Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘backlog’

30th April 2022

It has recently come to this blogger’s attention that the Thailand Pass, a system not unlike the US’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (also known as ESTA), will remain in place for at least the immediately foreseeable future. To quote directly from Thai PBS World:

The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will not scrap the “Thailand Pass” scheme, as has been widely anticipated, but will shorten the registration process for overseas tourists applying to enter Thailand as the “Test and Go” one-night quarantine scheme for the fully vaccinated is scheduled to come to an end on April 30, CCSA assistant spokesperson Sumanee Wacharasint said today (Thursday). Dr. Sumanee added, however, that when COVID-19 situation in the country steadily improves, the CCSA may consider further easing of restrictions. She explained that there are currently four steps in the “Thailand Pass” application process, namely checking of vaccination certification, checking of the evidence of advanced hotel bookings, checking of proof of insurance coverage while in Thailand, and proof of booking for RT-PCR testing…Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will personally oversee preparations by all agencies to cope with overseas arrivals, once the “Test and Go” scheme ends on April 30, according to Traisulee Traisoranakul, deputy spokesperson for Government House today (Thursday).

The Thai Pass has proven to be an obstacle to seeing tourism fully recover in Thailand as many prospective tourists do not wish to undertake the process of getting a Thailand Pass issued. That stated, there is reason to be hopeful for the return of tourists to Thailand as a substantial amount of obstacles have been removed for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers wishing to gain admission to Thailand. Most notably, either of the aforementioned groups of travelers, with correct documentation, can now avoid the need to quarantine in a Thai hotel. This requirement, sometimes referred to as the Test and Go program, has been removed.

Notwithstanding recent announcements from the Biden administration regarding the desire to decease the Immigration case processing backlog, US visa cases are still processing in a relatively slower manner than they were prior to the pandemic. This seems to be especially true in cases where applicants are seeking immigrant spouse visas, such as the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa, for the USA. The National Visa Center seems to be a major sticking point in terms of overall processing time. For this reason, some prospective immigrants are opting to use the K-1 visa rather than an immigrant spouse visa in order to gain admission to the USA more quickly. Hopefully the situation will improve over the course of the rest of the year and we will update this blog accordingly.

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30th March 2022

Thai Immigration rules have been easing substantially in recent weeks. However, the Thailand Pass remains a rather obtuse obstacle for many would-be travelers to Thailand. It appears that is vexing issue may soon end. To quote directly from Thai PBS World:

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports will propose to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) that the “Thailand Pass” requirement for all international arrivals be revoked and that the RT-PCR COVID-19 tests required upon arrival be replaced with the quicker Rapid Antigen Tests. According to Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the replacement of the RT-PCR test on arrival, tentatively set to start on May 1st, with antigen tests conducted by formal medical facilities, would only be possible if COVID-19 infections and deaths during and after the long Songkran long holiday in April remain stable, at between 50,000 and 60,000 cases a day, including those who have only tested positive using antigen tests and daily fatalities do not exceed 100.

Although it remains to be seen if the Thailand Pass will be terminated, as of the time of this writing an end to the PCR test prior to departure for Thailand appears to be on the cards. Should this come to pass, it would substantially improve the present protocols associated with entry to Thailand. It is hoped that this will spur demand in the Thai tourism sector. Meanwhile, there appears to be some really good news with respect to US visa processing. To quote directly from the USCIS website:

Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is announcing a trio of efforts to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system. USCIS will set new agency-wide backlog reduction goals, expand premium processing to additional form types, and work to improve timely access to employment authorization documents. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resource constraints resulting from the prior administration, USCIS inherited a significant number of pending cases and increased processing times. Through today’s actions by the Biden administration, USCIS is acting to reduce these caseloads and processing times, while also ensuring that fair and efficient services are available to applicants and petitioners…To reduce the agency’s pending caseload, USCIS is establishing new internal cycle time goals this month. These goals are internal metrics that guide the backlog reduction efforts of the USCIS workforce and affect how long it takes the agency to process cases. As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly. USCIS will increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing to achieve these new goals by the end of FY 2023. The agency’s publicly posted processing times show the average amount of time it took USCIS to process a particular form – from when the agency received the application until a decision was made on the case. Internally, USCIS monitors the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision. As an internal management metric, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing our backlog and overall case processing times.

Although it is highly unlikely that this will have an immediate impact upon overall processing times, especially for K-1 visas for fiances and K-3 visas for spouses (not to be confused with IR-1 or CR-1 visas), it is likely that this will reverse a troubling overall trend in the American immigration apparatus and hopefully we will begin to see more normalized processing times by the end of 2022.

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21st December 2021

There was discussion that the “test and go” scheme, which effectively eliminated quarantine for foreign travelers, would be suspended and then the discussion became moot as authorities in Thailand announced that the scheme would end effective immediately. To quote directly from the Thai Enquirer website:

The Thai government said on Tuesday that it will scrap the recently implemented Test and Go Plan as Omicron variant cases spike worldwide. The Test and Go Plan, which allowed foreign arrivals to skip quarantine, and the Thailand Pass system will be suspended and reevaluated again on January 4.

This raises the question: what about those who already booked their travel plans and were expecting to use the “test and go” system? Well, apparently, they will be allowed to enter so long as they had already booked their travel, quoting further:

All travelers that previously applied for and received the Thailand Pass can still enter the kingdom until January 10 but must report two more PCR negative tests.

Meanwhile, it seems the Thailand Pass system may also be suspended. To quote directly from the ASEAN Now website:

Thailand has suspended its ‘Thailand Pass’ and ‘Test & Go’ schemes due to fears over the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha has ordered the immediate suspension of new registrations for Thailand Pass and at the same reinstated mandatory quarantine effective immediately. The PM announced on Tuesday afternoon that Test & Go will be put on hold until at least January 4, 2022. The so-called ‘Sandbox’ programs will also be suspended. “After Dec. 21, there will be no new registrations for ‘Test and Go’, only quarantine or Phuket sandbox,” said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhanadirek.

With a “stroke of the pen” the travel situation has reverted back to the status it was at in mid-summer of 2021. This raises the question: will certificates of entry once again be the order of the day when traveling to Thailand? It would appear so, although the situation remains in flux and could change rather rapidly as past events have shown.

Concurrently, many of those wishing to obtain visas to the USA are finding that backlogs are common throughout the Immigration process. Presently, there are very few interview being scheduled at the US Embassy in Bangkok, citing concerns about the pandemic. Furthermore, American tourist visa applications are not processing as quickly as they did in the past due to interviews being scheduled nearly a year out. Even cases that have seen interview are seeing issues as Administrative Processing is delaying a number of cases, sometimes for a prolonged period of time.

Hopefully, the overall situation will improve and we will update this blog as the situation evolves.

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