ties” to the United States.

In another section of the aforementioned article the author noted that the couple had spent a considerable sum of money purchasing plane tickets in anticipation of the proposed holiday in the USA. As noted in previous postings on this blog, it is not generally prudent in visa application proceedings to assume a particular outcome as issuance of United States travel documents to foreign nationals is not considered a foregone conclusion nor a “formality”. The circumstances mentioned above are unfortunate as they were unexpected and costly (in both monetary and emotional terms). Those foreign nationals wishing to travel to the United States should not make irrevocable travel arrangements until such time as a US visa has been issued and remitted to the applicant.

That said, the one major factor that could materially alter the outcome of another visa application in a case such as this: a UK Passport. As noted in the section quoted above from the US Embassy the applicant did not show “strong ties” to the UK or another country abroad. If the child always lived in the UK, but never possessed a UK passport and, as noted in the above cited section; never lived in South Africa, but was attempting to use a South African passport to travel to the US, then could it be inferred that the child’s ties to either country were attenuated? Possibly, and without knowing further about details, that may very well have been the reason for denial. However, as all cases are adjudicated based upon the unique facts under the circumstances any analysis of the aforementioned denial is merely an exercise in speculation.

It is generally imprudent to continuously resubmit American visa applications when there has been no material change to the facts of one’s case. However, when circumstances do change materially, then a subsequent application may not be frivolous. In the eyes of the law in many jurisdictions a change in nationality, the acquisition of nationality, the registration of nationality, or the naturalization to a new nationality all come with a host of different legal rights, obligations, and privileges not least of these may be a passport. Perhaps, after acquiring a UK Passport on behalf of the child, if eligible for such a travel document, another visa application would be approved? Better yet, upon acquisition of a UK Passport, the child in the article may be eligible for the visa waiver program, although his previous US visa denial would need to be noted in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registration system.

Hopefully those thinking of applying for a US Tourist Visa in the future will take note of the fact that one’s nationality is an important facet of any immigration petition or visa application.

For related information please see: US Visitor Visa.

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4th December 2010

Those who read this blog on a regular basis will no doubt realize that when new information regarding Consular processing comes out this administration tries to post it in an effort to provide insight to those processing a visa application through the relevant Post. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Embassy in Manila, Philippines is changing their protocols for Immigrant visa processing. The following is a brief quotation from the official website of the US Embassy in Manila:

Effective December 1, 2010, various changes to immigrant visa services are as follows:

  • Immigrant visa applicants whose appointments have not been scheduled through the National Visa Center (NVC) (i.e., immigrant visa petitions approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services Manila) may request a visa appointment by visiting the U.S. Embassy in Manila’s Visa Information and Appointment Service online at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph or by calling (632) 982-5555. The Visa Information and Appointment Service is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Manila time), except on U.S. and Philippine holidays. Callers in the U.S. should call (214) 571-1600, from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Callers are able to speak with an English-, Tagalog-, Ilocano- or Cebuano-speaking operator.
  • Visa Information and Appointment Service representatives can provide information on visa appointment-related inquiries only. Inquiries on a specific case may be directed to the Immigrant Visa (IV) Unit by e-mail at IVManilaReplies@state.gov or by fax at (632) 301-2591. Petitioners and applicants may also call the IV Inquiry line at (632) 301-2000, extension 5184 or 5185 during normal business hours.
  • Immigrant visa applicants who have been scheduled by the NVC for a visa appointment at the Embassy are required to visit the online appointment website to register their delivery address.
  • K visa applicants who have been notified by the Embassy to prepare for their interview, must pay the visa application fee of $350 before they can request a visa appointment via the online appointment website or the Visa Call Center

It should be noted that the above quotation does not encompass all of the information provided upon the official website. Those interested in obtaining further information are encouraged to correspond directly with either an American immigration attorney or the US Embassy in the Philippines.

The Consular Processing phase is usually the last phase of the US visa process for those with immigrant intent. Although in certain cases, a 221g refusal may be issued if the adjudicating Consular Officer feels that further documentation is required to process an application. Furthermore, a visa application may be denied if it is found that a legal grounds of inadmissibility exists in a given case. Under such circumstances, it may be possible to remedy the denial through use of an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility.

In American family based visa cases, the Immigrant Visa Unit of a US Consulate abroad is responsible for the adjudication of a visa application for those seeking a K1 visa, K3 visa, CR-1 visa, or an IR-1 visa.  Those seeking a non-immigrant visa such as a B1 visa (US Business Visa), B2 visa (US Tourist Visa), F1 visa (US Student Visa), or J1 visa (Cultural Exchange Visa) must interview with an adjudicator at the Non-immigrant visa unit of the Post with Consular jurisdiction to adjudicate a visa application.

For related information please see: US Embassy Philippines.

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1st December 2010

Those who frequently read this blog are likely to note that we frequently discuss issues surrounding Consular processing of US visa applications. In some cases, a visa applicant is refused a visa, but issued what is commonly referred to as a 221(g) form. The term “221g” refers to section 221(g) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Under this provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a Consular Officer adjudicating a visa application may refuse to issue a visa if the adjudicating Consular officer finds that the application is somehow deficient of documentation. Consular Officers are basically tasked with the responsibility of conducting due diligence regarding a visa applicant’s subjective intentions. Therefore, in a K1 visa interview the Consular Officer may be concerned with the Cambodian applicant’s subjective intentions regarding the K1 visa petitioner.

There is some debate as to the legal ramifications of a 221g especially in the context of the United States Visa Waiver Program. The American visa waiver program allows certain foreign nationals to enter the USA without a visa provided those individuals register on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Although Cambodia is not currently a participating country in the Visa Waiver program it should be noted that a 221g refusal issued by a US Consulate or US Embassy abroad should be disclosed in the ESTA system when seeking travel authorization online. Therefore, a 221g refusal is effectively treated as a “denial” by the Department of Homeland Security which should be noted by anyone seeking American immigration benefits at an American Mission abroad since such a development could have an adverse impact upon one options at a later date.

Many are under the mistaken impression that a 221(g) refusal cannot be remedied. In point of fact, this is not the case as some 221g refusals simply require further documentation before a Consular Officer is prepared to make an adjudication in the underlying application. That said, in some cases, a 221g could evolve into a legal finding of inadmissibility which is an outright visa denial. In such cases, a visa applicant may be able to have the legal grounds of inadmissibility waived through use of an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility. That said, such waivers are adjudicated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service under an “extreme hardship” standard of review. This “extreme hardship” standard can be difficult to overcome for some. In any event, many couples find that the assistance of an American attorney can be beneficial during the US visa process or the I-601 waiver process as such an individual can provide insight into the process and advocate on behalf of the petitioner and beneficiary. Furthermore, some find that an attorney’s assistance can result in smoother overall processing of visa applications as such an individual can foresee issues which may arise in a given case and attempt to deal with such issues before they become a problem.

Receiving a 221g refusal letter after the visa interview can be worrying, but in some cases the issue can be resolved through better understanding of the adjudication process and relevant United States Immigration law. Those who receive a 221g refusal at the US Embassy in Cambodia are likely required to follow up within 1 year of issuance lest the visa application be deemed to have been abandoned.

For related information please see: US Visa Cambodia.

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30th November 2010

Those who are regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that the issue of 221(g) denials promulgated in relation to visa applications brought before at US Missions, Embassies, and Consulates outside of the United States can be very concerning for those seeking American Immigration benefits for a foreign loved one. In the case of the US Embassy in Vietnam, most US family visa cases are processed out the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. It would seem that the American Consulate in HCMC is considered by State Department officials to be a “high volume” Post as a significant number of visa applications are adjudicated in that jurisdiction each year. Meanwhile, as is the case for any US Mission abroad, the officers at the US Consulate in HCMC take visa fraud seriously and therefore heavy scrutiny is placed upon pending visa applications in an effort to ensure that those receiving visa benefits are legally entitled to such benefits. Furthermore, Consular Officers also review US family visa applications very carefully in order to ascertain whether or not a prospective foreign beneficiary has the requisite subjective intent. Subjective intent is often of great concern in K1 visa applications as the applicant must have a genuine intention to marry their American fiance within 90 days of entering the USA.

The culmination of the US visa process is usually the visa interview which is generally conducted at the US Mission with Consular jurisdiction to adjudicate the visa application. However, in some cases, a Consular Officer may feel that further documentation is necessary in order to complete the adjudication. The American State Department refers to the 221(g), which is a reference to section 221(g) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, as a refusal although for purposes of the Department of Homeland Security the 221g is considered a denial. This can be an important distinction for foreign nationals holding the passport of a country which participates in the US Visa Waiver Program as the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP) considers 221g refusals to be denials which must be disclosed by travelers through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). It should noted that Vietnam is not currently a participant in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program.

In some cases, 221g denials are highly complex and may cause frustration to the applicant and/or their American counterpart. Some find that attorney assistance can be beneficial. An American Immigration attorney can provide insight into the overall process and also assist in making a follow-up with the US Consulate regarding a 221g denial. Furthermore, American Immigration attorneys based in South East Asia can deal with such matters before the Consulate in real time. This can be especially beneficial if the 221g evolves into a situation in which the visa application is denied due to a legal finding of inadmissibility. This can sometimes occur and in such an event the finding of inadmissibility may only be overcome through use of an I-601 waiver. In some cases, there may be no remedy if the applicant is found inadmissible for reasons that cannot be waived. Those thinking about filing for immigration benefits should always be aware that putting on the best case at the outset is the most efficient way of attempting to ensure visa issuance.

For related information please see: US Visa Vietnam or US fiance visa.

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19th September 2010

This author has frequently discussed the myriad problems that Immigrants can face when dealing with an unlicensed American immigration “agent” or “specialist“. American law and Federal Regulations are clear regarding the issue of who is allowed to provide legal services in matters arising before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) specifically; or any of the other agencies which are overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Only licensed attorneys from the United States of America are able to provide consultations about US Immigration matters for a fee. Furthermore, only an attorney licensed by the Highest Court of least one US State, Commonwealth, or outlying territory is allowed charge fees to represent clients before DHS, including USCIS.

Unfortunately, there are some unauthorized organizations throughout the world claiming to be able to provide advice and assistance in American Immigration matters. The internet has proven to be a great tool for those wishing to research matters pertaining to United States Immigration. Meanwhile, it has also provided a platform for some operations which claim legal expertise without appropriate training or licensure. Such individuals and entities ought to be avoided at all costs since information transmitted to such individuals and entities may not be protected by the usual legal protections accorded to communications conveyed between an American attorney and their client. Furthermore, one who is not legally trained or not licensed to provide legal services in a given jurisdiction or about a particular subject cannot provide effective counsel nor lawful confidentiality to those seeking their assistance. This can be especially important to those conveying sensitive information about a case pending before an immigration tribunal, agency, US Embassy, or US Consulate abroad. Those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in the aforementioned manner are thereby placing their own interests, as well as those of their unsuspecting “clients’”, in jeopardy.

When comparing the costs of legal service it is important to understand the pivotal role of licensure when making a decision to retain counsel. No licensed legal professional is likely to have a problem with prospective clients shopping for a reasonably priced service with a professional that they feel comfortable dealing with. In general, licensed American attorneys find that competition with other professionals makes for a healthy and prosperous business environment, but to compare the services of a licensed American immigration attorney with one who is not licensed to practice law creates a false comparison as US law is clear that those without licensure cannot provide the services which they claim they can provide in an immigration context. In short: one cannot compare a legal service with an illegal service from a price standpoint as an illegal service provider simply cannot provide such services at any price.

For further information please see: licensed lawyer. To learn more about US Immigration from Southeast Asia please see: US Immigration Law Thailand.

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25th May 2010

As the world becomes ever more integrated due to economic globalization international organized crime has increased. One issue that has become increasingly concerning for law enforcement agencies around the globe is human trafficking. Many of the people in less developed nations wish to travel to wealthier industrialized countries in order to enjoy the benefits of relatively higher wages. This leads to the growth of “human smugglers” who specialize in assisting illegal immigrants by transporting them from their home country to their desired destination. Unfortunately, a great deal of evidence has been brought to light which suggests that many of these immigrants are placed in conditions which could easily be described as inhumane and many of them are further forced to work under difficult conditions in order to pay back their smugglers for transporting them to their new country.

Recently, the website ThaiVisa.com posted the following:

“Two Japanese men have been arrested in Thailand on suspicion of people smuggling, a police spokesman said Tuesday. The first man, identified by police only by his surname, Bekku, was arrested Monday when he tried to renew his visa. The second man, Tanaka, was arrested later at his apartment in Bangkok. The pair, both in their 60s, are accused of involvement in smuggling people from Thailand and its neighbouring countries. ‘They were arrested on warrants issued by the Japanese police on charges of human smuggling,’ said the spokesman, Major General Manoo Mekmok.”

Under Section 212(a)(2)(H)(i) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act:

Any alien who commits or conspires to commit human trafficking offenses in the United States or outside the United States, or who the consular officer, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, or the Attorney General knows or has reason to believe is or has been a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with such a trafficker in severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined in the section 7102 of title 22, is inadmissible.

Clearly, United States Immigration law takes the issue of human trafficking very seriously as it should since human trafficking is a major issue that causes many deaths each year while concurrently undermining the foundations of international law. Furthermore, those who are found guilty of offenses involving human trafficking are likely to be found inadmissible to the United States of America indefinitely as this ground of inadmissibility cannot be remedied through use of an I-601 waiver.
To learn more about US Immigration please see: US Visa Thailand.

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