Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘American Embassy Thailand’

14th February 2021

Since the last posting on this blog there have been a number of developments and discussions with respect to both Thai and American immigration issues. One development which has received substantial media coverage has been the Executive Orders signed by President Biden with regard to Immigration policy. Of particular note to the administration of this web log was the order titled: Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. The content of this Executive Order seems designed to impose a new policy paradigm upon the Immigration bureaucracy (or perhaps reimpose of a previously existing paradigm). This effort to change the prevailing paradigm is evidenced in the opening lines of the order itself:

Consistent with our character as a Nation of opportunity and of welcome, it is essential to ensure that our laws and policies encourage full participation by immigrants, including refugees, in our civic life; that immigration processes and other benefits are delivered effectively and efficiently; and that the Federal Government eliminates sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them…The Federal Government should develop welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship, and it should embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy.

Clearly, the administration seeks to re-establish a sense of decorum and compassion tot eh immigration system. The order goes on the delineate as to more concrete steps toward those ends:

Sec. 3.  Restoring Trust in our Legal Immigration System.  The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall review existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that may be inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(a)  In conducting this review, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall:

(i)   identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits and make recommendations on how to remove these barriers, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law; and

(ii)  identify any agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system — such as the final rule entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” 85 Fed. Reg. 46788 (Aug. 3, 2020), in light of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (title I of division D of Public Law 116-159) — and recommend steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to revise or rescind those agency actions.

(b)  Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a plan to the President describing the steps their respective agencies will take to advance the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(c)  Within 180 days of submitting the plan described in subsection (b) of this section, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a report to the President describing the progress of their respective agencies towards implementing the plan developed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and recognizing any areas of concern or barriers to implementing the plan.

It remains to be seen precisely how this will impact the American immigration system, and it should be noted that the apparatus is unlikely to fundamentally change over night. That stated, there is good reason to hope there may be “light at the end of the tunnel” after months of seemingly unnecessary delay and obfuscation in the visa process. There does appear to one area of particular interest to the current administration with respect to US immigration. Namely, there have been a number of issues associated with the “Public Charge rule” and prior to the issue of COVID-19 coming to the forefront of immigration analysis, public charge was shaping up to be a significant obstacle for a number of family based immigration cases (including, but not limited to: the K-1 visa, the K-3 visa, the CR-1 visa, and the IR-1 visa categories). The recently promulgated order seems to take this issue seriously:

The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, as appropriate, shall review all agency actions related to implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility in section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), and the related ground of deportability in section 237(a)(5) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(5).  They shall, in considering the effects and implications of public charge policies, consult with the heads of relevant agencies, including the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

(a)  This review should:

(i)    consider and evaluate the current effects of these agency actions and the implications of their continued implementation in light of the policy set forth in section 1 of this order;

(ii)   identify appropriate agency actions, if any, to address concerns about the current public charge policies’ effect on the integrity of the Nation’s immigration system and public health; and

(iii)  recommend steps that relevant agencies should take to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes, if any, to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.

(b)  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a report to the President describing any agency actions identified pursuant to subsection (a)(ii) of this section and any steps their agencies intend to take or have taken, consistent with subsection (a)(iii) of this section.

It seems the administration is particularly keen to address the difficulties imposed by rules changes pertaining to public charge and hopefully some revision of the rules may be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, although there has not been a great deal of substantive change to current immigration policy in Thailand, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding possible policy changes to in an effort to revitalize the Thai tourism sector which, depending upon the source, seems to have seen between 1-3 million layoffs since the response to the pandemic began. Once solution discussed has been the notion of a “vaccine passport” or “immunity passport“. Essentially, this notion centers upon the idea that those who can prove they have been inoculated against COVID-19, via one of the many vaccinations currently on the market, will be allowed to travel to Thailand without the need to quarantine in one of the alternative state quarantine (ASQ) facilities. Notwithstanding the fact that there has ben a great deal of discussion on this matter, it currently appears, as with the so-called “travel bubble” scheme, that this program will not be implemented any time soon. As the tourism sector in Thailand languishes, long stay tourists may avail themselves to special tourist visas or standard TR visas to stay in Thailand. Furthermore, the Thai retirement visa remains a viable option for those wishing to travel to Thailand for retirement purposes.

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5th January 2021

As 2021 dawned the situation in Thailand, specifically the response to COVID-19, deteriorated. Presently, in place of full lockdowns, much of Thailand is operating under a system of provincial imposition of “highly controlled area” status which is restricting many operations many people once took for granted. How has this impacted the immigration system? Initially, it seemed this turn of events would not impact prospects for gaining admission to Thailand. Then, it appeared that those from the UK might be restricted from arriving in Thailand. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The Ministry of Public Health will ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to defer the entry of British visitors to the country after the fast-spreading B117 strain of Covid-19 was found in four British nationals entering Thailand on Dec 21.

This caused a great deal of consternation especially among those seeking Thai visas from the Embassy in the UK. However, further deliberation seems to have resulted in the decision that arrivals from the United Kingdom will not be impeded. Quoting directly from The Nation:

Thailand’s measures to control the spread of Covid-19 are strong enough to not warrant special measures against travellers from the United Kingdom, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Thanee Saengrat said.

Based upon the above information, it seems logical to presume that the overall situation regarding foreign nationals arriving in Thailand remains much as it did prior to the new year. Meanwhile, a number of travelers are finding that trying to process their Thai visa application on their own from abroad is a cumbersome endeavor. The overall process of gaining lawful admission to Thailand is greatly changed compared to times past. One major sticking point for many is the addition of the certificate of entry to the process. This document is required in addition to a Thai visa. Concurrently, documentation showing a lack of infection for COVID-19 in addition to fit to fly documentation has proven nettlesome for many. Couple this with the fact that those entering Thailand are still required to undergo Alternative State Quarantine for 14 days prior to gaining total access to the Kingdom. There was some discussion regarding the possibility of seeing the quarantine time frame reduced to 10 days or even less. However, under present circumstances this seems highly unlikely. The notion of “travel bubble” arrangements also being brought online seems unlikely at this time as well.  Although many in Thailand are hopeful that the disbursement of a vaccine may result in a return of tourists in 2021. As of the time of this writing, this remains conjecture.

Turning to American immigration, many have found themselves in a kind of processing “limbo” with respect to cases such as the K-1 fiance visa as well as the various marriage visas including the K-3 visa, CR-1 and IR-1 visa categories. Currently, a large number of cases remain at the National Visa Center and seem unlikely to be processed out for interview soon. There appeared to be hope in the last part of the final quarter of 2020 as some cases were being scheduled for interview, but that hope may be dashed as the current situation in Thailand may result in further interview cancellations. This situation is fluid and still evolving.

Many hope that a transition to a new administration will herald an end to certain arbitrary and capricious aspects of the immigration process in its current form, but it should be noted that it takes time for bureaucracies to change and therefore a Biden presidency may not immediately see major changes to visa case processing in 2021.

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2nd May 2020

The past 6 weeks have been very eventful in terms of the response to the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) lock down in Thailand. This crisis has also had a significant impact upon the American visa process. By way of an update, the Thai government has recently announced an easing of restrictions associated with the lock down of business and social interaction in Thailand. It now appears that as of May 3rd, small eateries, parks, hair salons, stores selling certain retail as well as electronic goods, and pet shops will be allowed to reopen. Thai government officials have announced that further phased reopening measures will be implemented in coming weeks should circumstances permit. Concurrently, it was initially announced that the ban on the sale of alcohol in Thailand would be extended throughout the month of May. There was some speculation that a “grace period” would be permitted on Mat 1st and 2nd to allow the public time to “stock up” on alcohol products in anticipation of further restrictions over the forthcoming month.

Shortly after these predictions and the announcement that the ban on alcohol sales would continue, it was announced that retail alcohol sales could recommence beginning May 3rd. Further, it appears that those eateries which maintain an alcohol license and usually sell alcohol in the course of their day-to-day business will be permitted to sell alcohol on a “take-away” basis. Therefore, for the forthcoming days small restaurants and other venues will be reopened to the public and life in Thailand appears to be normalizing somewhat. Notwithstanding these measures, restrictions on pubs and entertainment establishments remain.

While all of this is unfolding in Thailand, in the USA the US immigration system appears to be preparing for further delays associated with the processing of visa cases. The following announcement from USCIS recently came to this blogger’s attention:

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS plans to begin reopening our offices on or after June 4, unless the public closures are extended further.

In prior announcements it had been noted that May 4th would be the presumptive date of reopening. It now appears that there will be at least another month delay for in-person services with USCIS. At the same time, the new Immigration Ban remains in effect although it is unlikely to have any impact upon those seeking a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, or K-1 visa from Thailand as the ban specifically excludes spouse visas and only pertains to immigrant visas. Therefore, as a fiance visa is not, by definition, an immigrant visa, the provisions this new ban do not apply to fiances of American citizens. However, notwithstanding the fact that the immigration ban does no directly impact most family based visas from Thailand it is effectively a moot point for the immediately foreseeable future due to the fact that the Immigrant Visa Unit and the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit at the US Embassy in Bangkok are not currently holding visa interviews nor are the issuance immigrant and non-immigrant visa as they remain closed due to the coronavirus. We, in this office, are currently looking at the USCIS presumed reopening date as the best indication of when it seems prudent to presume that the Embassy will reopen for interviews. That stated, the ultimate date of reopening remains to be seen, but we will try to keep you up to date on this blog.

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22nd April 2020

An Executive Order has been issued by the Trump administration regarding suspension of immigration to the United States for the forthcoming 60 days. However, the order does not appear to apply to those seeking a K-1 visa to bring a foreign fiance to the USA. Concurrently, it also does not appear to apply to American visas for the spouses and children of U.S. Citizens. To quote directly from the relevant sections of the order as posted on the White House website:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would, except as provided for in section 2 of this proclamation, be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and that their entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions.  I therefore hereby proclaim the following:

Section 1.  Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.

Sec2.  Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  (a)  The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall apply only to aliens who:

(i)    are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

(ii)   do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii)  do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

(b)  The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i)     any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii)    any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees;  and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;

(iii)   any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

(iv)    any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;

(v)     any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

(vi)    any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;

(vii)   any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

(viii)  any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

(ix)    any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

Sec3.  Implementation and Enforcement.  (a)  The consular officer shall determine, in his or her discretion, whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility for an exception in section 2(b) of this proclamation.  The Secretary of State shall implement this proclamation as it applies to visas pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish in the Secretary of State’s discretion.  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall implement this proclamation as it applies to the entry of aliens pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion.

(b)  An alien who circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry shall be a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security.

(c)  Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws of the United States.

Sec4.  Termination.  This proclamation shall expire 60 days from its effective date and may be continued as necessary.  Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.

Sec5.  Effective Date.  This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.

Sec6.  Additional Measures.  Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.

Sec7.  Severability.  It is the policy of the United States to enforce this proclamation to the maximum extent possible to advance the interests of the United States.  Accordingly:

(a)  if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this proclamation and the application of its provisions to any other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby; and

(b)  if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid because of the lack of certain procedural requirements, the relevant executive branch officials shall implement those procedural requirements to conform with existing law and with any applicable court orders.

Sec8.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or,

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This proclamation shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This proclamation is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

 

Clearly, there are many who might see their cases negatively impacted by this order. To preface any further analysis, it should be noted that visa processing has been suspended at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand as well as the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos and the US Embassy in Phnom Phen, Cambodia due to the COVID-19 outbreak. So regardless of this order, it is not currently possible to obtain a visa from these posts as interviews have been suspended. Bearing the above in mind, the following analysis will demonstrate that this order will NOT have an impact on fiance visa and marriage visa cases for the fiances and/or spouses of American citizens:

The executive order states: “The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.” The K-1 visa is designed for the fiance of an American citizen to to travel to the United States with the intention of marriage. It grants the bearer 90 days of lawful status in the USA in which to marry their American fiance and file for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (aka Green Card status). It is important to note: the K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, albeit a dual intent visa. For purposes of processing it is treated as an immigrant visa (for example K-1 cases process through the Immigrant Visa Unit of the American Embassy in Thailand), but pursuant to United States law it is in fact a non-immigrant visa. The above cited executive order only pertains to immigrant visas. Therefore, this order does not have any bearing upon the processing of a K-1 fiance visa case.

What about cases involving the spouse of an American citizen where the spouse would enter the USA and be granted an I-551 stamp thereby granting permanent residence to the foreign spouse upon entry? The above executive order speaks directly to such a situation: “The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:…(iv) any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen“[Emphasis Added]. Clearly the suspension ordered in Trump’s executive order will exempt spouses of Americans. Therefore, those foreign spouses of American citizens seeking a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa will not be adversely impacted by the provisions of this executive order.

Finally, the following should be noted: “This proclamation shall expire 60 days from its effective date…This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.” Thus, unless this order is extended it will expire 60 days from now. We will keep readers updated on this blog as the situation progresses.

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18th April 2020

Those following this blog are likely well aware that that the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) is having a dramatic impact upon logistical issues around the world. In Thailand, the Immigration Bureau has promulgated regulations to allow certain tourists stranded in Thailand to automatically extend Thai visa status. Meanwhile, while the American Embassy in Bangkok has been assiduous in providing up to date information regarding the ongoing ramifications of the crisis with respect to travel arrangements to the USA, a recent segment of a Health Alert from the Embassy drew this blogger’s attention. To quote directly from the Embassy’s website:

When booking a flight out of Thailand we urge you to do so at the earliest opportunity, ideally within the next several days.  If you have booked a flight after this time period, you should consider rebooking for an earlier date or make plans to stay in Thailand indefinitely. [Emphasis Added]

Although readers were likely aware that COVID-19 is causing consternation in booking travel arrangements, this particular warning definitely made this reader acutely cognizant of the possible long term ramifications of failing to make timely travel arrangements back to the USA. On the one hand the term “indefinitely” could be viewed simply as “unspecified period” or “foreseeable future,” but, on the other hand, it certainly has a somewhat ominous undertone. Therefore, those with an intention to return to the USA sooner rather than later are well advised to make all necessary arrangements as soon as possible in order to forestall a situation wherein one’s return to the USA is delayed for a substantially prolonged period of time. Concurrently, those wishing to remain in Thailand are strongly advised to fully ascertain the posture of their visa status as falling into overstay could result in the precarious predicament of being stuck in Thailand out of visa status while simultaneously being unable to return to the USA. This could lead to a situation wherein one finds themselves arrested and/or placed in the Thai Immigration Detention Center. Under such circumstances detention could prove to be a prolonged ordeal as  arranging an expedited deportation could prove difficult in light of the fact that international flights have been severely truncated and the latitude of travel for the deportee may be restricted as other countries may not wish to accept such an arrival especially if onward travel to the USA cannot be readily arranged.

Although we will be updating this blog as the situation evolves, the administration of this platform strongly urges readers to seriously ponder their situation as failure to make a decision in a timely manner could have serious consequences in the future.

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19th March 2020

It now appears that all visa services provided to foreign nationals at American Embassies and Consulates abroad have been suspended. In a recent article from Reuters, the following was reported:

The United States is suspending all routine visa services as of Wednesday in most countries worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak, a spokeswoman for the State Department said, an unprecedented move that will potentially impact hundreds of thousands of people…The State Department spokeswoman said U.S. missions abroad will continue to provide emergency visa services “as resources allow,” and that the services to U.S. citizens will remain available.

Concurrently, the following message was issued by the US Embassy in Thailand:

Information for Immigrant Visa applicants regarding novel coronavirus: As of March 19, 2020, the United States Embassy and Consulate in Thailand are cancelling Immigrant Visa appointments until further notice.  We will resume routine Immigrant Visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.  Once we resume Immigrant Visa operations, we will contact you with a new appointment date. Applicants who had their Immigrant Visa interviews cancelled due to the cessation of operations will be given first priority for rescheduling.

Meanwhile, it now appears that all intending entrants to Thailand will be required to present a medical certificate prior to boarding a plane for Thailand. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand now requires all air passengers, Thai and foreign, to show Covid-19-free health certificates and Covid-19 insurance before boarding their flights to Thailand…Airlines must require passengers to present health certificates issued no more than 72 hours before the  flight departs. The certificates must guarantee that the passengers are free of Covid-19, regardles where they board. Airlines must also require that passengers have insurance covering Covid-19 treatment in Thailand, up to at least US$100,000.

We will keep this blog updated as the situation evolves.

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1st January 2020

By any estimate, 2019 was not a great year for those dealing with either the American or Thai Immigration systems. In 2019, those seeking to live in Thailand under an O retirement or marriage visa saw many of the rules regarding that visa category changed. For example, it is now no longer possible for many expats in Thailand to use income affidavits issued from the Embassies or Consulates of their home country in order to prove their financial ability to remain in the Kingdom. Concurrently, the regulations regarding the income or bank balance requirements associated with the marriage and retirement visas are now more strictly enforced and may require a more prolonged maintenance of a bank balance compared with times past. Meanwhile, with respect to Thai retirement visas specifically, the rules regarding retirement visa issuance and extension underwent another adjustment with the introduction of the rule that retirement visa holders in Thailand must obtain health insurance coverage in order to cover medical expenses while maintaining their retiree status in Thailand. Although there were no specific changes with regard to the rules pertaining to Thai business visas, 2019 saw a level of scrutiny with respect to adjudication which is rather unprecedented.

Meanwhile, in the USA the Immigration apparatus has seen a great deal of administrative transformation. Some Immigration practitioners in the USA are calling this the “Invisible Wall” in reference to the current President’s promise to build a wall to deter illegal immigration. With respect to US visas from Thailand specifically, it should be noted that 2019 saw the closing of the USCIS office in Bangkok. Moving forward through 2020 and beyond it appears that those who could once file for Immigration benefits through that office, including applications for IR-1 and CR-1 visas from Thailand, must now file their cases through the relevant USCIS office in the USA. Furthermore, it appears that the number of requests for evidence in cases involving American family based cases is on the rise while it remains to be seen exactly what the National Vetting Center is doing as cases processing through the National Visa Center seem to be processed in increasingly slowly. In cases involving K-1 visas from Thailand the overall process has seen little fundamental change, but the as with other American immigration petitions there seems to be a rise in the number of RFEs issued especially in the wake of changes to the relevant forms associated with such matters.

What can be expected moving forward? With respect to Thai Immigration it seems unlikely that fundamental changes to the retirement visa category (such as the medical insurance requirement) are in the offing. In fact, it seems that the current regulatory framework has been set in place as a rather permanently. However, there is speculation that insurance requirements may be imposed for other categories such as marriage visas and perhaps even business visas, but this remains pure speculation. Further, in light of recent down turns in certain parts of the Thai tourism sector and the increasing strength of the baht it seems Immigration officials are signaling a more moderating tone in order to forestall damage to the tourism sector. With regard to American immigration it seems logical to surmise that the trends of 2019 will continue into 2020 with everyone focusing upon the forthcoming election in November as a possible indicator of where immigration policy will be heading in the forthcoming decade.

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25th October 2018

It recently came to this blogger’s attention, via a press release from the US Embassy in Bangkok, that the Embassy seems to be in the process of discontinuing issuance of income affidavits pertaining to verification of finances in the context of application for certain types of Thai visa extension. To quote directly from the press release:

As of January 1, 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will cease to provide the income affidavit for the purpose of applying for Thai retirement and family visas and will not notarize previous versions of the income affidavit.  The Royal Thai Government requires actual verification of income to certify visa applicants meet financial requirements for long-stay visas.  The U.S. government cannot provide this verification and will no longer issue the affidavits.

Those unaware of the importance of these documents should take note of the fact that in the past notarized income affidavits were used in connection with applications for either a Thai retirement visa or a Thai marriage visa. Such documents were utilized in lieu of presenting evidence of a lump sum in a Thai bank account (800,000 THB for a retirement visa, and 400,000 THB for a marriage visa) or proof of a prolonged history of income in a Thai bank account (65,000 THB per month for a retirement visa and 40,000 per month for a marriage visa). These documents were generally issued by the American Citizen Services (ACS) Section of the US Embassy. In the past, a notarized income affidavit from the US Embassy which was legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sufficient to meet the evidentiary requirements of the Thai Immigration officers adjudicating financial documentation in connection with applications for visa extensions. As seems to be the case in matters pertaining to British income letters, American officials appear to be unwilling to continue issuance these instruments in light of the recent official Thai requests that the veracity of the information in the affidavit be verified rather than merely the authenticity of the signature on the document. It seems that although the Embassy is unable to continue issuing such documentation as it was issued in the past, they will continue to notarize other documentation.

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6th February 2018

It has recently been announced that the Trump administration is creating a new “National Vetting Center”. The following article is intended to shed light on what this institution is designed to do and how it will fit into the overall immigration process.

It should first be noted that the National Vetting Center should not be confused with the preexisting National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearing house and central repository for documentation pertaining to visa applications through the Department of State. The National Visa Center’s function is to gather relevant documentation and forward cases to the appropriate US Embassy or US Consulate for visa interview scheduling.

The National Vetting Center would seem to have a different mandate, although not altogether different as both institutions deal with matters pertaining to US Immigration. In an effort to provide further insight it is necessary to cite a recent article from the website of USA Today:

The National Vetting Center will be run by the Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the intelligence community and the departments of State, Justice and Defense. Its mission: To “collect, store, share, disseminate, and use” a broad range of information about people who seek to enter the United States, with a goal of identifying people who may be a threat to national security or public safety. “This is yet another step towards knowing who is coming to the United States — that they are who they say they are and that they do not pose a threat to our nation,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

Although disregarded by some at the time as overreacting, this blogger has noted in prior discussion of so-called extreme vetting policy that although it was initially discussed in a very narrow geographical and situational context the establishment of the National Vetting Center and the presumption that all future US Immigration processing will involve said institution shows that this policy will have broad ramifications for all visa applicants.

What does this mean for the timing of US visa applications? At this time it is too soon to say whether the addition of National Vetting Center protocols will result in slower processing times. However, it stands to reason that adding an entirely new institutional bureaucracy to the overall immigration framework will result in at least some delays in the processing of petitions and applications.

As has been discussed previously on this blog and through some of our firm’s videos: the Trump administration’s policies with respect to Immigration could have wide ranging and long lasting ramifications for those seeking visas in the future. Furthermore, if a deal can be reached with respect to Comprehensive Immigration Reform it looks as though the era of so-called “chain migration” (allowing extended family of Lawful Permanent Residents and American citizens to seek visa benefits)  and the visa lottery will likely come to an end.

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5th September 2016

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Consulate-General in Chiang Mai will be suspending services from September 12, 2016. It may be best to quote directly from the US Consulate’s website:

Except for U.S. citizen emergencies, consular services at the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will be suspended from September 12, 2016 to November 1, 2016, due to necessary renovations to the Consular Section…All nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applicants who intend to travel during this period should make appointments with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok…The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit will remain available by email and phone for emergency U.S. citizen services such as death and welfare/whereabouts cases; and we will continue to accept voter registration, absentee ballot requests, and absentee ballots.  Also, please note that the ACS Unit will conduct several U.S. citizen outreach events in and around Chiang Mai during this period…

Those wishing to learn more are well advised to click the link above.

Those seeking non-immigrant visas such as US Tourist visas and US student visas will, at least for the time being, be required to interview for such travel documents in Bangkok. It should be noted that this announcement has no impact upon those seeking immigrant visas such as the IR-1 visa or the CR-1 visa nor does it change the current processing protocols of the K-1 fiancee visa as although such fiance visas are considered non-immigrant visas they are processed in much the same manner as immigrant visas. As dual intent visas, holders of the K-1 visa may enter the United States in non-immigrant status with the intention of remaining and thereby use the adjustment of status process in order to convert into lawful permanent resident status (aka Green Card holder status) once in the USA. All of the aforementioned visa categories are initially adjudicated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security; before undergoing further Consular Processing at the United States Embassy in Bangkok, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of State.

Notwithstanding the continuation of regular immigration services for those wishing to permanently move to the USA. It would appear that this situation may cause inconvenience for those in the North of Thailand seeking American Citizen Services such as passport renewal, notarization, and issuance of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA). Other than occasional Consular outreach, many of these services will apparently need to be obtained from the Post in Bangkok during this renovation period.

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