Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘American State Department’

15th August 2013

In a recent press release from the United States Department of State, Daniel R. Russell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, discussed the recent anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the interaction between the ASEAN economies and that of the United States. To quote directly from the recent press release posted on the State Department website:

As the Secretary noted in a statement last week on August 8, the anniversary of ASEAN’s founding, the United States is deeply committed to supporting and partnering with ASEAN…ASEAN is growing in importance. The ten ASEAN countries include two close U.S. treaty allies, valuable security partners, thriving democracies, and Muslim majority nations that are both moderate and influential. ASEAN represents the United States’ fifth largest trading partner and our fourth largest export market. Following U.S. accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 2009, and in a clear sign of our support for ASEAN, the United States became the first non-ASEAN country to establish a dedicated Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta in June 2010…

Those interested in reading this press release in detail are encouraged to click on the hyperlink noted above.

The United States government is clearly intent on increasing ties with the ASEAN region as the economies have such a significant impact upon the American economy. Meanwhile, many of the countries in ASEAN, including the Kingdom of Thailand, have long standing ties buttressed by cooperation politically, militarily, and economically . In short, the US-ASEAN relationship is a “win-win” for all concerned. The remarks noted above, were followed up by references to the upcoming implementation of a more integrated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is due to become a reality in 2015. To quote further from the aforementioned press release:

The ASEAN-U.S. partnership is grounded in cooperation across political, security, and cultural spheres. Our engagement with ASEAN has led to tangible results in such areas as maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. Our work through the Lower Mekong Initiative has led to positive outcomes supporting the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 and development in the Lower Mekong sub-region. And the United States is committed to capacity building for the ASEAN Secretariat…

As the date for ASEAN economic integration draws increasingly close, the countries which comprise ASEAN (Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) would appear to be waiting with bated breath to ascertain whether or not the transition will be a smooth one. It is this blogger’s opinion that the ASEAN Economic integration will in fact turn out to be a rather seamless transition as a great deal of time and effort has been expended by all parties to analyze possible problems and implement solutions prior to the integration itself. The United States has shown (through frequent Presidential visits to the ASEAN region as well as policies which provide support for ASEAN’s initiatives) that it is committed to not only engaging the ASEAN region, but also assisting in creating a mutually beneficial framework for US-ASEAN relations in the future.

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8th August 2013

Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) couples have questions regarding United States Immigration in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s finding in the Windsor case that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unConstitutional. Both the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of State have previously issued answers to frequently asked questions on this topic. In a previous posting on this blog, USCIS’s answers to these FAQs were discussed. However, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the USCIS has issued further answers to such FAQs to further clarify their position on this issue. To quote directly from these new answers to FAQs on the official website of the USCIS:

Q1: I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national. Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa? NEW
A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Clearly American Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents may petition for an immigrant spouse visa such as an IR1 visa, CR1 visa, or by extension a K3 visa (as the K-3 visa petition is a supplementary petition based upon the initial petition for an immigrant visa). Furthermore, when applying for the visa at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad during the Consular Processing phase of the US immigration process the application will be viewed in the same way as an application based upon a different-sex marriage. Also, adjustment of status applications for the same sex spouse of a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident will be adjudicated in the same manner as a similar application for a different-sex spouse.

A question for many same sex and LGBT couples concerns the State of the couple’s residence versus the State of marriage since there are only a few States which allow such marriages while other states either do not recognize such unions or specifically forbid such unions. USCIS issued further clarification on this issue in their recently updated FAQ section:

Q3: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state or a foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse? NEW
A3: Yes. As a general matter, the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated determines whether the marriage is legally valid for immigration purposes.  Just as USCIS applies all relevant laws to determine the validity of an opposite-sex marriage, we will apply all relevant laws to determine the validity of a same-sex marriage..

There may be some limited circumstances where the law of the couple’s residence may determine their legal standing on certain issues. However, as can be seen from the above quoted FAQ, the USCIS appears to primarily defer to the law of the State which legalized the marriage when determining whether the couple is eligible for immigration benefits.

Finally, this blogger does not recall the USCIS previously answering questions regarding immigration petitions which were filed with USCIS prior to the Supreme Court’s holding that Section 3 of DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution. The following section of USCIS’s recently expanded FAQ section would appear to respond to this inquiry:

Q5. My Form I-130, or other petition or application, was previously denied solely because of DOMA.  What should I do?
A5.  USCIS will reopen those petitions or applications that were denied solely because of DOMA section 3.  If such a case is known to us or brought to our attention, USCIS will reconsider its prior decision, as well as reopen associated applications to the extent they were also denied as a result of the denial of the Form I-130 (such as concurrently filed Forms I-485).

  • USCIS will make a concerted effort to identify denials of I-130 petitions that occurred on the basis of DOMA section 3 after February 23, 2011.  USCIS will also make a concerted effort to notify you (the petitioner), at your last known address, of the reopening and request updated information in support of your petition.
  • To alert USCIS of an I-130 petition that you believe falls within this category, USCIS recommends that you send an e-mail from an account that can receive replies to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov stating that you have a pending petition.  USCIS will reply to that message with follow-up questions as necessary to update your petition for processing.  (DHS has sought to keep track of DOMA denials that occurred after the President determined not to defend Section 3 of DOMA on February 23, 2011, although to ensure that DHS is aware of your denial, please feel free to alert USCIS if you believe your application falls within this category.)
  • For denials of I-130 petitions that occurred prior to February 23, 2011, you must notify USCIS by March 31, 2014, in order for USCIS to act on its own to reopen your I-130 petition.  Please notify USCIS by sending an e-mail to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov and noting that you believe that your petition was denied on the basis of DOMA section 3.

Once your I-130 petition is reopened, it will be considered anew—without regard to DOMA section 3—based upon the information previously submitted and any new information provided.   USCIS will also concurrently reopen associated applications as may be necessary to the extent they also were denied as a result of the denial of the I-130 petition (such as concurrently filed Form I-485 applications).

Additionally, if your work authorization was denied or revoked based upon the denial of the Form I-485, the denial or revocation will be concurrently reconsidered, and a new Employment Authorization Document issued, to the extent necessary.  If a decision cannot be rendered immediately on a reopened adjustment of status application, USCIS will either (1) immediately process any pending or denied application for employment authorization or (2) reopen and approve any previously revoked application for employment authorization.  If USCIS has already obtained the applicant’s biometric information at an Application Support Center (ASC), a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be produced and delivered without any further action by the applicant.  In cases where USCIS has not yet obtained the required biometric information, the applicant will be scheduled for an ASC appointment.

  • If another type of petition or application (other than an I-130 petition or associated application) was denied based solely upon DOMA section 3, please notify USCIS by March 31, 2014, by sending an e-mail to USCIS at USCIS-626@uscis.dhs.gov as directed above.  USCIS will promptly consider whether reopening of that petition or application is appropriate under the law and the circumstances presented.

No fee will be required to request USCIS to consider reopening your petition or application pursuant to this procedure.  In the alternative to this procedure, you may file a new petition or application to the extent provided by law and according to the form instructions including payment of applicable fees as directed.

Clearly, USCIS is committed to implementing policies and regulations based upon the US Supreme Court’s recent finding. By reopening previously denied petitions and taking steps to provide same sex couples with the same standing as different-sex couples in future immigration adjudications this agency is making great strides toward equalizing the US family immigration process for families of all kinds.

To review the recently released information on this topic from the Department of State please see: Consular Processing.

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5th August 2013

In a previous posting on this blog, the recently released answers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to frequently asked questions regarding same sex immigration petitions were analyzed. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American State Department has released a similar set of answers to FAQs regarding this topic.  To quote directly from the official website of the U.S. State Separtment:

Q: How does the Supreme Court’s Windsor v. United States decision impact immigration law?

A: The Supreme Court has found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.   This means that the same sex spouse of a visa applicant coming to the U.S. for any purpose – including work, study, international exchange or as a legal immigrant – will be eligible for a derivative visa.  Likewise, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriages can also qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status. [italics added]

As previously discussed on this blog, the fact that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been found unConstitutional by the United States Supreme Court means that an American Citizen, or lawful permant resident, can now petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for imigration benefits for a same sex spouse (or fiance, so long as the petitioner is an American Citizen). However, the US State Department, which is responsible for Consular Processing of visa applications, had yet to make specific comments regarding adjudication of visa application based upon a same sex marriage (or fiance) immigration petition. As can be seen from above, the Department of State has brought their procedures into line with the recent Supreme Court decision.

Of interest to many same sex couples is the issue of jurisdiction as same sex marriages are only recognized by a limited number of US States. The following portion of the aforementioned FAQ focuses on this point:

Q: Do we have to live or intend to live in a state in which same sex marriage is legal in order to qualify for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa?

A: No. If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for immigration purposes.  For more information, please review the following page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) website. [italics added]

As there are a limited umber of U.S. jurisdictions which recognize and solemnize same sex marriage as well as a number of States in which such marriages are forbade, there have been questions among legal professionals as well as same sex couples regarding whether the U.S. Immigration officers and Consular Officers at various U.S. posts abroad would fail to approve visa applications and immigration petitions based upon the fact that an LGBT couple may be married in one State and residing in another. In a previous posting on this blog, the USCIS’s answer to this question rested on the “law of the place where the marriage took place“. Basically, USCIS appears willing to approve an otherwise valid immigration petition based upon a same sex marriage if the same sex marriage is performed in a State which allows such unions. Apparently, the Department of State has set a similar policy, thereby allowing an otherwise valid same sex marriage visa application, based upon an USCIS-approved immigration petition, to be approved. However, there are some jurisdictions around the world which may recognize same-sex unions, but do not necessarily categorize them as “marriages”. In those circumstances the Department of State had the following to say:

Q: I am in a civil union or domestic partnership; will this be treated the same as a marriage?

A: At this time, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for  immigration purposes. [italics added]

Although the above answer appears to be rather straightforward, there is one question, of possibly more significance, that many unmarried same sex couples may be pondering:

Q: I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex.  We cannot marry in my fiancé’s country. What are our options? Can we apply for a fiancé K visa?

A: You may file a Form I-129F and apply for a fiancé(e) (K) visa.  As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage.  For information on adjusting status, please review the following page on USCIS’s website:

Since same sex unmarried couples are now permitted to apply for a K-1 visa, it would now appear possible for the LGBT fiance of an American Citizen to apply for a US fiance visa with the intention of marrying in one of those jurisdictions in the United States which recognize same sex marriages.

Another issue which may arise in the context of same sex marriage is the issue of non-immigrant visas (also known as NIVs). These are visa categories which do not confer immigrant status upon those who use them. The Department of State website posted the following information regarding NIVs for same sex married couples:

Q: Can same sex couples now apply for visas in the same classification?

A: Yes. Starting immediately, same-sex spouses and their children are equally eligible for NIV derivative visas.  Same-sex spouses and their children (stepchildren of the primary applicant when the marriage takes place before the child turns 18) can qualify as derivatives where the law permits issuance of the visa to a spouse or stepchild.  In cases where additional documentation has always been required of a spouse applying with a principal applicant, such documentation will also be required in the case of a same-sex spouse… [italics added]

Finally, a point to note for those LGBT couples who are in a situation in which the foreign spouse has children:  

Q: My foreign national spouse has children. Can they also be included with my spouse’s case?

A: Yes, the children of foreign national spouses can be considered “step-children” of the U.S. citizens and can therefore benefit from a petition filed on their behalf in the IR2 category.    In other categories, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriage can qualify as beneficiaries (F2A) or for derivative status (F3, F4, E1-E4, or DV).  You and your spouse must have married before the child turned 18. [itlaics added]

Clearly, the Department of State allows for step-children of Americans or lawful permanent residents to immigrate where the LGBT couple was married prior to the step-child’s 18th birthday. From the information posted on the State Department’s website regarding non-immigrant visas one could infer that an American Citizen’s prospective step-children (i.e. the children of a foreign fiance) may also be eligible to obtain a K-2 visa based upon the bona fide intention of the American Citizen and his or her foreign fiance to marry in the United States.

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14th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Consulate in Chennai, India has issued an apology statement pertaining to remarks made by a Consular Officer in that jurisdiction. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Yahoo News at Yahoo.com:

The United States has apologised for controversial remarks made by a US diplomat who spoke of “dark and dirty” Indians, calling the comments “inappropriate”. US Vice-Consul Maureen Chao told Indian students on Friday that her “skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians” after a long train journey, according to Indian media — referring to people from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. During her speech in the Tamil Nadu capital, Chennai, Chao was quoted as saying: “I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to (the eastern Indian state of) Orissa. “But, after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination… and my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians.” Following her speech, the US Consulate in Chennai on Saturday issued a “statement of apology”. “During the speech Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent,” the US Consulate said on its website…”As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently noted, the US-India partnership is based on our shared values of democracy, liberty, and respect for religious and cultural diversity,” the US consulate added…

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

Although the comments noted above are unfortunate, inappropriate, and downright impolite it should be noted that mistakes do happen. Notwithstanding the fact that the individual in question is a civil servant of the United States government she is also human and therefore not immune from making mistakes. It is admirable that the US Consulate noted above took the opportunity to quickly and maturely respond to the comments and issue an apology. Hopefully the whole situation will stand as an example to future American State Department personnel.

In news related to the continuing struggle for LGBT equality, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that there has been further analysis of the factual situation surrounding the story of a same sex married couple who may be compelled to separate due to enforcement of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide further information it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of CNN, CNN.com:

Anthony Makk was trying to become a permanent U.S. resident – like many heterosexual couples do – so he could stay with his loved one who he married seven years ago in Massachusetts. Makk, who has been with Bradford Wells for 19 years, is also doing it because he is a caregiver for his husband who has AIDS.

Frequent readers of this web log may recall that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has allowed for the legalization/solemnization of same sex marriage through intra-State licensure protocols. Notwithstanding the fact that this sovereign American State and other jurisdictions such as the State of New York have legalized such unions they are neither recognized nor granted routine Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. There are currently cases pending in the US Courts which address these issues, but a final resolution has yet to come to fruition. To continue quoting from the aforementioned article on CNN.com:

..But the federal government denied his final appeal two weeks ago on the basis of the Defense of Marriage Act which doesn’t recognize their same-sex marriage. “The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship,” the government’s ruling said. “For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman.” The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services echoed the sentiment, saying as long as DOMA was in place, they will continue to operate under that standard…The couple is calling for the U.S. government to step in and allow Makk to stay and care for Wells. The couple said they feel the federal government is doing everything to keep them from being able to do what any other heterosexual couple already can do. “I feel that my government is trying to destroy my marriage,” Wells said. “And my government is trying to impose a great deal of harm on my life for no reason whatsoever. I feel like I’m being bullied by my government.” But the fight to stay together has strengthened the couple’s bond, Makk said. “We made a big commitment to each other and the harder they make it, the stronger our relationship is.” What’s more frustrating for Wells, who says that the couple never intended for this to become a public debacle, is that they make sure to do everything that all married couples are required to do – like pay joint taxes, but get none of the benefits. “We have all the responsibilities, do the penalty parts of marriage, but then when it gets to the same benefits, we’re told no, you don’t qualify,” Wells said. “The government has decided they don’t like who I marry. For the federal government to say this isn’t a marriage – it’s degrading.” Still, the couple holds out hope. Hope that President Obama could step in to the battle that’s already raging in Congress over a repeal of DOMA, which he said he would support…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

The first question this blogger would pose under the circumstances is: Could the Attorney-General of the United States not issue a hold on this deportation in much the same way that a hold was placed on the removal of the New Jersey same sex civil union partner of an American Citizen? Notwithstanding the fact that the provisions of DOMA preclude the accordance of American visa benefits such as the K-1 visa, the CR-1 visa, or the IR-1 visa to same sex couples the American Attorney-General has rescinded a deportation apparently to scrutinize the Constitutional issues at play where a State has licensed a marital union. Under the circumstances in this case it seems only prudent to infer that there may be even more significant Constitutional issues because the underlying union is a same sex marriage and not a civil union. As noted previously on this blog, it is this blogger’s opinion that once a State sovereign has exercised their prerogatives with respect to the licensure of marriage, then the imprimatur of that State’s recognition of the underlying marriage should be accorded both inter-State Full Faith and Credit and federal recognition. Under the current situation with respect to DOMA, the States’ Rights are being marginalized and the American Citizenry’s individual liberties are being infringed.

Meanwhile, American legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to directly address the current discrimination being imposed upon same sex bi-national couples. Furthermore, the provisions of the Respect for Marriage Act would seem to deal with the Full Faith and Credit issue by according same sex marriages performed in those States which legalize and/or solemnize such unions with federal “certainty“. How this issue will ultimately be resolved in the American Congress or Courts remains to be seen.

 

–Benjamin Walter Hart

 

For related information please see: Consular Processing.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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10th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that reports have come out regarding the possibility of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heading the World Bank. To quote directly from the official website of The Telegraph, Telegraph.co.uk:

Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, has been in discussions with the White House about stepping down from her foreign policy job next year to becoming head of the World Bank, it has been reported. Mrs Clinton, the former First Lady, Senator for New York and rival to Mr Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary race, is said to be eager to become the first female president of the World Bank should the post become vacant next year.”Hillary Clinton wants the job,” a source close to Mrs Clinton told Reuters, which broke the news of the possible move.

The administration of this blog encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to learn more.

Issues associated with international banking have been making headlines in recent weeks. Such reports became more acute following the arrest of the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in the sovereign State of New York on sexual assault charges. Readers are asked to keep in mind that Mr. Strauss-Kahn has not been convicted of any crime as of the time of this writing and therefore, in the eyes of American law, he is innocent until proven guilty.

Readers may note that leadership of the international banking community made news in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after calls were made to consider an Asian candidate for the top IMF posting. Officials in China also have been reported to have made statements regarding the position of IMF head. It remains to be seen just how these issues will ultimately play out and who shall eventually be at the helm of international banking, but for observers of global relations, economics, finance, and politics this is certainly a very interesting time.

In rather unrelated news (but pertinent to this blogger), it was recently reported that the Great State of Kansas has experienced a very uncommon weather phenomenon. For further elucidation it may be best to quote directly from the official website  of KSN News, KSN.com:

WICHITA, Kansas — Last night Wichita experienced a very rare weather phenomenon known as a “Heat Burst.” At 12:22 a.m. the temperature at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport was 85 degrees. At 12:44 the temperature spiked to 102 degrees. This was a 17 degree increase in only 20 minutes. Winds also gusted between 50 and 60 MPH. The heat burst winds and temperatures rapidly dissipated as they spread across Sedgwick and Southern Butler Counties…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read more from this insightful report.

Kansas is often the scene of incredible meteorological phenomenon, but an increase of 17 degrees in a time span of 20 minutes is tremendous by anyone’s estimation. Hopefully, such developments will not have an adverse impact upon the people, agriculture, and ecology of that jurisdiction.

For other relevant information please see: Department of State.

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20th May 2011

It recently came to the attention of this blogger that the United States Supreme Court may be hearing a case pertaining to issues surrounding the issuance of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA). Such documents are generally issued by Consular Officers of the Department of State at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad.  To quote directly from a May 2nd posting by Lyle Denniston on ScotusBlog at scotusblog.com:

Stepping into a significant test of the President’s foreign policy powers, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether Congress had the authority to dictate how the Executive Branch makes out birth certificates for U.S. citizens born abroad — in this case, in Jerusalem, a city that the U.S. government does not recognize as an official part of Israel.  At issue is the validity of a nine-year-old law in which Congress aimed to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  That dispute came in one of two cases the Court agreed on Monday to hear, at its next Term.

The administration of this blog strongly encourages readers to click the hyperlinks above to read this posting on ScotusBlog in its entirety as it cogently provides information about what could prove to be a very pertinent issue in the days and weeks ahead.

Although the issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad may seem innocuous, especially to American Citizens who do not have a great deal of international experience; but it should be noted that this document is very important as issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad documents the fact that an American Citizen was born overseas. This document is thereby used to obtain a US passport as well as other documentation. To continue quoting from the aforementioned article:

After State Department officials refused to fill out a report on the foreign birth of a boy born in 2002 in a Jerusalem hospital to show that his birthplace was “Israel,” his parents sued, seeking to enforce the 2002 law that ordered the State Department to do just that, when asked to do so.   A federal judge and the D.C. Circuit Court refused to decide the case, saying the controversy was a “political question” that the courts had no authority to resolve.

The law noted above attempts to deal with a somewhat difficult issue as Jerusalem is not technically considered to be part of the Greater State of Israel. In order to provide more insight on this complex issue it may be best to quote directly from the preamble to the opposition’s brief in this case:

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the dismissal of petitioner’s suit seeking to compel the Secretary of State to record “Israel” as his place of birth in his United States passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad, instead of “Jerusalem,” when the panel unanimously agreed that the decision how to record the place of birth for a citizen born in Jerusalem in official United States government documents is committed exclusively to the Executive Branch by the Constitution.

The administration urges readers to click on the hyperlink noted above to read the opposition’s brief in detail.

It would appear to this blogger as though the issues in this case are likely to result in any finding having tremendous ramifications. This is due to the fact that there really are two important notions in competition. Namely, the right of the individual or family to choose the manner in which a report of birth abroad is promulgated and the right of the Executive Branch to conduct foreign policy.

It remains to be seen how the Court will rule on these issues, but one this is certain: cases involving a “political question” often make for the most interesting decisions.

For related information please see: Certificate of Citizenship or Legal.

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29th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the discretionary powers accorded to Consular Officers at United States Missions abroad with regard to visa issuance are to be expanded to provide further latitude to Consular Officers with regard to the revocation of US visas. To quote directly from Justia.com:

This rule changes Department regulations to broaden the authority of a consular officer to revoke a visa at any time subsequent to issuance of the visa, in his or her discretion. These changes to the Department’s revocation regulations expand consular officer visa revocation authority to the full extent allowed by statute. Additionally, this rule change allows consular officers and designated officials within the Department to revoke a visa provisionally while considering a final visa revocation.

Clearly, this rule would expand the authority currently granted to Consular Officers in adjudicating American visa matters. For those who are unfamiliar with this topic it should be noted that Consular Officers currently maintain virtually un-reviewable discretion in matters pertaining to US visa application adjudication. This discretion occurs pursuant to a doctrine referred to as Consular Non-Reviewability (or colloquially referred to as Consular Absolutism). Pursuant to the philosophy underlying this doctrine Courts in the United States are unlikely to review the decisions of a Consular Officer at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad unless the Consular Officer’s decision in the matter appears “facially illegitimate” to the Court of competent jurisdiction.

Bearing this in mind the announcement went on to point out the reasoning behind the recent decision to make this rule change:

On occasion, after a visa has been issued, the Department or a consular officer may determine that a visa should be revoked when information reveals that the applicant was originally or has since become ineligible or may be ineligible to possess a U.S. visa. Section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1201(i)) (INA) authorizes the Secretary and consular officers to revoke a visa in their discretion. Current regulations limit the circumstances in which consular officers may revoke visas. In light of security concerns, this amendment grants additional authority to consular officers to revoke visas, consistent with the statutory provisions of the INA. Although this rule eliminates the provisions that permit reconsideration of a revocation, it also allows for the provisional revocation of a visa when there is a need for further consideration of information that might lead to a final revocation. In cases where the person subject to a provisional revocation is found to be eligible for the visa, the visa will be reinstated with no need for reapplication. However, with the exception of provisional revocations, an applicant whose visa has been revoked must apply for another visa, at which time his or her eligibility for the visa will be adjudicated.

In this blogger’s opinion, this rule change could have significant ramifications for prospective visa applicants. That stated, it remains to be seen what the practical implications of this rule change will be. The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the above hyperlinks to learn more about this topic on Justia.com.

It should be noted that within the text of this memo it was pointed out that this rule is being promulgated pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. To quote one final time from the aforementioned document:

This regulation involves a foreign affairs function of the United States and, therefore, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553 (a) (1), is not subject to the rule making procedures set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553.

Those who have read this blog in the past may recall that the United States Department of State maintains a mandate to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States and one of the duties that is entailed within this mandate is the duty to adjudicate applications for a US visa. This can include applications for visas such as the B-2 visa (for those wishing to engage in recreational travel in the United States), the K-1 visa (a US fiance visa for the foreign fiance of a US Citizen), the CR-1 visa or IR-1 visa (for the spouse of an American Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident), or, in increasingly rare instances, a K-3 visa (which is a non-immigrant spouse visa for the husband or wife of an American Citizen). It is even posited that this new discretion could have an effect upon adjudication of L-1 visa and EB-5 visa applications, as well as the possible aftermath thereof. In any case, increased Consular discretion is likely to have an impact upon visa applications across the categorical spectrum of American travel documents.

For related information please see: K-1 Visa Thailand or K-1 Visa Cambodia.

For information related to waivers of grounds of inadmissibility (ineligibility) please see: I-601 waiver or I-212 waiver.

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8th December 2010

For those who frequently read this web log will undoubtedly note that a frequent topic discussed within these pages is Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In a recent document promulgated by the Congressional Research Service and distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the matter of legal inadmissibility was discussed in the context of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The following is a direct quotation from the document published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and distributed by AILA:

Legislation aimed at comprehensive immigration reform may take a fresh look at the grounds for excluding foreign nationals that were enacted in the 1990s. All foreign nationals seeking visas must undergo admissibility reviews performed by U.S. Department of State (DOS) consular officers abroad. These reviews are intended to ensure that they are not ineligible for visas or admission under the grounds for inadmissibility spelled out in the INA. These criteria are: health related grounds; criminal history; security and terrorist concerns; public charge (e.g., indigence); seeking to work without proper labor certification; illegal entrants and immigration law violations; ineligible for citizenship; and, aliens previously removed. Over the past year, Congress incrementally revised the grounds for inadmissibility. Two laws enacted in the 110th Congress altered longstanding policies on exclusion of aliens due to membership in organizations deemed terrorist.

Terrorism has been a key concern for American government officials across the entire spectrum of agencies associated with Immigration and travel to the United States. Public health and safety are also significant issues for American Immigration and Consular Officers. To quote the aforementioned publication further:

The 110th Congress also revisited the health-related grounds of inadmissibility for those who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. More recently, the “H1N1 swine flu” outbreak focused the spotlight on inadmissibility screenings at the border. Questions about the public charge ground of inadmissibility arose in the context of Medicaid and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the 111th Congress.

Influenza has been concerning to many health officials in recent years. However, for many the removal of HIV/AIDS from the list of diseases which can result in a finding of inadmissibility was a relief as many individuals who were previously inadmissible to the USA may have immediately become admissible after HIV/AIDS was no longer a legal grounds for finding someone inadmissible to the USA. This issue was especially acute in the LGBT community as HIV and AIDS issues seem to have a disproportionate impact upon individuals and couples within that community. The report went on to note that issues pertaining to legal inadmissibility are likely to be discussed in the context of proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation:

While advocacy of sweeping changes to the grounds for inadmissibility has not emerged, proponents of comprehensive immigration reform might seek to ease a few of these provisions as part of the legislative proposals. The provision that makes an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States for longer than 180 days inadmissible, for example, might be waived as part of a legislative package that includes legalization provisions. Tightening up the grounds for inadmissibility, conversely, might be part of the legislative agenda among those who support more restrictive immigration reform policies.

Many people are found inadmissible to the United States every year. Among those found inadmissible are those who are unable to seek a remedy in the form of either an I-601 waiver or an I-212 waiver application for advance permission to reenter the USA. Individuals who have been found inadmissible and cannot seek a waiver are colloquially referred to as being unwaivably excluded from the United States. Bearing this in mind, many findings of legal inadmissibility can be remedied through use of a waiver. That said, the waiver process and the standard of proof for obtaining a waiver can be difficult to overcome. For this reason, many bi-national couples opt to utilize the services of an American immigration attorney to assist in matters related to United States Immigration. It is always prudent to ask for the credentials of anyone claiming expertise in United States Immigration law as only a licensed American attorney is permitted to provide advice, counsel, and representation in pending matters before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the American State Department.

For related information please see: US Visa Denial.

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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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6th October 2010

Those familiar with this blog may note that the Diversity Visa Lottery is on the horizon. This is a no-cost application and our firm currently does not take clients for Diversity Visas. That said, there are many around the world who are eligible to submit an application to be entered in the Diversity Visa Lottery. The following is language from the Federal Register quoted directly from a posting on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website:

[Federal Register: October 1, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 190)]
[Notices]
[Page 60846-60854]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr01oc10-116]

—————————————

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

[Public Notice: 7184]

Bureau of Consular Affairs; Registration for the Diversity Immigrant (DV-2012) Visa Program

AGENCY: Department of State.

ACTION: Notice.

—————————————

SUMMARY: This public notice provides information on how to apply for the DV-2012 Program. This notice is issued pursuant to 22 CFR 42.33(b)(3) which implements sections 201(a)(3), 201(e), 203(c) and 204(a)(1)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, (8 U.S.C. 1151, 1153, and 1154(a)(1)(I)).

Instructions for the 2012 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2012)

The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-649) amended INA 203 and provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants.” Section 203(c) of the INA provides a maximum of 55,000 Diversity Visas (DV) each fiscal year to be made available to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The annual DV program makes permanent residence visas available to persons meeting the simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. A computer-generated random lottery drawing chooses selectees for Diversity Visas. The visas are distributed among six geographic regions with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the period of the past five years. Within each region, no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available Diversity Visas in any one year.

For DV-2012, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because the countries sent a total of

[[Page 60847]]

more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years:

BRAZIL, CANADA, CHINA (mainland-born), COLOMBIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, HAITI, INDIA, JAMAICA, MEXICO, PAKISTAN, PERU, the PHILIPPINES, POLAND, SOUTH KOREA, UNITED KINGDOM (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and VIETNAM.

Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible. For DV-2012, no countries have been added or removed from the previous year’s list of eligible countries.

The Department of State implemented the electronic registration system beginning with DV-2005 in order to make the Diversity Visa process more efficient and secure. The Department utilizes special technology and other means to identify those who commit fraud for the purposes of illegal immigration or who submit multiple entries.

Diversity Visa Registration Period

Entries for the DV-2012 Diversity Visa Lottery must be submitted electronically between noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), Tuesday, October 5, 2010, and noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5) Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Applicants may access the electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV) at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period. Paper entries will not be accepted. Applicants are strongly encouraged not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter. Heavy demand may result in Web site delays. No entries will be accepted after noon, EST, on November 3, 2010.

Requirements for Entry

To enter the DV lottery, you must be a native of one of the listed countries. See “List of Countries by Region Whose Natives Qualify.” In most cases this means the country in which you were born. However, there are two other ways you may be able to qualify. First, if you were born in a country whose natives are ineligible but your spouse was born in a country whose natives are eligible; you can claim your spouse’s country of birth, provided both you and your spouse are on the selected entry, are issued visas, and enter the United States simultaneously. Second, if you were born in a country whose natives are ineligible, but neither of your parents was born there or resided there at the time of your birth, you may claim nativity in one of your parents’ country of birth, if it is a country whose natives qualify for the DV-2012 program.

To enter the lottery, you must meet either the education or work experience requirement of the DV program. You must have either a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education; OR, two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net OnLine database will be used to determine qualifying work experience. For more information about qualifying work experience, see Frequently Asked Question 13. If you cannot meet either of these requirements, you should NOT submit an entry to the DV program. [AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10100163 (posted Oct. 1, 2010)]

Those wishing to apply for a Diversity Visa should first ascertain if they are eligible. After determining eligibility an application must be submitted. Should an entrant be chosen to receive the visa, then Consular Processing will still be required. Therefore, applicants for a US diversity visa may still be required to submit themselves for interview at a US Embassy or US Consulate outside of the United States. Some find that attorney assistance is beneficial during the Consular Processing phase of this type of application while others choose to file pro se.

It should be noted that the Visa Lottery does not require payment of any fees  initially (although winners may need to pay Consular Processing fees and travel expenses). Therefore, those wishing to obtain this type of travel document should view anyone seeking an “application fee” with caution. Finally, as always, before retaining anyone to assist with any type of visa application it may be prudent to check the credentials of the individual to be retained in an effort to determine if he or she is a licensed American attorney who is able to practice US Immigration law.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand.

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