Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘601 Waiver’

7th April 2010

As this author has discussed in previous blog posts, one major reason for US visa denial is based upon a finding that a legal grounds of inadmissibility exists in a given case. One legal grounds of inadmissibility is based upon a finding by the Consular Officer that the applicant committed a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). That being said, at times it can be difficult to determine whether or not an individual’s prior actions would be considered a crime involving moral turpitude. The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) provides some insight into what types of crimes are considered to be crimes involving moral turpitude, the following are excerpts from the FAM:

“9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-1 Crimes Committed Against
Property
(CT:VISA-1318; 09-24-2009)
a. Most crimes committed against property that involve moral turpitude
include the element of fraud. The act of fraud involves moral turpitude
whether it is aimed against individuals or government. Fraud generally
involves:
(1) Making false representation;
(2) Knowledge of such false representation by the perpetrator;
(3) Reliance on the false representation by the person defrauded;
(4) An intent to defraud; and
(5) The actual act of committing fraud”

Property Crimes are not the only activities that can be construed as crimes involving moral turpitude as criminal actions which violate or undermine governmental authority are also considered to be CIMT:

“9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-2 Crimes Committed Against
Governmental Authority
(CT:VISA-1318; 09-24-2009)
a. Crimes committed against governmental authority which fall within the
definition of moral turpitude include:
(1) Bribery;
(2) Counterfeiting;
(3) Fraud against revenue or other government functions;
(4) Mail fraud;
(5) Perjury;
(6) Harboring a fugitive from justice (with guilty knowledge); and
(7) Tax evasion (willful).”

The FAM also goes on to note the various activities that may not be considered CIMT. However, it is incumbent upon the adjudicating officer to examine the facts of a given case and make a decision as to whether the underlying actions that gave rise to a criminal conviction in fact constitutes a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude for purposes of visa issuance. If the officer decides that a CIMT was committed, then the visa application will likely be denied. Under the doctrine of Consular NonReviewability (also known as Consular Absolutism) this decision is not subject to appeal. However, the applicant make be able to overcome the visa denial by applying for, and obtaining, an I-601 waiver.

Of interest to some may be the recent Circuit Court decision which held:

“An order of removal from the United States was entered against Petitioner Armando Alvarez-Reynaga based on his felony conviction for receipt of a stolen vehicle in violation of section 496d(a) of the California Penal Code. His petition for review presents the questions of whether a conviction under that statute qualifies categorically as a conviction for an aggravated felony, and whether it qualifies categorically as a crime involving moral turpitude. We conclude that it qualifies as the first, but not the second. We deny the petition for review.”

As the law continues to evolve, so to does the definition of CIMT and the activities that are considered to be covered by the CIMT provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

For more information about US Visas from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

(Readers should be advised that the above does not constitute a full analysis of CIMT issues. Each application has its own unique set of facts and those facts must be analyzed on an individual basis in order to form a professional opinion.)

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21st March 2010

Although delicate, the issue of prostitution in Thailand and the impact upon United States Immigration is something that an American Immigration attorney in Thailand should discuss, if for no other reason than the fact that there is a great deal of misinformation about this topic throughout the internet.

First, the relevant law: The United States Immigration and Nationality Act §212(a)(2)(D) has the following to say on the topic of inadmissibility and prostitution:

(D) Prostitution and commercialized vice

Any alien who—

(i) is coming to the United States solely, principally, or incidentally to engage in prostitution, or has engaged in prostitution within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status,

(ii) directly or indirectly procures or attempts to procure, or (within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status) procured or attempted to procure or to import, prostitutes or persons for the purpose of prostitution, or receives or (within such 10-year period) received, in whole or in part, the proceeds of prostitution, or

(iii) is coming to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution,

is inadmissible.

It should be noted that legality is not an issue when it comes to prostitution as even a legal act of prostitution is a legal ground of inadmissibility from the United States of America. In the US State of Nevada, prostitution is legal provided the brothel has a license and comports to certain regulatory rules with regard to health and advertising. However, the act of prostitution itself is not illegal under in Nevada so long as the prostitute works in a licensed establishment. Regardless of the fact that the act may be legal, the Immigration and Nationality Act still makes the act a legal grounds of inadmissibility if it occurred within 10 years of the application for admission to the United States of America.

This seemingly glaring disjunction is the result of the American doctrine of Federalism. In the US, there is one sovereign in the form of the Federal government and 50 sovereigns in the form of the 50 US states. It is possible that State and Federal law will occasionally conflict. For Immigration purposes, the Federal regulations and statutes are controlling over state law. Therefore, regardless of the fact that an act of prostitution may be legal in a US state, it may still be a legal grounds of inadmissibility if it occurred within 10 years of an application for admission to the USA.

In Thailand this is important to note because prostitution is only vaguely defined in criminal statutes. Under the provisions of the Thai Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1996 the definition of prostitution is defined as:

“‘prostitution’ means sexual intercourse, or any other act, or the commission of any other act in order to gratify the sexual desire of another person in a promiscuous manner in return for money or any other benefit, irrespective of whether the person who accepts the act and the person who commits the act are of the same sex or not…”

The obvious problem with this definition is the phrase “in a promiscuous manner.” Authorities in Thailand seem to operate under the assumption that acts of prostitution occurring in private are not promiscuous and therefore do not meet the legal definition of prostitution. The United States immigration authorities do not take this view and their view of prostitution falls in line with the more traditional definition which mandates finding of previous engagement in acts of prostitution if the individual in question was paid in exchange for providing sexual gratification.

If a Consular Officer at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad finds an alien inadmissible because the alien has engaged in prostitution within 10 years of filing an application for a US visa, then the alien will not be able to obtain a US visa, nor will they be allowed to enter the United States of America. This decision is not subject to appeal.

What is the solution if an alien is found inadmissible based upon a finding that they have engaged in prostitution within 10 years of applying for a US visa? Fortunately, the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a remedy for those who are found inadmissible under these circumstances. An I-601 waiver may be filed with USCIS and if approved, the alien will be able to seek admission to the United States of America.

Throughout the internet there are those who claim that the best way to avoid this issue is to lie to a Consular Officer or “omit certain facts.” This practice is highly inadvisable. First, it is illegal and in some cases punishable by five years in a federal penitentiary and a $250,000 fine. Second, it could lead to further problems for an alien because lying to a Consular Officer could result in a finding that the alien had engaged in fraud and misrepresentation which is a separate ground of inadmissibility. Third, such advice is highly unethical and reflects adversely upon anyone who advises a client to lie to a Consular Officer or in a visa application. Run, don’t walk, away from anyone who gives this kind of advice as it is unethical, illegal, and could result in a permanent bar to entering the United States.

Our firm’s policy is to disclose all legally relevant facts and deal with the legal consequences in a straightforward manner.

For More Information Please See: US Visa Thailand.

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5th February 2010

In cases where a US visa application is denied it may be possible to remedy the visa denial by applying for a waiver if the denial was based upon a legal grounds of inadmissibility. This type of waiver is called an I-601 waiver. At one time, if a United States visa applicant was infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), then they would be denied a visa visa based upon this factor alone, if no other issues existed that called for a denial. However, recently the United States Immigration authorities have changed this rule. To quote a document promulgated by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

“[I]nfection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is no longer a ground of inadmissibility. If you have the HIV infection, you are no longer inadmissible to the United States, and are no longer required to file Form I-601 because of your HIV infection. As part of the revisions to Form I-601, any reference to HIV infection in the form and the instructions were removed.”

This is not the only rule change that has been recently promulgated as the filing instructions themselves have recently changed in order to more accurately reflect the proper filing locations as well as other regulatory modifications.

“In addition, USCIS… announced that there are revised filing instructions and addresses for applicants filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility. The change of filing location is part of an overall effort to transition the intake of benefit forms from USCIS local offices and Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. By centralizing form and fee intake to a Lockbox environment, USCIS can provide customers with more efficient and effective initial processing of applications and fees.”

The “lockbox” method is currently employed when processing immigrant visa applications such as the IR-1 visa and the CR-1 visa. This allows USCIS to streamline the application process as all applications are submitted to one location. K1 visa applications as well as K3 marriage visa applications are submitted directly to the USCIS Service Center with appropriate jurisdiction.

In situations where an I-601 waiver application is submitted overseas, the application is usually submitted at the US Embassy or US Consulate where the visa is denied. This allows the Consular Officer to make a recommendation regarding the waiver application. Those interested in US visa waivers should note that only licensed United States attorneys or accredited representatives are allowed to represent clients before both the United States Embassy and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). That being said, only an attorney is entitled to charge fees for such services as accredited representatives are usually not-for-profit agencies who only charge a nominal fee (if anything) when assisting immigrants. Those who are not licensed to represent clients is US Immigration matters cannot charge a fee to represent clients in Immigration proceedings pursuant to US law.  For more information please click here.

For more information about American visas and the remedies available upon application denial please see: US Visa Denial.

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31st October 2009

As reported previously on this blog, HIV is to be taken off of the list of communicable diseases which can cause an Immigrant to be deemed inadmissible to the United States of America. At the time of this writing, anyone who has HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is not admissible to the United States. This means that those infected with the virus must obtain an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility before they will be allowed to enter the United States. Under the new rule, this will no longer be the case.

To quote a document, provided courtesy of AILA, promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services:

As a result of this final rule, aliens will no longer be inadmissible into the United States based solely on the ground they are infected with HIV, and they will not be required to undergo HIV testing as part of the required medical examination for U.S. immigration.

As a result of this rule change, it is highly likely that Embassy mandated medical examinations will be greatly altered as it will no longer be necessary for the Embassy-approved doctors (sometimes referred to as civil surgeons) to test prospective immigrants for HIV.

This rule change reflects the new policy of the United States government regarding HIV. Basically the Center for Disease Control and the authorities at the Department of Homeland Security no longer consider HIV a “communicable” disease as defined in the relevant provisions of  Immigration and Nationality Act. To further quote the aforementioned document:

While HIV infection is a serious health condition, it is not a communicable disease that is a significant public health risk for introduction, transmission, and spread to the U.S. population through casual contact.

Please note that this rule has not taken effect and until it does HIV is still considered a communicable disease in cases involving inadmissibility.

Although many laud the promulgation of this rule, there are those, particularly in the LGBT community who feel that the current Administration is not doing enough to provide immigration benefits to same sex couples. Many view this rule change as a “half measure” designed to placate advocates for gay rights as HIV has a major impact upon the gay and lesbian community.

Although this rule change will effect those with HIV who wish to enter the USA, it does not effect same-sex bi-national couples who cannot obtain US Immigration benefits for a foreign partner based upon the current federal laws which do not recognize same-sex marriage. There are many who feel that the rescission of this rule regarding HIV infected immigrants falls short of full immigration equality for all.

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23rd October 2009

Recently the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that a revised form has been issued for those who wish to file for an I-601 Waiver. An I-601 waiver is a waiver of legal grounds of inadmissibility under the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. An alien is found inadmissible if they meet the elements of inadmissibility under the act. Common grounds of inadmissibility among applicants in Thailand are overstay, prostitution, Crimes involving moral turpitude, and health related grounds. If a finding that one of these grounds exists is made by the Consular or Immigration officers, then the applicant must seek an I-601 waiver before they will be entitled to enter the United State lawfully.

In recent days, USCIS has been revising some of the forms that they will accept in connection with certain immigration matters. For example, USCIS recently announced that they will only be accepting an updated version of the G28 Notice of Attorney Appearance. Those who have already filed applications for Immigration benefits before this update comes into effect will not need to submit any new forms as the service will continue to recognize the old forms in an effort to seamlessly transition from the old forms to the new. These efforts seem to be an attempt to streamline the, somewhat complicated, administrative aspects of the US Immigration application process. To quote directly from the USCIS press release:

USCIS has revised Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Revision Date 04/06/09 N, OMB Expiration Date 04/30/11) to make it easier for applicants to complete. Applicants may now select from a list of grounds of inadmissibility on the form itself and mark all which apply to them in order to request a waiver. In addition to the list, the form includes a section where applicants can describe, in their own words, why they believe they are inadmissible. In the previous edition of Form I-601, information about grounds of inadmissibility could only be found of the form’s instructions.

We applaud the efforts on the part of the Service to make this process less complicated and more straightforward. For those interested in submitting a successful I-601 waiver application, it should be remembered that in most cases involving an I-601 waiver, the applicant(s) must show that to deny the waiver would result in an “extreme hardship” to a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. This can be a difficult legal obstacle to overcome which is why it may be wise to retain an immigration lawyer to assist with the preparation and submission of such a petition.

Unlike the United States Embassy in Bangkok, which only has jurisdiction ovr the Kingdom of Thailand. The local USCIS office in Bangkok has administrative jurisdiction over most of Asia. Therefore, I-601 waiver applications filed in connection with a K1 visa, K3 visa, or CR1 visa sought from Asia could be submitted at USCIS Bangkok.

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