Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘American Lawyer’

6th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Justice, in association with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is taking measures to combat scams involving immigration services for those wishing to travel to the USA . To quote directly from a recent announcement posted upon the official website of the Department of Justice, Justice.gov:

Federal Agencies Combat Immigration Services Scams
DHS, DOJ and FTC Collaborate with State and Local Partners in Unprecedented Effort

WASHINGTON—The U.S. government will unveil a national initiative to combat immigration services scams on June 9 at 1 p.m. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are leading this historic effort.
DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the lead agency responsible for administering the U.S. legal immigration system, will announce the initiative while hosting events in seven cities around the country as well as the national launch in Washington, D.C.

The unauthorized practice of immigration law is an exploitative practice that endangers the integrity of our immigration system and victimizes members of the immigrant community. Understanding the gravity of this deceptive practice, federal, state and local partners have come together to combat immigration services scams on all fronts. The initiative is set upon three pillars: enforcement, education, and continued collaboration. Each agency plays a critical role to ensure the success of this national effort. This initiative exemplifies how government and community can work together to effectively address a serious problem…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn more about the Justice Department’s recently announced initiative.

Unfortunately, there are many less-than-reputable organizations in jurisdictions such as those which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other locales around the world falsely purporting to have the necessary qualifications to provide advice, counsel, and assistance pertaining to United States visas and immigration.

Processing a United States visa can be a cumbersome and overwhelming process for those unfamiliar with relevant immigration law and procedure. Those thinking about retaining an American lawyer to assist in the acquisition of visas such as the CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, K-1 visa, EB-5 visa, or L-1 visa (to name just a few visa categories) are encouraged to ascertain the credentials of those claiming knowledge of such matters. This is encouraged because only properly licensed attorneys are permitted to accept fees to engage in the practice of U.S. immigration law pursuant to 8 CFR 292.1.

In general, before a visa applicant can undergo Consular Processing at US Mission abroad (US Embassy, US Consulate, American Institute, etc) they must first receive an approved petition from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

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

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5th June 2011

This posting discusses the issues associated with retaining an American attorney to assist with the K-1 visa process. Those thinking about retaining assistance in the K-1 visa process are well advised to conduct thorough research prior to making any irrevocable decisions.

The K-1 visa is a non-immigrant US fiance visa which was intended to be used solely by the foreign fiances of American Citizens. The K-1 visa allows the foreign fiancee of an American Citizen to enter the United States for a period of 90 days of the purpose of marriage. Those who do not marry their American fiance after 90 days in the USA will be required to depart from the USA. Readers should bear in mind that the entrant to the United States on a K-1 visa who marries their loved one must undergo the adjustment of status process in order to gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.A.

The purpose of this article is to provide insight to Americans about the perils of dealing with non-licensed individuals who purport to be qualified to practice United States Immigration law (or any American law, for that matter) . Pursuant to 8 CFR 292.1 only a qualified lawyer licensed to practice law in at least one U.S. State or Federal jurisdiction is entitled to engage in the receiving of client fees in connection with the practice of United States immigration law. Therefore, those not so qualified must either fit within a narrow exception to the aforementioned rule lest their behavior be deemed to be illegal. It should be noted that attorney-client confidentiality is a significant issue which should be considered when ascertaining the credentials of those claiming qualification in United States immigration matters abroad as there are many so-called “visa agents” or “immigration consultants” claiming qualification to provide services in connection with U.S. immigration. Attorney-client privilege is not extended to those not qualified as an American attorney and therefore discussions with unqualified individuals are likely not privileged communications. Meanwhile, some individuals brazenly, albeit falsely, portray themselves as American attorneys when, in fact, this is simply not the case.

For all of the reasons outlined above it should be noted that only a competent licensed attorney from the United States should be retained to assist prospective clients. Readers should understand that this message is not conveyed as an advertisement of this particular blogger’s services, as this is not this blogger’s intention in creating this posting. Instead, this post should be viewed as a reminder to readers that this decision should be made by prospective clients after serious contemplation and thorough research of all possible candidates for an attorney position. Attorney-Client relationships are not “one size fits-all” and neither is quality legal service. Therefore, the public should conduct research before coming to an informed decision about hiring an attorney.

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

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16th February 2011

It has recently come to this blogger’s attention through anecdotal evidence that there may have been a relatively significant increase in the number of I-601 waiver petitions filed by American Citizens in both the Kingdom of Thailand as well as the greater area that comprises the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Apparently, the majority of these cases are being handled pro se (without attorney representation). It would appear that these pro se filings are being subjected to Requests For Evidence (RFE) which can be time consuming. Furthermore, there are some who also speculate that such petitions could see a higher denial rate.

Those who read this blog may have taken notice of the fact that this blogger takes the practice of United States Immigration law seriously. That said, there is nothing inherently wrong with American Citizens unilaterally petitioning their government for United States Immigration benefits pro se. This blogger has no problem with those who wish to seek immigration benefits without the assistance of counsel, but those pondering this course of action should be aware of the risks. First, the assistance of an American attorney in the US Immigration process can prove highly beneficial as such a professional can provide insight into the dynamics of immigration law as well as the regulations which are used to enforce that law.

Immigration law could be likened to dermatological medicine insofar as the routine cases that arise in an immigration context are sometimes easily taken care of by the petitioner or beneficiary themselves much the same way that a case of acne could be alleviated without the need to visit a dermatologist. Meanwhile, some issues which arise in immigration law can be extremely complicated and therefore such matters may require the assistance of one with a great deal of experience in matters pertaining to American immigration law. This state of affairs brings to mind a hypothetical situation involving dermatologists who specialize in skin cancers and various other skin maladies which are not commonly known to laymen. To take this hypothetical further, a patient afflicted with skin cancer is usually unable to treat themselves. To use this hypothetical as an analogy in an immigration context: those seeking an I-601 waiver are in a situation, similar to the skin cancer patient mentioned above, which may require professional assistance as failure to retain an attorney could increase the chances that an I-601 waiver (or for that matter an I-212 waiver) will be ultimately denied.

The standard of proof in an I-601 waiver is “extreme hardship” and this standard is not easily overcome. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has noted that “extreme hardship” does not mean “mere separation,” of the couple, but is, in fact, something more substantial. American Immigration lawyers expend a great deal of time and effort to see that I-601 waiver petitions are well founded. As a result, such petitions may be at a lower risk of being denied. Bearing this in mind, no attorney, or anyone else for that matter, can foresee what the outcome of a waiver petition will be. Those reading this posting should not misconstrue the author’s message by inferring that retaining an attorney will result in a guaranteed outcome as this is simply not the case. Should an I-601 waiver petition be denied, then it may be possible to have the case reconsidered in a Motion to Reopen or through an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Under such circumstances, the case will be adjudicated based upon an “abuse of discretion” standard which is not easily overcome. Therefore, submitting a well founded I-601 waiver petition the first time can be imperative for those wishing to have a legal grounds of inadmissibility waived.

As always, those seeking representation or counsel in matters related to American immigration should check the credentials of anyone in Southeast Asia claiming expertise in such matters. Only an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States is entitled charge fees to represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, or American Missions abroad.

For related information about this issue please see: US Visa Denial.

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6th January 2011

For those American Citizens or United States Lawful Permanent Residents who frequently travel abroad, it may sometimes prove necessary to obtain services or assistance from an American Mission abroad. In an effort to forestall fruitless trips by the public to US Posts abroad the administration of this blog routinely posts the holiday closing schedules of various US Missions in Asia. This blogger has personally found that arriving at a US Embassy only to find it closed due to observance of an American or foreign holiday can be frustrating. The following was quoted directly from the official website of the American Institute in Taiwan:

January 2011

  • Monday, January 3: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Monday, January  17: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (US Holiday)


February 2011

  • Tuesday, February 1: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Wednesday, February 2 to Monday, February 7: Chinese Lunar New Year Holidays (Local)
  • Monday, February 21: Washington’s Birthday (US Holiday)
  • Monday, February 28: Peace Memorial Day (Local)


March 2011

  • Tuesday, March 1: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)

April 2011

  • Friday, April 1: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Monday, April 4: Children’s day (Local)
  • Tuesday, April 5: Tomb Sweeping Day (Local)


May 2011

  • Monday, May 30: Memorial Day (US Holiday)

June 2011

  • Monday, June 6: Dragon Boat Festival (Local)


July 2011

  • Monday, July 4: Independence Day (US Holiday)


September 2011

  • Thursday, September 1: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Monday, September 5: Labor Day (US Holiday)
  • Monday, September 12: Mid-Autumn Festival (Local)


October 2011

  • Monday, October 3: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Monday, October 10: National Holiday (Local) also Columbus Day (US Holiday)


November 2011

  • Tuesday, November 1: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Friday, November 11: Veterans Day (US Holiday)
  • Thursday, November 24: Thanksgiving Day (US Holiday)


December 2011

  • Thursday, December 1: Consular Section In-Service Day (AIT/Taipei)
  • Monday, December 26: Christmas Day (Observed US Holiday)

Those seeking services such as issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, US Passport, or additional visa pages are well advised to contact and American Citizen Services Section of the nearest US Mission with jurisdiction over the area in which one is physically present.

For the homepage of the official website of the American Institute in Taiwan please click HERE

Those seeking US non-immigrant visas such as the B-2 visa for tourists, the B-1 visa for short term business travelers, the F-1 visa for students, or the J-1 visa for exchange visitors are likely to have their visa application adjudicated by a non-immigrant visa unit of a US Mission abroad. Those seeking immigrant visas for Taiwanese loved ones are likely to process their application through an Immigrant Visa Unit. It should be noted that for purposes of visa application processing the K-1 visa, although technically a non-immigrant US fiance visa, is generally treated as if it were an immigrant visa.

Those seeking Business or Investment visas such as the E-2 visa for Traders, the L-1 visa for intra-company transferees, or an EB-5 visa for immigrant investors should note that an approved immigration petition may be required before a US Mission abroad will process a visa application.

Those seeking advice and/or counsel regarding a pending US immigration matter are well advised to contact a licensed American lawyer in order to gain insight into the practical application of US Immigration law upon the unique facts in a given case.

For related information please see: CR1 Visa.

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15th November 2010

As mentioned previously on this blog, the United States dollar is weakening relative to other currencies as other economies around the world strengthen. In a recent report from Reuters in India:

Foreign funds have so far in 2010 bought shares worth a record $28.3 billion, in addition to last year’s $17.5 billion. The rupee has gained 5 percent so far this year.

In terms of international trade, the announcement of a declining dollar could be viewed negatively. However, a comparatively weak United States dollar could turn out to be a boon for those Indian nationals interested in making a qualified investment in the USA while also accruing the benefit of United States Lawful Permanent Residence.

The EB-5 visa program was designed to provide a travel document and Lawful Permanent Residence to those who make an investment in the USA which meets the eligibility criteria set forth by American Immigration authorities such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State. Those interested in obtaining an EB-5 visa should note that the investment in the United States must be substantial and should exceed at least five hundred thousand United States dollars ($500,000), or one million dollars (1,000,000) if the investment is not a “targeted” investment. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status means that the Indian national in said status has the right to reside and work in the United States permanently. LPR status is highly sought after by those in countries outside of the United States since the benefit is substantial, but immigration law may preclude many visa seekers from obtaining a travel document that confers Lawful Permanent Residence (also referred to as “Green Card” status).

Some individuals have posed the question: “Does the United States allow Citizenship by investment?” The simple answer is: no. However, the EB-5 visa could be viewed as a means of setting oneself on the “path to citizenship” by investment. This is due to the fact that an EB5 visa holder, who meets the legal criteria, may be able to apply for naturalization to US Citizenship after remaining in the United States for a statutorily prescribed period of time in lawful permanent resident status.

The American immigration process and the laws which support the United States Immigration system are complex and can be frustrating to those who are unaccustomed to American law and procedure. For this reason, some individuals and families opt to utilize an American attorney to assist with the process. That said, those interested in retaining professional assistance are well advised to check the credentials of those claiming expertise in American immigrations matters as only a licensed American attorney is entitled to provide advice and counsel in matters pertaining to United States Immigration law.

For related information please see: EB-5 Visa India.

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19th September 2010

This author has frequently discussed the myriad problems that Immigrants can face when dealing with an unlicensed American immigration “agent” or “specialist“. American law and Federal Regulations are clear regarding the issue of who is allowed to provide legal services in matters arising before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) specifically; or any of the other agencies which are overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Only licensed attorneys from the United States of America are able to provide consultations about US Immigration matters for a fee. Furthermore, only an attorney licensed by the Highest Court of least one US State, Commonwealth, or outlying territory is allowed charge fees to represent clients before DHS, including USCIS.

Unfortunately, there are some unauthorized organizations throughout the world claiming to be able to provide advice and assistance in American Immigration matters. The internet has proven to be a great tool for those wishing to research matters pertaining to United States Immigration. Meanwhile, it has also provided a platform for some operations which claim legal expertise without appropriate training or licensure. Such individuals and entities ought to be avoided at all costs since information transmitted to such individuals and entities may not be protected by the usual legal protections accorded to communications conveyed between an American attorney and their client. Furthermore, one who is not legally trained or not licensed to provide legal services in a given jurisdiction or about a particular subject cannot provide effective counsel nor lawful confidentiality to those seeking their assistance. This can be especially important to those conveying sensitive information about a case pending before an immigration tribunal, agency, US Embassy, or US Consulate abroad. Those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in the aforementioned manner are thereby placing their own interests, as well as those of their unsuspecting “clients’”, in jeopardy.

When comparing the costs of legal service it is important to understand the pivotal role of licensure when making a decision to retain counsel. No licensed legal professional is likely to have a problem with prospective clients shopping for a reasonably priced service with a professional that they feel comfortable dealing with. In general, licensed American attorneys find that competition with other professionals makes for a healthy and prosperous business environment, but to compare the services of a licensed American immigration attorney with one who is not licensed to practice law creates a false comparison as US law is clear that those without licensure cannot provide the services which they claim they can provide in an immigration context. In short: one cannot compare a legal service with an illegal service from a price standpoint as an illegal service provider simply cannot provide such services at any price.

For further information please see: licensed lawyer. To learn more about US Immigration from Southeast Asia please see: US Immigration Law Thailand.

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15th September 2010

The American Department of State (DOS) is responsible for a great number of government functions performed in the United States of America and abroad. On this blog, we routinely post information about issues connected to DOS in an effort to disseminate useful information to Americans abroad or foreign nationals seeking information about US Immigration. It recently came to this author’s attention that the American State Department has released a new edition of a publication designed to provide insight to American law enforcement officials regarding protocols which must be adhered to in situations involving foreign Consular officials. To quote a press release from the Department of State and distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

The Department of State is pleased to announce its publication of the third edition of “The Consular Notification and Access Manual.” Produced by the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Office of the Legal Adviser, the manual instructs federal, state and local law enforcement and other officials on actions they must take to comply with U.S. obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and other international agreements. It includes details on steps U.S. authorities must take when a foreign national in the United States is arrested or detained, dies, is involved in the wreck of a foreign vessel, or requires the appointment of a guardian.

The manual, which is available free of charge, supports the Department’s efforts to ensure that the United States meets its international obligations to notify foreign consular officials about their citizens in the United States. To order the manual or to access the online version, please visit the consular notification and access section of our website at www.travel.state.gov/consularnotification.

The Vienna Convention is an important pillar of American law enforcement policy regarding foreign Missions in the United States. The rules stipulated in the Vienna Convention generally apply to personnel of US Missions abroad. Therefore, reciprocal adherence to Vienna Convention protocols creates a more stable international community for all concerned.

These issues should not be confused with those related to Americans who have been arrested abroad. As a rule, the Vienna Convention does not apply to Americans abroad who have no government affiliation. Thus, an American arrested abroad is unlikely to be treated in the same manner as American government representatives accredited to a given country.

Americans arrested overseas or those who find that they are the subject of an American warrant are well advised to contact a licensed American lawyer who can provide insight into the methods for resolving a pending criminal matter.

For related information please see: US Warrant or Extradition.

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9th September 2010

The American Department of State’s website can be a useful resource for those interested in US Immigration. That said, there are many repositories of good information throughout the internet and some less-than-ideal resources. The following announcement was posted on the website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

Due to technical software problems, the Department of State’s “Visa Policy Updates” page of their website is currently unavailable for updates. Please note: the webpage itself is currently available; however, it does not include recent updates by DOS. Until further notice, Visa Policy Updates will not be sent to subscribers, but many documents still can be found on the Department of State website at the Visa Policy Update page.

The Department of State is responsible for administering the various American Missions located abroad. These include American Embassies, Consulates, and Institutes located in Asia. Many find that information on the Department of State can be very helpful when trying to decide what type of visa is most suitable for an individual wishing to travel to the United States of America.

Some Embassies and Consulates are considered to be so-called “high volume” Posts.  In matters involving US Immigration, this appellation could be applied to the US Embassy Thailand or the US Consulate HCMC as these posts handle a larger caseload of American Immigration matters compared to some of their counterparts in Southeast Asia.  That said, adjudications of visa applications are conducted by an officer at the US Embassy or US Consulate with jurisdiction over the proposed beneficiary.  Such an adjudication is made pursuant to relevant US Immigration law and based upon the Consular Officer’s findings of fact. Each case is adjudicated based upon the unique set of facts in the case. Therefore, the rather general information which is provided on various websites throughout the internet, both government sponsored and privately funded, cannot necessarily be relied upon as definitive for every situation.

American Embassies and Consulates process a large number of visa applications each year. As each adjudication is different there is effectively no way of providing uniform information about the visa application adjudication process. Those interested in obtaining a visa to the USA are well advised to contact a US lawyer with experience dealing with United States Immigration as such an individual can provide relevant insight into the visa process and advise clients as to the appropriate visa category based upon the client’s circumstances.

For related information please see: USCIS Processing Times.

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6th September 2010

Legal Process Outsourcing has been a major issue in the international legal community recently. This author is of the personal opinion that the legal process outsourcing industry will have a positive overall impact upon the American legal profession as increased efficiency will allow attorneys to provide more services to more clients in many jurisdictions, both in the United States of America and abroad. The following quote is from another American lawyer who became involved in legal process outsourcing through his experiences in India:

I’m one of those U.S. lawyers who outsourced themselves to India. I did not do it for lack of a job elsewhere. I’m a Columbia Law graduate and one of the founding partners of a successful New York and London based media law firm. I went to India enthusiastically, to take part in a much-needed revolution in the way legal services are delivered in the West.

Imagine a new legal landscape where high-quality services are affordable. Imagine deals getting done, because the attorneys don’t kill them, with overlawyering and overcharging. Contemplate court cases and other disputes being resolved on their merits, rather than simply on the basis of whether one side cannot or will not pay the absurdly high costs of litigation. Think about legal professionals located in places that suit the interests of clients, rather than in the most expensive parts of the most expensive cities in the world. Consider the resultant savings when legal bills are based on services, not real estate. Envision deals and cases staffed by the most talented and enthusiastic lawyers available. Open your mind to the possibility that some of those lawyers are in India. I know from experience that they are.

And consider the fact that this kind of outsourcing actually creates more legal jobs in the West, rather than cutting them. Every time a deal is done, or a litigation is waged, because legal services are suddenly affordable, it means more work for the Western lawyers involved in supervision, editing, negotiating, and/or appearing in court. This is not only a dream. It is happening every day, thanks to legal outsourcing…

The notion that outsourcing may create more jobs may seem somewhat counter intuitive at first blush, but after careful thought many will note that the reasoning behind the assertion is sound. Legal process outsourcing is likely to increase in the near future. This increase will probably result in new efficiencies being discovered which will then increase processing efficiency further. Meanwhile, lawyers in the United States will be freed up to handle more pressing matters than routine processing issues. This should thereby allow attorneys to take on more clients which, in turn, benefits the American attorney through increased revenue in the form of consulting fees.

Although legal process outsourcing promises many benefits, there are concerns among many about confidentiality issues and effective processing. Those worried about efficiency often worry that non-US attorneys cannot handle processing tasks as efficiently as their American counterparts. In reality, this is generally not the case as many foreign trained attorneys have the requisite skills to provide legal processing services to attorneys in the United States as an attorney in the USA can oversee the work and ensure that quality work product is produced.

Those concerned about confidentiality issues are prudent to take this issue into consideration. However, with advances in technology the so-called “chain of confidentiality” from the client to the American attorney to the outsourcing firm can be maintained at relatively minimal cost. However, ethical attorneys must take measures to ensure that client interests are protected at all times.

For related information please see: Legal.

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30th April 2010

Repeatedly, this author uses this blog as a platform to try to educate the public regarding the US visa process and the problems that can arise during that process. In many cases, people are simply unaware of the rules regarding US visa issuance and this blog attempts to provide relevant information that readers may find beneficial. That being said, another frequently discussed topic is the unauthorized practice of law by “visa companies” and “visa agents” or those claiming to be American attorneys. This is not simply a tirade against such practices, but is intended to provide information regarding the detrimental impact that these individuals can have upon the interests of their “clients”.

Under section 292.1 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations a licensed attorney is entitled to represent clients before the United States Department of Homeland Security, specifically the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) which is tasked with adjudicating US visa petitions. Many are unaware of the fact that those who assist individuals in preparing visa petitions are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law if they are not: licensed to practice law in at least one US jurisdiction while being eligible to practice law in all US jurisdictions or certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Licensure is no small matter, especially for those individuals who are “represented” by those claiming to be attorneys who are not, in fact, licensed. For example, if an American talks to an unlicensed individual about sensitive matters, then such communications would not be confidential and also would not be protected under the attorney/client privilege. If one is communicating in confidence to a licensed attorney, then such communication is “out of bounds” for US Courts. However, the same communications with one who is unlicensed could be used as evidence in a US court proceeding. Therefore, licensure is extremely important particularly in US Immigration matters involving a legal ground of inadmissibility or an I-601 waiver as certain information could be very detrimental to clients’ interests and if imparted to a licensed American attorney would be confidential, but if imparted to an unlicensed “fly by night” operator such information could be used against the client at a later date.

For all of these reasons, when an American is outside of the USA it is always prudent to check the credentials of anyone claiming to be an attorney from the United States. An individual can provide adequate credentials if they can show their license to practice law before at least on State Supreme Court in the US, or a Federal license to practice law in the USA, or a license to practice law in one of the US territorial jurisdictions (Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, etc). Anyone who refuses to provide any such credentials and yet still asserts that they are an American attorney should be avoided until proof of credentials can be provided.

For further information about US Immigration from Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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