Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Administrative Closure’

14th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that United States President Barack Obama is apparently set to attend an upcoming ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia. In order to provide further information regarding such developments it is necessary to quote directly from the Jakarta Updates website, JakartaUpdates.com:

United States President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend the ASEAN Summit in Bali in September 2011. Obama’s arrival is hoped to bring a positive image for Bali and Indonesia in general in particular after the 2002 Bali bombing. “The arrival of President Obama is hoped to foster the trust of the international community regarding the security aspects of Indonesia and especially Bali’s readiness to hold a world-class event,” said a member of Commission IV DPRD Bali, Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, in Denpasar, on Tuesday (12/07/2011). According to Kerthyasa, this visit will have a very positive impact not only great for tourism in Bali, but also for Indonesia. That will mean Indonesian security has been acknowledged and Bali is considered a very special place…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

This news comes upon the heels of a recent trip by the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff to China. Clearly, both of these developments illustrate the increasing importance of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) jurisdictions (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) and China. These events are also a testament to the increasing global economic dominance of Asia in general. Hopefully the discussions held at this upcoming summit will result in tangible benefits for the American people and the people of those nations which are members of ASEAN.

In news pertaining to the struggle for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Equality it recently came to this blogger’s attention that a highly respected advocacy organization for the cause of LGBT Equality recently submitted a brief to a New York Court in support of the rights of a same sex bi-national couple. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from a press release posted upon the official website of Lambda Legal, LambdaLegal.org:

(New York, July 12, 2011) – Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief in a case involving Cristina Ojeda and Monica Alcota, a married binational lesbian couple from Queens, New York. The friend-of-the-court brief argues that immigration officials are incorrectly relying on an inapplicable case for authority to continue deportation proceedings while the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is being challenged…In the brief filed yesterday, Lambda Legal argues that USCIS cannot insulate itself from legal and political developments surrounding both DOMA and a 1982 case, Adams v. Howerton. Adams has been superseded by intervening legal and legislative developments including the emergence of jurisdictions where marriage or civil unions of same-sex couples are recognized, and ongoing federal court cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. Finally, since the law surrounding DOMA is developing, the brief urges immigration officials to administratively close or postpone all pending immigration matters involving married same-sex couples until DOMA is repealed or declared unconstitutional. Absent DOMA, there is no legal impediment to extending immigration protections to Ms. Alcota and spouses in similarly-situated same-sex couples…

The administration of this web log adamantly encourages those interested to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read about these developments. As a practical matter, “administrative closure” has been used in the past with respect to the K-3 visa (a United States travel document somewhat akin to the K-1 visa although designed for the foreign spouse of an American Citizen) where the underlying I-130 (the petition form for a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa) sees adjudication and arrival at the National Visa Center prior to, or contemporaneously with, the I-129f petition package. Therefore, usage of administrative closing in an immigration context is not altogether unheard of. That said, whether such a mechanism will ultimately be utilized under these circumstances remains to be seen.

As noted previously on this blog, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) did attempt to place a hold upon deportations involving same sex bi-national couples. However, that hold was apparently rescinded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) citing the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) as a valid reason for such action. Thereafter, it was noted that the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, vacated a finding for deportation in a case before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) involving a couple who had entered into a same sex civil union in the sovereign State of  New Jersey. It was recently noted that United States Bankruptcy Courts appear poised to begin adjudicating bankruptcy petitions from same sex couples. All of these developments have occurred contemporaneously with news that the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate is preparing to hold hearings regarding the possible repeal of DOMA and the ramifications of adopting legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act would hopefully provide federal recognition of a same sex marriage legalized and/or solemnized by an American State which permits such unions.

Strictly within the context of American immigration it should be noted that Representative Jerrold Nadler has introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in order to remedy the current legal discrimination imposed upon the LGBT community. Furthermore, it would appear that Representative Mike Honda‘s Reuniting Families Act includes UAFA-like language which would attempt to correct the current inequities borne by same-sex bi-national couples.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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21st October 2010

Those who have read some of the blog will no doubt note that this administration often posts information about the K3 visa process and the overall impact of administrative closing of K3 visa applications by the US State Department’s National Visa Center. Many American Citizens who have a Laotian husband or wife pose the question: “Can I get a K3 visa for my wife (or husband) to reunite with me in the USA?” The answer to this question, at the time of this writing, is a rather qualified: no. However, a brief overview of the K3 visa and the recent changes to the K3 visa process may enlighten those who are researching this issue on their own for the first time.

At one time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) had a substantial backlog of immigrant spouse visa petitions. This lead to a situation in which it could take as long as 3 years to receive USCIS adjudication of a mere immigrant spousal visa petition filed by an American Citizen. Due to this rather untenable situation, the United States Congress and President William Jefferson Clinton promulgated and executed a piece of legislation commonly referred to as the “Life Act”. Under the provisions of the Life Act, the K3 visa category and the K4 visa category were created (The K4 visa is a derivative visa for the children of foreign spouses similar to the derivative K2 visa which can be “piggybacked” onto a K1 visa application). At the time, the K3 visa was greeted by many as a severely needed stopgap solution to a rather pernicious problem: slow processing of classic immigrant visa petitions. In recent years, the USCIS has gone to great lengths to streamline the adjudication process and thereby decrease the time it takes to see an immigrant spouse visa petition adjudicated. As a result, many adjudicated immigrant visa petitions began arriving at the National Visa Center at the same time as their K3 counterparts. At one point, it would appear that a decision was made to “administratively close” K3 visa applications when the Immigrant petition arrives either before or at the same time as the K3 petition. This leads to a situation where American-Lao bi-national couples are compelled to seek immigrant visa benefits rather than K3 visa benefits. It should be noted that immigrant visa benefits are substantially superior to K3 visa benefits as immigrant visas confer lawful permanent residence upon the bearer at the time of his or her entry into the United States. Whereas the K3 visa is simply a non-immigrant spouse visa. Therefore, those entering the USA in K3 status must either file for an adjustment of status or Consular Process their immigrant visa petition at a US Embassy or US Consulate outside of the USA.

The term “K3 visa” has sort of become the buzzword used to refer to a US Marriage Visa over the internet. In point of fact, the classic travel documents used by Lao spouses to reunite with their American counterparts are referred to as either the CR1 Visa or the IR1 Visa. Depending upon a bi-national couple’s circumstances such travel documents may confer either conditional or unconditional lawful permanent residence upon admission to the USA.

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

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19th October 2010

A common question on the lips of many American Citizens with a Burmese husband or wife is: “Can I get my Burmese husband (or wife) a US K3 marriage visa?” In the past, this question would likely have received an unqualified: yes. However, recent changes to the K3 visa process have resulted in the effective end of broad K-3 marriage visa issuance due to the American State Department’s National Visa Center and their policy of “administrative closure” for many K3 visa applications.

To understand the K3 visa process one must first understand why the K3 visa was invented. It was designed to act as a sort of expedited travel document for spouses of American Citizens at a time when the backlog for adjudication of classic Immigrant spouse visa petitions at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) was running quite high. In fact, there was a time when bi-national Burmese-American couples could wait as long as 3 years just to see their I-130 petition adjudicated (this does not take into account National Visa Center processing and Consular Processing of pending visa applications). Due to the aforementioned backlog, Congress and the US President enacted the so-called “Life Act” which, among other things, created the K-3 visa category. The K3 visa petition sort of “piggybacks” onto an underlying spouse visa petition and can only be filed after an initial Immigrant visa petition is filed.

In 2010, the National Visa Center announced that they would “administratively close” K3 visa applications when the underlying Immigrant visa petition arrived before, or at the same time as, the K-3 petition. It would seem that this policy is based upon the premise that the K-3′s utility is negated when USCIS has already adjudicated the Immigrant visa petition. Bearing this in mind, it should be noted that the Immigrant spouse visas (also known as the CR1 Visa or the IR1 Visa, depending upon the circumstances of the couple seeking the visa benefits) confer Lawful Permanent Residence upon the visa holder when admitted to the USA at a port of entry. A K3 visa holder is admitted as a non-immigrant, but the entrant retains the option of either adjusting status in the USA or applying for their immigrant visa at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. In any case, the K-3 visa, although slightly faster from an initial processing standpoint, does not grant superior benefits to the foreign spouse upon entry compared to the Immigrant visa categories. Therefore, those currently researching American spousal immigration are wise to delve into information regarding the CR1 or IR1 visas.

Fore related information please see: K3 Visa Burma or K1 Visa Burma.

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17th October 2010

Those familiar with this blog may have noticed that administrative closure of K3 visa applications has been a topic of discussion since the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) announced that K3 visa applications would be administratively closed if the underlying I-130 petition arrives at NVC prior to, or at the same as, the supplemental I-129f petition. Those who conduct research about the US visa process over the internet may have noticed that the buzzword used to describe a US Marriage Visa is: K3 visa. However, the K3 Visa is not the classic travel document used to bring a Vietnamese spouse to the United States of America. This is due to the fact that in the relatively recent past the only travel document available to the foreign spouse of a US Citizen, based upon the marriage alone, was either an IR-1 visa or a CR1 Visa both of which are only available to those filing an Immigrant visa petition.

The K-3 visa category’s creation was the result of a piece of legislation commonly referred to as the “Life Act”. This bill was promulgated by the United States Congress and signed into law by President William Jefferson Clinton. At that time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) was processing Immigrant spouse visa petitions quite slowly due to a rather significant backlog of such petitions. The K-3 was designed to alleviate some of this backlog as well as reunite bi-national married couples as quickly as possible in the USA.

Recently, the USCIS has been processing Immigrant spouse petitions in a much more efficient manner. This has lead to many approved Immigrant petitions reaching the National Visa Center (NVC) at the same time or before the supplemental petition used to seek K3 visa benefits. As a result, the NVC made the policy that K3 visa applications would be “administratively closed” if the CR1 or IR1 visa petition arrived at NVC prior to or at the same time as the K3 petition. This has effectively compelled bi-national Vietnamese-American couples to seek Immigrant visa benefits rather than non-immigrant K3 visa benefits. That said, the Immigrant visa really is a preferable visa category to the K-3 as those Vietnamese spouses of American Citizens entering the USA on an Immigrant visa are granted Lawful Permanent Residence (either CR-1 or IR-1 status depending upon the couple’s circumstances) upon admission to the United States at a Port of Entry. Those entering the USA on a K3 visa are not granted lawful permanent residence upon admission, but instead must file for adjustment of status in the USA which can be costly and rather time consuming. Therefore, some have argued that NVC’s administrative closure policy has actually lead to an overall streamlining of the US Marriage Visa process.

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

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15th October 2010

Those American Citizens with an Indonesian spouse sometimes posit: “Would it be possible for me to obtain a K3 visa for my Indonesian husband or wife?” Although, the answer to this question is not exactly “cut and dried” it is a qualified No. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is not another US Marriage Visa category available to the Indonesian husband or wife of a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident.

The reason that a K3 marriage visa is likely unavailable to the Indonesian spouse of a US Citizen (K visas are not available to lawful permanent residents, this includes the popular K1 visa which is often used to bring fiances of American Citizens back to the USA) is due to the fact that the US State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC) has promulgated a policy whereby all K3 Visa applications will be administratively closed if the I-129f petition arrives contemporaneously with, or before, the arrival of an I-130 petition. As the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has recently reduced their backlog when adjudicating I-130 petitions this has lead to a situation where I-130 petitions are arriving at NVC prior to their I-129f counterparts. In a way, circumstances as they exist under the aforementioned scenario negate the need for the K3 visa in most situations.

The K3 visa was created under the language of the so-called “Life Act” which was promulgated during the latter part of the Clinton Administration. At that time, the backlog of I-130 petitions was rather large and the K3 visa was created to allow expedited marriage visa processing for the spouses of US Citizens. As technology improved and USCIS overcame their I-130 backlog the USCIS processing time for the K3 visa and the Immigrant visa categories (CR1 Visa, IR1 Visa) came into alignment. Therefore, the K3 visa became somewhat redundant and the National Visa Center seems to have made the decision to “phase out” these types of visas when they are no longer needed.

This does not mean that American marriage visas are no longer available at all. Instead, more and more couples seek visa benefits by using the classic I-130 petition. This petition, if approved, can be used to obtain a CR1 Visa or an IR1 Visa for the spouse of an American Citizen (Lawful Permanent Residents are eligible to petition for CR1 or IR1 immigration benefits, but it generally takes longer to process such requests). Currently, it takes approximately 11-12 months to obtain an Immigrant visa for the Indonesian spouse of a US Citizen taking into account USCIS adjudication (currently taking approximately 5-6 months), NVC processing, and Consular Processing at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad.

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

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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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27th July 2010

This author has recently been informed that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is poised to conduct a thorough policy review which will delve into USCIS’s customer service procedures and look for ways to improve the US immigration system. As a first step, USCIS announced that a public survey would be conducted. Below are excerpts from a USCIS press release (distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association [AILA]), which outlines the purpose of the policy review and provides guidance regarding further methods of information gathering in an effort to improve USCIS customer service policies:

WASHINGTON— U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the results of a public survey that launched the USCIS Policy Review, an unprecedented, top-to-bottom examination of the agency’s adjudication and customer-service policies. The survey results helped USCIS select the first 10 issue areas to address in the agency-wide review.


Informed by the survey responses, the agency’s needs, and input from the workforce, the USCIS Policy Review will begin by examining policies in the following issue areas: National Customer Service Center; Nonimmigrant H-1B; Naturalization and Citizenship; Employment-based Adjustment of Status; Family-based Adjustment of Status; Employment-Based Preference Categories 1, 2 and 3; Refugee and Asylum Adjustment of Status; Form I-601; General Humanitarian; and Employment
Authorization and Travel Documents.


“As an agency, we must achieve consistency in the policies that guide us and in how we implement them for the public benefit,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “To achieve that critical goal, we are partnering with the public in this major undertaking to review our adjudication and customer-service policies. We will work collaboratively toward the shared objectives of consistency, integrity, transparency and efficiency.”


In April 2010, USCIS issued a survey that asked any interested member of the public, as well as its own workforce, to help identify the issue areas that the agency should examine first. USCIS received approximately 5,600 survey responses from diverse stakeholders. Those results are now available, along with a summary developed by USCIS’s new Office of Performance and Quality.

Some have questioned the need for such a survey as there are those who feel that USCIS’s current policies do not need improvement. Clearly, this is not the official view of USCIS as can be evidenced by the following statement:

On April 15, 2010, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the USCIS Policy Review, an unprecedented, top-to-bottom examination the agency’s adjudication and customer service policies with the engaged participation of the USCIS workforce and the public. USCIS issued a survey that asked any interested member of the public, as well as its own workforce, to help identify the issue areas that the agency should examine first. Nearly 5,600 stakeholders responded to the survey, representing current immigrant and non-immigrant visa holders, employers, immigration attorneys and advocates, among others, in addition to responses from approximately 2,400 members of the USCIS workforce. Those responses helped USCIS select the first 10 issue areas to address in the agency-wide review. USCIS is now convening working groups to review the first 10 issue areas.

The press release went further than merely providing information regarding this important policy review. In an effort to provide the public with relevant information, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) also provided a “Q & A” component to the recent press release. The following are questions and answers arising in connection with USCIS’s policy review initiative:

Questions and Answers


Q. What is the USCIS Policy Review?


A. The USCIS Policy Review is a comprehensive review of policy, guidance, and procedures related to our adjudications and customer service. The Policy Review is divided into four stages: (1) assembling and categorizing existing policy documents; (2) deciding which issue areas to review first, with input from surveys of the workforce and external stakeholders; (3) completing a review of policies in each identified issue area; and (4) consolidating and publishing updated policy documents (as appropriate), once approved.


Q. How does the Policy Review advance major goals already established for USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?


A. In the 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR), DHS identified the effective administration of the immigration system as a key priority. In particular, the QHSR emphasized the importance of a system that produces fair, consistent and prompt decisions for the public it serves. The Policy Review is designed to ensure that USCIS meets that standard in its work.


Q. How does the Policy Review relate to USCIS’s responsibilities and authority under federal law?


A. By law, USCIS is charged with setting policies and priorities for the administration of immigration services. USCIS will be reviewing those policies in our current effort. If the Policy Review identifies the need for proposed regulatory changes, we will fully engage in the federal rulemaking process. The purpose of the Policy Review is not to develop proposed changes to the immigration statutes established by Congress.

Q. Will the Policy Review change USCIS policy?


A. In many cases, yes. Working groups will evaluate policy based on USCIS goals, legal requirements and stakeholder concerns. These working groups will draft updated policy documents and proceed through USCIS’s policy-approval process. If the Policy Review identifies the need for proposed regulatory changes, USCIS will fully engage in the federal rulemaking process.


Q. What happens to existing policies during the course of the Policy Review?


A. While the Policy Review is underway, all policies already in place remain in full force and will be honored. From time to time in the course of the agency’s operations, policy issues may arise that require immediate attention outside the course of the formal Policy Review. We will continue to give these issues immediate attention as the need arises.


Q: What prompted the Policy Review?


A. USCIS is committed to ensuring that our policies are consistent and up to date. To that end, the agency has launched the USCIS Policy Review to examine our policies with input from the public it serves and from its workforce.


Q. Has USCIS previously undertaken a comprehensive review of its policies?


A: No. The effort to undertake a top-to-bottom review of our adjudication and customer service policies is an unprecedented initiative for USCIS.


Q. How will USCIS seek the public’s input during the Policy Review?


A. In keeping with our commitments to customer service and transparency, USCIS will engage practitioners, advocates, businesses, applicants, and other interested stakeholders throughout the course of the Policy Review. The survey was the first opportunity for stakeholders to participate. As we review policies in specific issue areas, we will offer a number of further opportunities for the public to offer input. For example, in some issue areas, we will conduct public meetings to solicit stakeholders’ views on specific policy matters. In many cases, we will also published drafts of new or revised policy memoranda on our website for public comment, now a regular step in USCIS’s policy development process.


Q. What did the survey ask?


A. The survey asked any interested member of the public, as well as the USCIS workforce, to help identify the issue areas that the agency should examine first. The survey also included comment sections.


Q. How many people responded to the survey?


A. Nearly 5,600 external stakeholders responded to the survey, representing current immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders, employers, immigration attorneys and advocates, among others. Nearly 2,400 members of the workforce from USCIS offices worldwide also participated in the survey.


Q. How has USCIS used the survey results?


A. The survey results helped USCIS identify which issue areas to address first in its agency-wide review. USCIS considered quantitative and qualitative feedback from the surveys along with operational and programmatic needs to develop the initial list of issue areas for review.

Q. In addition to the survey, what progress has USCIS made in the Policy Review?


A. USCIS has assembled thousands of existing policy documents and categorized them into issue areas. USICS is now convening internal working groups to begin examining and evaluating the policy documents in the first 10 issue areas.


Q. What is the expected length and scope of the Policy Review?


A. The Policy Review is a multi-year effort designed to work thoughtfully through thousands of policy documents, many of which overlap or complement each other, in collaboration with the USCIS workforce and external stakeholders. New policy documents, once drafted, will be submitted through the USCIS clearance process, with many posted on the USCIS website for public comment.

At the time of this writing, there have been relatively few changes in the law regarding US Family Visas. Although administrative and regulatory changes have had a significant impact upon processing of the US Marriage Visa and the US fiance visa. That said, the recent fee increase for Consular Processing of the K1 visa (fiance visa) and the administrative closure of K3 Visa applications by the National Visa Center were promulgated by the Department of State (DOS) as there has been little recent change in the fee structure and administration of USCIS’s adjudication of family based visa petitions.

This author is of the opinion that this unprecedented policy review should be welcomed as it may herald further improvements to the American Immigration system and provide immigrants and Americans with better overall service. One must applaud USCIS for taking the initiative and promoting positive change.

For related information from the perspective of Southeast Asia please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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