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8th March 2011

In what could possibly be one of the most convoluted political and legal issues currently in the American zeitgeist it has been reported by various sources that President Barack Obama is under pressure from many different groups regarding his recent decision not to enforce key provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). To quote directly from an article posted on AfricaOnline.com:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested last week that President Obama overstepped his constitutional bounds when he announced he would no longer defend Defense of Marriage Act in court.

In matters pertaining to United States Constitutional law the lines between the political and legal spheres begin to blur and for this reason the issues surrounding what may be the most interesting legal situation in recent history are difficult to sort out for those who have not kept up with the evolving posture of this issue. To provide a brief summation: the United States Federal government is currently barred from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples pursuant to the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Meanwhile, 7 jurisdictions in the United States, including 6 sovereign States, currently license same sex unions. Meanwhile, many sovereign American States have promulgated State Constitutional amendments forbidding recognition of marriage between same sex couples. Currently, there is a case that has been adjudicated by the Massachusetts Federal District Court which found that States have a fundamental right to marry those within their jurisdiction. Amongst advocates of States’ Rights, the significant issue in the DOMA cases is: FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized within the States’ jurisdiction. To continue quoting Mr. Gingrich according to AfricaOnline.com:

“Imagine that Governor Palin had become president,” Gingrich said. “Imagine that she had announced that Roe versus Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment.”

For those unfamiliar with the Roe versus Wade decision, this was the Supreme Court case which allowed women to receive abortions based upon an interpretation of the US Constitution. It is interesting that Mr. Gingrich noted the lack of “Mainstream Media” attention to this issue as there are those who could argue that the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community is an issue often overlooked by major media outlets. Clearly, the issue of same sex marriage is provoking strong reaction from various sectors of the American political spectrum, to quote directly from the website ThinkProgress.org:

Now, in the right’s furor over the administration’s announcement that it will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is calling for Obama to be impeached.

After the Arizona Republican advocated defunding the Department of Justice if it does not defend Section 3 of DOMA – “I would support that in a moment,” remarked Franks – he went on to say that he would “absolutely” favor impeaching President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder if such a move “could gain collective support”…

It would appear as though this issue is causing a great deal of political turmoil for Mr. Obama, but what is even more interesting are the underlying issues at stake for both the LGBT community and the sovereign States which comprise the United States of America.

To be clear, this blogger fully believes that the right to marry whomever one chooses to marry is a fundamental inalienable right and equal protection of that right should be accorded to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In this blogger’s personal opinion, if two people wish to consensually enter into a marital union, then their respective genders should not be relevant for purposes of government recognition of that union. However, there is an even stronger argument in favor of requiring Federal recognition of same sex marriage and this argument stems from the fact that 6 states have allowed some form of same sex union (civil union or marriage). Clearly, States have traditionally been vested with the power to solemnize and legalize marriages within their respective jurisdictions and the Federal government should be required to recognize such unions, but the provisions of DOMA preclude such recognition. For example, same sex bi-national couples who have legalized a marriage in, say, Massachusetts cannot be accorded the same immigration benefits as their different-sex counterparts pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. There has been some discussion of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would rectify this problem in the context of United States immigration, but this still leaves a fundamental question unanswered: when did the Federal government get the right to dictate to the States what shall constitute a marriage?

As to the Obama Administration’s decision to not pursue cases in support of the Defense of Marriage Act: the sentiment is laudable, but ultimately this action may not be in the best interests of the LGBT community as such inaction results in fewer, if any, cases or controversies coming before the Supreme Court thereby removing the platform for the Supreme Court to make a broad binding decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act itself (and possibly the overall issue of same sex marriage in general), the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and the other legal issues, such as discrimination against same sex bi-national couples, which come “part and parcel” with continued enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act.

It is this blogger’s personal opinion that the United States Supreme Court will find in favor of recognition of same sex marriage, but in what could prove to be a sort of convoluted decision wherein Justices such as Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts find in favor of the right of the States to set policy regarding who can get married within their jurisdiction while the more “liberal” or “civil libertarian” wing of the Court finds in favor of granting same sex couples the right to Federal recognition of a legally solemnized State marriage based more upon a finding that the issue is one of civil rights.

For related information please see: LGBT Visa.

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14th October 2010

On the internet the term “K3 visa” seems to have become the ubiquitous buzzword used to refer to a US Marriage Visa. However, this type of visa is not the classic method employed by American Citizens wishing to bring their Cambodian spouse back to the United States of America. In reality, many utilize either a CR1 Visa or an IR1 Visa when seeking immigration benefits for a foreign spouse. This is largely due to the recently enacted policy of the National Visa Center (NVC) to “Administratively close” K3 visa applications arriving contemporaneously with, or after, the arrival of an approved I-130 petition at the National Visa Center.

At one time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) had a major backlog of pending I-130 petitions for spouses of Americans. President Clinton and the Congress at that time promulgated legislation known as the Life Act which created a new visa category called the K3 Visa. This type of travel document was a sort of expedited non-immigrant marriage visa for spouses of American Citizens (Lawful Permanent Residents have never been eligible for K visa benefits including the K1 visa). Those using such a travel document were required to file an adjustment of status application following their spouse’s arrival in the USA, but the K3 visa was issued as a multiple entry travel document so physical presence in the USA was not a rigorously demanded during the adjustment process for K3 visa holder, as opposed to K1 visa holders who cannot leave the USA while the adjustment of status is processing without applying for an advance parole travel document. Under such circumstances, should a K1 visa holder leave the USA without adjusting status then they will fall out of status and the whole process must begin anew.

Since the the creation of the K3 visa USCIS has cut down their backlog of US Marriage visas tremendously. Currently, it takes approximately 5-6 months for USCIS to adjudicate an I-130 for the spouse of a US Citizen. This brought K3 visa processing times and CR1 visa processing times into greater alignment resulting in a situation where it took virtually the same amount of time to fully process either type of visa, give or take a few weeks depending upon the unique circumstances of a case. As a result, the National Visa Center seems to have adopted the policy that there is little use for the K3 visa under the current circumstances which lead to the automatic “administrative closure” of such applications where the underlying I-130 petition has been adjudicated. This does not mean that the entire visa process is at an end, but the applicant is effectively required to seek an Immigrant spouse visa rather than a K3 visa where the I-130 is adjudicated in a timely manner.

For related information please see: K3 Visa Cambodia or K1 Visa Cambodia.

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21st November 2009

We discuss the K1 visa on this blog frequently. A K2 visa is a derivative child visa designed for the child of a beneficiary of a K1 fiance visa. Under the government interpretation of US Immigration law. Children in the United States of America on a K2 visa who fail to adjust their status before the age of 21 “age out,” and must leave the country, apply for a new visa, and then return to the USA on an Immigrant visa. Unfortunately, this system can result in a delay of months or years for the would-be K2 visa beneficiary as Immigrant visa applications for the 21 year old step children of US Citizens can take as long as 3-5 years to be adjudicated. At the time of this writing, the case known as In Re Qiyu Zhang is pending in the US court system and could change this rule.

Advocates for United States Immigration reform await the outcome of this case with great anticipation as a favorable opinion would provide many new benefits to the children of American Immigrants. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has filed a brief in support of ending the “age out” interpretation of the K visa statute. To quote the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association directly:

“[T]he only reasonable interpretation of the K visa provisions is that Congress intended that a K-2 visa beneficiary be able to adjust status within the U.S. even after turning 21. Any other interpretation produces absurd results. Congress explicitly provided that the child of a fiancé(e) K-1 visa holder was eligible for a K-2 visa and admission to the U.S. up until he or she turned 21. Under DHS’ interpretation, K-2 beneficiaries …who are admitted to the U.S. shortly before their 21st birthday, and who thus have insufficient time to complete the adjustment process, must immediately depart the U.S. upon turning 21. Congress certainly did not intend for some K-2 visa beneficiaries to be restricted to a visit to the U.S. – in some cases, for only a matter of days – the result that flows inevitably from DHS’s interpretation of the statute. Instead, as demonstrated below, the statute can and must be interpreted to allow all K-2 visa holders, no matter their age after admission, a viable path to adjust to lawful permanent residence status.”

This writer concurs with the opinion in the aforementioned brief as K2 beneficiaries should be allowed to adjust staus even after they have turned 21. Even though the K2 could technically be considered a dual intent travel document, the primary reason for its use is for children to travel to the US and adjust status. In this case, denying Immigration benefits due to age is too arbitrary and failure to adjust status because one reaches the age of 21 violates the spirit of the K visa statute.

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2nd May 2009

Although The Integrity Legal offices are located in Bangkok, Thailand, we do receive inquiries regarding Consular processing at the US Consulate in Chiang Mai. Generally we do not have much contact with that post because their activities with regard to US Visas is somewhat limited in comparison to the US Embassy in Bangkok. This post is meant to provide some insight about the US Consulate in Chiang Mai.

A Consulate with History

The United States Consulate in Chiang Mai is one of the few historical buildings used by the American State Department to house a diplomatic post. The consulate does business in the former royal residence of the Lanna Thai Kingdom, that until 1933, was a tributary state of the Kingdom of Thailand (then Siam).

Activities of The Consulate

Currently the consulate only processes non-immigrant visas. Therefore in order to obtain a CR-1 or an IR-1 visa, one must go to the US Embassy in Bangkok. It is also advisable to use the Bangkok Embassy with regard to the US K1 Visa and the K3 Visa because it will likely be the place where the application is adjudicated. For US citizens wishing to file a USCIS petition locally then the local Bangkok USCIS office will be where the petition must be filed.

This post primarily processes non-immigrant visa categories that are not family based. As a result, The Consulate mostly processes Tourist and Student Visas.

As with most any consular post, the consul can act as a notary so notarial services are carried out at the post as well as consular reports of birth abroad which is a document that is something akin to a birth certificate. Th consulate also creates affidavits confirming the right to marry. The consulate also replaces passports and can add additional visa pages to an American’s passport.

A question often posed by both Americans and others: does the US have honorary consul in Thailand or elsewhere? The short answer to this question: No. It is US policy to not place honorary consulates in other countries.  Although many countries will appoint honorary diplomats, the US feels that these services should be performed by professional diplomats.

For more infrmation about the US Consulate in Chiang Mai, please see the official website here

For more on US Immigration from Thailand, please see US visa Thailand

(Note: Nothing stated in this post or elsewhere on this site or blog should be used as a substitute for individual legal advice from a competent attorney. No attorney client privilege, express or implied, shall be created between the reader and author of this post)

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