Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘Weird Law’ Category

13th June 2010

With the recently announced fee increases associated with K visa applications filed overseas, there are many who feel that serious thought should be given to the type of visa a couple should petition to obtain. In the past, many couples who were thinking of marriage opted to apply for a US fiance visa, also referred to as a K1 visa. That being said, it was recently announced that the application fee for all K visas sought overseas would be increased from $131 to $350. Apparently, the resources accrued are to be used in furtherance of fraud prevention measures as well as implementation of measures meant to streamline the overall visa process. As the fee increase was only recently announced, it remains to be seen how newly acquired fees will be used on the Consular level. With that in mind, it has also been recently announced that USCIS may be raising fees for Immigrant visa petitions. For those who are unfamiliar with this blog, it should be noted that for purposes of traveling to the USA, the K1 visa and the K3 Visa are considered to be immigrant visas even though they do not automatically confer lawful permanent residence to the bearer upon entry in the USA.

Those seeking a US visa would be prudent to seriously consider their options because the costs associated with the process of applying for and obtaining a CR1 visa or an IR1 visa may be lower in some cases when compared to the costs associated with the K1 visa process. When viewed from a long term perspective the CR1 visa, although more time consuming to obtain, confers lawful permanent residence to the bearer upon entry and thereby negates the necessity of adjustment of status which is necessary for those who travel to the US on a K1 visa with the intent to marry the Petitioner and remain in the USA permanently.

In most cases, those wishing to bring a spouse to the USA are wise to bear in mind the fact that K3 visa applications, once a popular travel document for bi-national married couples, are now being administratively closed by the National Visa Center if the underlying I-130 is approved prior to, or at the same time as, the I-129f application. This has lead to many instances of spouses being required by circumstance to process a CR1 or IR1 visa rather than a K3 visa because the NVC simply will not process the K3 application.

For those interested in further information about US Immigration please see: American Visa Thailand.

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5th December 2009

Work Permits can be a major issue for those engaging in non-recreational activity in Thailand. Thaivisa. com is reporting that some of those involved with the King’s Cup Regatta were worried that the Ministry of Labour and the Royal Thai Immigration Police may crackdown on foreigners participating in the Regatta. The reason for the possible crackdown was supposedly to be due to unsanctioned employment-like activity. Fortunately, as Thaivisa.com is reporting, rumors of a crackdown are unfounded as authorities have stated that no sailors will be detained for work permit violations connected with the event.

Quoting Thaivisa.com:

Rumors of an imminent crackdown on foreign sailors taking part in the King’s Cup Regatta over work permit violations are untrue, the head of Phuket Immigration has confirmed. A thread on the popular Thai Visa web forum yesterday started with the post:  ’Latest from Phuket Town… raiding King’s Cup regatta tomorrow for professional sailors without work permits….’ As Immigration Police would have to play a role in any such crackdown, the Gazette contacted Phuket Immigration Police Superintendent Col Chanatpol Yongbunjerd to see if the rumor was true; it wasn’t, and isn’t. ‘I guarantee that such arrests won’t happen,’ he said.”

Although it may seem trivial, some officials take work permit violations very seriously. As a result, some activities which foreigners consider to be “non-employment,” are used as a basis for fining or detaining individuals in the Kingdom for violations of Thai Labor law.

Immediately following the relatively recent Tsunami in Southern Thailand, many volunteers arrived to assist in relief efforts. Some of these volunteers were disturbed to be informed by Thai authorities that they were in violation of Thai labor regulations. To quote Thailandqa.com:

“‘More than 1,000 foreign volunteers from about 25 countries helping tsunami survivors rebuild shattered lives were outraged yesterday to hear they face legal action by the Labour Ministry unless they have a work permit. Sombat Boonngam-anong, director of the Chiang Rai-based Krajok Ngao Foundation, said confusion and anger reigned among the foreign volunteers at Khao Lak in Phangnga’s Takua Pa district when a Labour Ministry official told a local English-language newspaper that they were required to register with the ministry for a work permit otherwise legal action would be taken against them starting March 1.’ — Bangkok Post, 2nd March 2005, PENCHAN CHAROENSUTHIPAN”

Normally, in order for a foreign national to obtain a Thai work permit the applicant must also present a validly issued Thai visa. Many Thailand visa categories enable the bearer to apply for a work permit. However, the most optimal visa category to support a work permit is the business visa. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to obtain a Thai business visa from a Thailand Embassy or Consulate abroad and therefore many opt to stay in Thailand on tourist visas or exemption stamps. Neither of these documents, on their own, can be used as a basis for submitting a Thai work permit application. Therefore, those wishing to work in the Kingdom should seriously consider applying for a proper visa prior to arrival.

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22nd September 2009

The plight of many Burmese (Myanmar Nationals) living in Thailand is a sad one as many are not in any type of legal status or are simply refugees who cannot return to their home country. In a recent article, their situation was brought into sharp focus by the Thai media…and it was all due to a paper airplane. To quote the Canadian Press:

“A boy with no official nationality who lives in Thailand captured third place in a Japanese paper airplane contest Sunday after his tearful pleas to be allowed to attend prompted authorities to grant him a rare temporary passport for the event.”

It is truly inspirational when Thai people become upset due to a social injustice, because things tend to get done. Temporary passports have never been easily obtainable for people of any nationality living in Thailand, but in the case of those originally from Myanmar a request for an official travel document from the Thai government is often dismissed out of hand. The above article went further in discussing this particular situation:

“Mong’s ethnic Shan parents have only temporary permission to live and work in Thailand, so although he was born in the country he has only temporary resident status. Under normal circumstances, if he left and tried to return, his status would be revoked and he would be barred re-entry to the country where he was born.When his initial application for temporary exit papers was denied, the story dominated the front pages of Thai newspapers, and a national lawyers’ council petitioned the court on his behalf.”

Kudos to the Thai National Lawyers Council for taking up the cause of this young man. Asylees and refugees tend to have the most trouble obtaining legal documentation, particularly for travel. This article highlighted this fact and hopefully the plight of the Burmese in Thailand will be in the future thoughts of those in government positions.

It is interesting to note that this child’s family had not obtained Thai Permanent Residence. If that had been the case they may have been eligible for a Reentry Permit. Many Burmese from the Shan States of Myanmar live and work in Thailand illegally. There are certain parallels between these migrant workers and the undocumented Mexicans who enter the United States in order to work and live. Many of these people come from difficult environments in their home countries and they seek economic opportunities in Thailand or America. Although it is certainly a legal necessity to obtain proper documentation, the fact is that many people in dire circumstances do not have the time or the resources to go through the proper channels. A little bit of “give” on the part of the government can be beneficial in extenuating circumstances.

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21st September 2009

It is interesting to discuss recent changes in Thai Immigration rules with the so-called “old timers” or “old Thailand hands” because they can remember far simpler times when Thai Immigration rules were far less byzantine and self-contradictory. That being said, Thailand was also a far less hospitable place in the past and a by-product of Thailand’s overall economic expansion has been a tightening of Thai Immigration regulations.

At one time, immediately following the second world war any entrant into the Kingdom was immediately accorded immigrant status which today would be known as Thai Permanent Residence. Although not Thai Citizens, Immigrant in the Kingdom were accorded a great many legal rights and privileges.

As time passed, a new immigration category was added: Non-immigrant. This category was initially intended for obvious tourists and other persons present in the Kingdom with non-immigrant intent. At this point it was still relatively easy to acquire permanent resident status in the Kingdom of Thailand. A visa holder classified as non-immigrant could generally convert their visa to the immigrant visa category within a few weeks and legally take up permanent residence (a process called adjustment of status in present USA visa parlance).

In the early to middle nineteen seventies, the sub-stratification of the non-immigrant visa category began. Within the non-immigrant visa category, the entrant was deemed to be in the Kingdom for a certain purpose. As a result there were Thai tourist visas, Thai business visas, Thai O visas, etc. Also, at this time, Thai Permanent Residence became extremely difficult to obtain when compared to the ease with which it could have been acquired in the past. Quotas were set regarding the number of applications that would be accepted for applicants of differing nationality.  An applicant was also required to remain in the Kingdom for at least three consecutive legally unbroken years before an application for residence would be accepted.

It is also interesting to hear about times past because the Thai work permit was originally not an issue. For a long time, it was not necessary for a foreign national in Thailand to obtain a work permit in order to be employed in the Kingdom. In the nineteen seventies, this situation changed and any non-Thai national was compelled to acquire a work permit to be employed in Thailand. Originally, many people were granted lifetime work permits. In other cases, the work permit itself had to be renewed but the particulars of the permit were not reviewable. This meant that although one had to maintain the necessary fees, the Ministry of Labour could not cancel the permit for any reason other than failure to pay the administrative fee. All of this is very different than the system today where Thai work permits are constantly renewable and visa regulations seem to change with the wind.

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31st August 2009

In an interesting a convoluted situation, it appears that United States officials deported an American Citizen…on more than one occasion. To quote another website:

“Newly released documents show that federal investigators twice ignored FBI records and other evidence and deported a North Carolina native to Latin America, The Charlotte Observer”

One of the most interesting, and somewhat tragic, aspects of the situation is the fact that the Citizen in question could not speak any Spanish and was also mentally ill. To quote the Charlotte Observer:

“At the time of Mark Lyttle’s deportation, immigration officials had criminal record checks that said he was a U.S. citizen. They had his Social Security number and the names of his parents. They had Lyttle’s own sworn statement that he had been born in Rowan County. None of this stopped them from leaving Lyttle, a mentally ill American who speaks no Spanish, alone and penniless in Mexico, where he has no ties.”

Cases such as this really bring to light important issues regarding the overwhelming power of the United States Federal government. The bureaucracy of the United States government is staggering and at times people fall through the cracks. In this situation, the American Citizen at issue not only fell through the cracks, but he should never have been put in a position where he could have fallen through a crack. Had the federal authorities simply done their due diligence, they would have learned that the subject was a Citizen of the United States of America and therefore, could not be subject to deportation. More importantly, he was a native born Citizen of the United States of America. This is important because American Citizens who are born American Citizens cannot lose their Citizenship, except through the process of renunciation. Further, an American Citizen cannot be deported. Therefore the authorities representing the US government made a grave error by wrongfully deporting someone with US citizenship.

It is very disconcerting to see this kind of thing happening to Americans. However, it should be noted that the American deportee had a history of mental illness and actually had claimed Mexican Citizenship on prior occasions. Even still, other government agencies had informed the Immigration officials that the deportee was a Citizen. Further when the deportee went to the US Embassy in Guatemala, “It took someone in Guatemala one day to prove he was a citizen.”This begs the question, if this was easily ascertainable overseas, why couldn’t US Immigration officials figure it out while in the USA.

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14th July 2009

When dealing with issues involving US Immigration or Immigration to Thailand, one will often run into situations where the legal systems of two sovereign states come into play. Further, dealing with diplomatic missions in the form of Embassies, Consulates, and Charges D’Affairs the concepts of jurisdiction, sovereignty, and extraterritoriality come to the forefront. In this post we will take a quick look at extraterritoriality and how it applies to United States Embassies and Consulates in Thailand and abroad.

What is Extraterritoriality? Extraterritoriality is a legal situation in which one is exempted from the jurisdiction of the law of the locality where one is situated. Generally, this situation results from the commencement or continuation of diplomatic discussions. In certain instances, extraterritoriality can be applicable to tangible locations such as non-native military installations and in modern times: the United Nations compound in New York City.

There is a common misconception that Embassies and Consulates have extraterritoriality. As anecdotal evidence of this misconception, people will often say things like, “the US Embassy sits upon United States soil.” For the most part, this is not the case as extraterritoriality is not conferred upon an Embassy or Consulate, but in some situations extraterritoriality may be created by Treaty. That being said, members of diplomatic legations (Ambassadors, Representatives, Consuls, Vice Consuls, Deputy Ambassadors, and Charges D’Affaires) may be accorded extraterritorial status within the foreign state to which they have been accredited. Also, the property of such representatives may have extraterritorial status. For example, an official diplomatic pouch will not be subject to search and seizure by a country other than the country with ownership of the pouch.

These legal rights were created in order to allow diplomatic agents to have the ability to freely conduct correspondence with their home nation. Also, these privileges are generally conferred as a courtesy from one sovereign to another. As a practical matter, “diplomatic immunity” puts the diplomat outside of local law. However, these privileges are usually extended reciprocally and therefore neither state is being accorded inequitable privileges.

At one time, the Kingdom of Thailand conferred extraterritorial rights upon foreigners in the country. As time went by, these rights were viewed with more resentment by Thai people. After World War II, the Thai government began renegotiating treaties with foreign governments in an effort to do away with these disproportionate extraterritorial concessions. Today, Thailand maintains normal diplomatic relations with most countries around the world.

(This is not legal advice. For such advice contact an attorney. No Attorney-Client relationship is formed between the reader and writer of this posting.)

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12th July 2009

I was speaking with a Thai-British Dual national recently who only just obtained documentation reflecting his Thai nationality. There are some interesting misconceptions regarding Thai Nationality. One of the first major misconceptions is the idea that one is not Thai until they obtain a Thai Identification Card or a Thai passport. In point of fact, if one is born Thai, then regardless of whether they obtained a Thai ID card, they are Thai from birth.

There is also a mistaken belief that if one is born to a Thai mother outside of Thailand, then the child is not a Thai national. Again, this is not the case. Any person born to a Thai mother is Thai. Another very interesting aspect of Thai law regarding nationality is the idea that any person born of two immigrants in Thailand is Thai. This provision should not be misconstrued, under Thai law an immigrant is one who has what we call Thai permanent residence. Therefore, a child of two Non-Immigrant visa holders (Thai B Visa, Thai O Visa, Thai ED Visa, etc.) will not be born a Thai national. However, in the past what is now known as Thai permanent residence was given out quite frequently to those entering the Kingdom and as a result, the offspring of those immigrants were given Thai nationality from birth.

After reading through the provisions of the Thai nationality act, it is clear that specific legal mechanisms were created for Thai women to renounce their Thai Citizenship. Women could renounce their citizenship if they were taking the citizenship of their foreign husband (other provisions in the act were created to allow Thai citizenship to be reclaimed after renunciation should the Thai woman deem it necessary). However, there are no provisions providing for male renunciation of Thai citizenship. This begs the question: Can a Thai-born man renounce his Thai Citizenship? The answer appears to be: No.  The policy reason behind this bar on renunciation probably stems from the fact that male Thai nationals are subject to conscription for military service. Therefore, the bar on renouncing Thai citizenship seeks to limit the ability of those who may wish to avoid military service, but it creates some confusing scenarios where a Thai man seeks to obtain another nationality. There are certain countries that require renunciation of one’s prior citizenship before naturalization, but where the Thais do not recognize the renunciation it creates a situation in which a person is unable to renounce his citizenship. This then creates a precarious legal predicament because if one is required to renounce previous citizenship, but cannot do so, does this bar them from taking another citizenship?

(None of this post should be considered legal advice. For such advice contact an Attorney. No relationship with an attorney is formed by reading this post.)

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11th April 2009

Researching the history and existence of micronations has always been a bit of a hobby for me. I find the historical accidents that birthed such countries as Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, the Holy See,  and San Marino to be fascinating. However these countries owe their current existence to luck over many years. For the intrepid free spirit there is a movement to establish micronations in order to obtain a higher degree of self-government than currently offered in conventional countries.

In recent years there have been many so-called small country projects that have sprung up and been found to be either a front for fraudulent activity or simply unworkable. The few exceptions to this statement are the Republic of Minerva and the Principality of Sealand. We will briefly discuss both of these projects in order to better understand what the positive  factors were in these cases that made them more successful than other endeavors.

The Principality of Sealand


The self described Sovereign Principality of Sealand was created from the remains of a World War II gunnery outpost positioned off of the coast of the northern United Kingdom.  Its original purpose was to act as a base for transmitting a pirate radio broadcast. Eventually the founder realized the benefit of having sovereignty and declared it the Principality of Sealand.

At the time, British territorial waters had been contracted after the war so the gunnery outpost fell outside of the British zone. Later the British would expand their territorial waters and thus put the Principality back within British waters. However, the high court in Britain later ruled that because Sealand was not within British territory at the time it declared independence, the British government has no jurisdiction over Sealand. This was a major victory insofar as it granted Sealand de facto independence. Even though to this day no other government recognizes Sealand’s sovereignty.

The Republic of Minerva


The Republic of Minerva was a failed project to create a nation by building an island up from an atoll. Under international law, for a land mass to be considered an island it must stay above the water table for a specified average period of time throughout the day. The founders of the Republic of Minerva were clever in finding an atoll in the Pacific that barely fell short of the necessary amount of time above sea level to meet the internationally accepted definition of “island.” After finding this atoll, they proceeded to ship in sand and other terra firma to make Minerva a proper island. Once this task was complete, the group formally declared themselves an independent nation. However, the King of neighboring Tonga was not particularly smitten with the idea of an independent nation so close to his Kingdom. Therefore, he decided to send a regiment of troops to take the island and declare it Tongan territory. The Republic of Minerva is worth mentioning because even though it failed as a country, the reasoning behind its inception was sound and the nation could quite possibly have even obtained some measure of international recognition (which is probably why Tonga went out of its way to kill the nation in its cradle).

Seasteading


It would seem that one of the most plausible ways of starting a new country (assuming one does not have terra firma that is unclaimed by another nation) is through the principals of seasteading. Seasteading is the practice of living outside all other countries jurisdiction by setting up a home on the high seas.  To quote a major website regarding seasteading:

“‘Seasteading’is homesteading on the high seas. In other words, building permanent dwellings on the ocean. A seastead is a structure specifically designed for the purpose of long-term living in the marine environment.”

Obtaining International Recognition For Your New Country and Getting Someone to Foot the Bill

So, other micronation projects have come and gone and even the most successful of them have been unable to obtain international recognition. Another major issue is financing. Many small country projects also go bankrupt before they have a chance to begin realizing their purpose.

Enter the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, which makes it illegal for foreign-flagged (Flag of Convenience) ships to transport passengers and cargo directly between 2 U.S. ports. This rule has been a thorn in the side of many cruise lines for years because it forces the cruise lines to either forego a US port-to-US port itinerary or else become a US flagged vessel and thus be subject to the strict US laws regarding maritime employment and safety regulations.

How does this act figure into setting up one’s own country? If a person sets up a seastead near enough to the US, but just outside of US territorial waters, then after setting up their seastead they declared it independent and sovereign.  They could then enlist the assistance of the major US cruise lines to lobby congress and, more particularly,  the President to recognize the newly established nation. Now why would a cruise line wish to assist a “crackpot” in setting up a country? Because the moment the new country is recognized, then the country’s ports would meet the definition of “foreign ports” under the Passenger Vessel Services Act and therefore the cruise lines could use the ports as “ports of convenience,” for offering cruises between two US destinations.


Who needs to recognize the new country under American  law? According to Article 2 section 3 of the United States Constitution the President of the United States, “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” This has been interpreted to mean that a US President can basically recognize a country’s existence by simply accepting that country’s Ambassador. Therefore, if the cruise lines lobbied the President to accept an Ambassador from your newly established nation, then the nation would be federally recognized as a foreign country and because it is a foreign country its ports would be foreign as well so the Passenger Vessel Services Act would not apply to ships leaving the US and arriving in your little nation only to turn around and go back to the US immediately.  I must imagine that once United States recognition is obtained it would be rather easy to obtain international recognition.

This is in my opinion of the best method of obtaining independent sovereign status for a new nation built from scratch.

Thanks for reading and for less academic and more mainstream legal information please see Thailand Lawyer

Note: The above article is the personal opinion of the author and does not represent the views of Integrity Legal. Further one should not take anything written in this article in lieu of  advice from a competent licensed attorney. Finally, the country start-up business is not something that should be undertaken lightly, actually declaring an independent nation could be construed as treason by many nations and lead to possible civil as well as criminal penalties.

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