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Posts Tagged ‘American Department of State’

16th June 2010

The Department of State (DOS) is a multifaceted government agency as it is tasked with handling American foreign relations as well as Consular Affairs. That said, an often overlooked aspect of the American State Department’s mandate is refugee assistance. Unfortunately, throughout the world, economic and political turbulence causes the displacement and migration of local populations. In a recent government press release Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, had this to say about DOS’s role in international population migration:

In my first 11 months on the job, many friends, colleagues and counterparts have asked me about the scope of the humanitarian work of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), which I am honored to lead. For those of you who already know our Bureau well, this note may not be critical reading. For those who don’t, I thought I’d take some time to describe the Bureau and its priorities, and finish by introducing our new Front Office team. Within the Department of State, PRM serves as the principal humanitarian advisor to the Secretary of State, provides key leadership on population and migration issues, and manages two high-impact foreign assistance accounts that totaled over $1.7 billion in FY 2009. Our mandate is to provide protection and solutions to the world’s most vulnerable people: refugees, conflict victims, stateless persons, and vulnerable migrants, and to do so by integrating diplomacy, advocacy and humanitarian assistance programs. In this effort, we seek to help realize the commitments of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to alleviate human suffering and create the conditions for sustainable recovery, and to build a more effective multilateral system for humanitarian response.

It is interesting to note that many of the issues associated with refugee assistance can trace their roots to routine diplomatic issues which is why the Department of State is an ideal mechanism for providing assistance to refugee populations. To quote the aforementioned press release further:

Most of the humanitarian situations to which PRM responds are rooted in political or security challenges. For this reason, our access to foreign heads of government and other key foreign government decision-makers is critical, as it fosters the integration of humanitarian diplomacy within a full range of U.S. government assistance and protection programs, and leverages these programs to achieve critical humanitarian objectives. Over the past many months, I’ve pursued international humanitarian objectives in visits with a range of senior foreign leaders and officials, including with President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic on issues relating to the status of Haitians; the Prime Minister of Jordan and the Vice Foreign Minister of Syria on issues relating to Iraqi and Palestinian refugees; and the President, Defense Minister and Foreign Minister on conditions for internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka.

In this author’s opinion, assisting refugees and displaced individuals is a noble pursuit. Therefore, the efforts of DOS in this regard should be applauded as this type of activity ought to continue as countries around the world strive for greater international harmony.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand or US Embassy Thailand.

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10th June 2010

A frequently discussed topic on this blog is the US Tourist Visa. The US Embassy Bangkok processes a significant number of US Tourist Visa applications each year. In the past, most non-immigrant visa applications required the submission of form DS-156. Recently, the US State Department announced that the DS-156 should no longer be used  by those seeking a US B2 Tourist Visa:

The new DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, is a fully integrated online application form that is used to collect the necessary application information from a person seeking a nonimmigrant visa. The DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State via the Internet. Consular Officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.

Apparently, the DS-160 has been introduced in an effort to streamline the visa process for those seeking non-immigrant visas outside of the United States of America. To quote the above announcement further:

All U.S. Embassies and Consulates that process nonimmigrant visas now use the new online DS-160. Therefore, visa applicants will need to apply using the online DS-160 for most, but not all, nonimmigrant visa categories. Review the [State Department] FAQs for exceptions and to find out which nonimmigrant categories continue to use the DS-156 at this time.

There are many who worry that these recent changes will impact other types of applications. This worry seems to be most prevalently felt by those seeking K1 visa benefits or K3 Visa benefits for a foreign fiancee or spouse. That said, consultation with an American legal professional may be necessary in order to determine which forms should be used when filing for certain visa categories. As always, it should be noted that only a licensed American attorney is entitled to assist in American Immigration matters. That said, many find that applying for a US Tourist Visa does not require the assistance of an American lawyer as such assistance would likely add little value to such an application. However, many applicants for US family immigration benefits find that attorney assistance is beneficial.

It should be noted that many applicants find their application for a visa denied pursuant to the Consular Officer’s application of Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Such a finding basically means that the applicant was unable to show requisite “strong ties” to their home country and “weak ties” to the United States. Those seeking a visa to the USA should be advised that if immigration is the ultimate goal, then a tourist visa is not the proper travel document. Even if a visa application is approved by a US Consulate overseas, the foreign national could still be placed in expedited removal proceeding upon arrival at the port of entry in the USA if the Customs and Border Protection officers have reason to believe that the applicant is an undisclosed intending immigrant attempting to enter the USA.

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