Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘CBP’

3rd June 2010

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as the name suggests, is tasked with, among other things, monitoring US internal and external security mainly from the perspective of Immigration. One component agency of the Department of Homeland Security is the US Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP). This agency is tasked with securing US Ports of Entry by monitoring those entering the USA in order to counter possible terrorist threats to the American people. In a recently promulgated press release, the Department of Homeland Security announced that new cooperative measures have been initiated in concert with the French Republic. The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned press release:

Washington, D.C. – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced that the United States and France have established an arrangement to implement the Immigration Advisory Program (IAP)–which allows for the identification of high-risk travelers at foreign airports before they board aircraft bound for the United States–at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle International Airport. “Terrorism is a global threat that requires an international response,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This collaboration will enhance both the United States’ and France’s capabilities to protect our immigration systems as well as the global aviation network from abuse by terrorists and transnational criminals.” IAP allows specialized U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel posted in foreign airports to utilize current targeting and passenger analysis information and/or an assessment of passengers’ documentation to identify high-risk persons bound for the United States and make “no board” recommendations to carriers and host governments. The arrangement–formalized over the weekend by DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman and French Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Mutually-Supportive Development Eric Besson–will help combat the use of fraudulent travel documents, prevent terrorists and other criminals from entering the United States, disrupt human smuggling and strengthen cooperation between CBP and French officials. A formal signing of the IAP arrangement will follow in August.

Advocates for The International Advisory Program (IAP) seem to hope that the program will streamline the process by which government personnel identify possible threats in the form of criminals entering the USA. Of particular interest is that the program seems focused upon deterring and suppressing the use of false travel documents. It would also appear that new initiatives will be undertaken to decrease human trafficking to the USA. This has become an ever-increasing concern among immigration officials as more foreign nationals attempt to enter the USA illegally through use of organizations that attempt to “smuggle” them through US ports. This author applauds the efforts of officials in both the USA and France as they attempt to better ensure the safety of international travelers.

For information regarding US Immigration from Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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8th March 2010

Recently the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that the rules regarding attorney representation would be amended in order to fall in line with the relevant Department of Justice regulations. To quote a the summary in the Federal Register which is displayed on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website:

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its regulations governing representation and appearances by, and professional conduct of, practitioners in immigration practice before its components to: Conform the grounds of discipline and procedures regulations with those promulgated by the Department of Justice (DOJ); clarify who is authorized to represent applicants and petitioners in cases before DHS; remove duplicative rules, procedures, and authority; improve the clarity and uniformity of the existing regulations; make technical and procedural changes; and conform terminology. This rule enhances the integrity of the immigration adjudication process by updating and clarifying the regulation of professional conduct of immigration practitioners who practice before DHS.”

As has been discussed on this blog before, the issue of attorney representation is of great importance due to the fact that there are many disreputable organizations calling themselves such things as “visa company,” “visa agency,” or, “visa consultant” and other unscrupulous operators who go so far as to claim attorney credentials when they are, in fact, unlicensed to practice law in the United States and therefore unable to practice US Immigration law. To quote the Federal Register again:

“Definition of attorney. This rule amends the definition of “attorney” at 8 CFR 1.1(f), to conform with DOJ’s definition at 8 CFR 1001.1(f), by adding the requirement that an attorney must be eligible to practice law in the bar of any State, possession, territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or of the District of Columbia, in addition to the other requirements for attorneys set forth in that regulation. State bar rules uniformly require licensed attorneys to maintain an active status in order to practice law; however, there has been some confusion as to the applicability of that requirement in determining eligibility to appear as a representative before DHS.”

It is interesting that this addition was made as it imposes an more stringent burden upon practitioners as anyone practicing before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or its agencies, like the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP), and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) must be eligible to practice in virtually every American jurisdiction. It should be noted that eligibility is the only new requirement added as DHS does not require that practitioners be licensed to practice in all US jurisdictions.

It should also be pointed out that attorneys are not the only individuals who can represent clients before DHS. In fact, if an individual is accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, then they may represent individuals in certain DHS proceedings. However, such agents are usually non-profit organizations as non-attorney representatives are NOT entitled to charge anything except nominal fees.

For related information please see US Lawyer Thailand or US Visa Thailand.


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2nd March 2010

Recently, the Immigration Policy Center issued a so-called progress report for the Department of Homeland Security. For regular readers of this blog it may be recalled that the Department of Homeland Security has jurisdiction over the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP) as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). To quote the Immigration policy center blog:

“The month of March marks the seventh anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its immigration agencies. It also marks the end of a sweeping internal review ordered by Secretary Janet Napolitano, a review which as not been made public. In order to assess the first year of immigration policy under the Obama Administration, the Immigration Policy Center releases the following Special Report which compare DHS’s actions with the recommendations (Transition Blueprint) made to the Obama Transition Team’s immigration-policy group. How does DHS stack up? The following IPC report finds a department caught between the competing priorities of old broken policy and new reforms. While DHS has failed to meet key expectations in some areas, it has engaged thoughtfully and strategically in others, and has made some fundamental changes in how it conducts its immigration business.”

The report itself is quite long and provides detailed information about ways in which USCIS and DHS can improve their organization. One of the most interesting recommendations calls for a concerted plan for integrated immigrants into the tapestry of American life. To quote the report directly:

“The Administration should create a national integration strategy, establish a National Office on Immigrant Integration, and gather data on the impact of government policies on immigrants, and coordinate agency decisions that affect them.”

This report went further and advocated for certain changes in the way that USCIS handles adjudications of applications and petitions for Immigration benefits:

“USCIS must clearly articulate the principles it uses to evaluate and adjudicate individual cases, and must address the complaints of recent years that too many people are denied benefits, or subjected to repeated requests for additional evidence, because adjudicators are looking for reasons to deny rather than grant benefits. Fee waivers and discretionary waivers should be applied more broadly, particularly where individuals in proceedings have immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.”

Although this author does not necessarily agree wholeheartedly with all of the assertions in this progress report, there is no doubt that there is room for improvement in any organization and the Department of Homeland Security is no different. That being said, it is a tremendous task to ascertain where resources are most needed and allocate them accordingly. Therefore, we applaud the Department’s efforts at improve the system while encouraging DHS to continue to strive for greater efficiency tempered with a respect for the due process rights of all concerned.

For more information on this and other topics related to American Immigration please see: US Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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23rd December 2009

For those who have been married to an alien spouse for less than 2 years, the only immigrant visa category that the couple may apply for is a CR1 visa. For those who have been married for more than 2 years at the time of application an IR1 visa may be available. Usually, when the alien spouse travels to the United States of America on a CR1 visa he or she will be admitted with conditional lawful permanent residence. However, there is a question on the lips of many couples: what if we were married less than two years when we filed a visa application, but more than two years when we obtained the visa? The answer: the alien spouse’s status at entry may depend upon the duration of the marriage at the time of his or her admission to the United States of America.

For aliens with conditional lawful permanent residence, it is necessary to file for a lift of conditions before the alien will be granted unconditional lawful permanent residence.

When an alien is admitted to the United States, they must pass through a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint, this is commonly referred to as a port of entry. It is a common misconception that a US visa gives the visa holder the “right,” to enter the USA. In reality, a visa only provides the bearer with the right to travel to a US port of entry and ask for admission. When a CR1 visa holder travels to the USA they are admitted in lawful permanent residence, but the conditionality of that residence is determined by the Customs and Border Protection Officer admitting the alien. For couples who have had their two year anniversary before the alien spouse’s first trip to the USA, Customs and Border Protection will likely admit the alien spouse to unconditional permanent residence because conditionality is determined at the time of entry.

In some cases where a couple fails to meet the two year marriage requirement, but their second anniversary is in the very near future, it may be prudent for them to simply wait until after their second anniversary before the alien spouse asks for permission to enter the US for the first time. This way, the couple would not need to apply for a lift of conditions after the alien spouse enters the USA because the alien spouse will likely be granted unconditional permanent residence upon arrival in the United States.

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15th December 2009

When visa applications are submitted they process through the US Immigration system. The process depends upon the type of visa being sought. In situations in which applicants are seeking a K1 visa, K3 visa, CR1 visa, or IR1 visa the process is often routine, but many get through the entire process to find themselves confronted with a 221(g) refusal. AILA recently distributed an article dealing with this issue as it now has an impact upon those who utilize the Visa Waiver program and ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization) when traveling to the USA. To quote the publication’s section on 221(g) refusals:

“Section 221(g) of the INA provides for a temporary refusal when an otherwise qualified visa applicant is found to be lacking a specific document, or when a consular officer determines that additional security clearance is required. Consular officers beneficially use 221(g) as a way of affording applicants every opportunity to supplement their applications in order to address concerns – such as possible fraud – that arise at the visa interview. Once the deficiency is satisfied, or the concern resolved, 221(g) refusal is “overcome” and the visa may be issued.”

221(g) denials can truly be a boon to both the Consular Officer and the Immigration attorney as it provides a clear indication of what needs to be presented in order to facilitate visa issuance. That being said, Consular Officers can re-issue 221(g) refusals, but this rarely occurs as many officers seem to make a point of ensuring that all other documents are compiled before issuing an initial 221(g).

Many people wish to know information regarding common reasons for 221(g) refusal. AILA provides a brief overview of the common reasons for this type of denial. To further quote the aforementioned publication:

“1. The applicant is asked to provide additional supporting documents, such as proof of local employment;
2. The applicant is employed in a field listed on the Technology Alert List (TAL) and the consular officer requests a Visas Mantis Security Advisory Opinion (“SAO”). (This is one of the most common scenarios in which applicants in India, China and elsewhere are told their applications require “administrative processing.”)
3. The consular officer requests an Advisory Opinion from the Visa Office on the applicability of one of the statutory grounds of inadmissibility.
4. There are no empty visa pages in the applicant’s passport, or the application photograph does not meet quality standards.
5. The applicant’s petition approval is not yet listed in PIMS.”

In many cases, 221(g) refusals are routine and they usually do not have a detrimental impact upon travelers to the USA. However, in recent months it has been announced that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service treats 221g refusals as denials when posing the question “have you ever been denied a visa to the USA” on the ESTA registration form. It would appear that the ESTA system “red flags” those who have been “denied” a prior visa and asks that some of these applicants receive an actual visa (in most cases a US tourist visa) before traveling to the USA which could cause delays to those wishing to enter the country.

Currently, the Kingdom of Thailand does not participate in the American Visa Waiver Program so this issue with CBP will have little impact for Thai nationals traveling to the United States. However, people in Thailand who hold the nationality of a country which participates in the Visa Waiver Program may be effected by this new regulation if they are presented with a 221(G) denial by a Consular Officer at the US Embassy in Bangkok.

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12th December 2009

After the tragedy of 9/11 many changes were made with regard to Homeland Security. Specifically, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created and many tasks previously undertaken by other agencies were brought under the jurisdiction of DHS. One example is the United States Customs Service which was reincorporated into the Department of Homeland Security as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service. This agency is responsible for patrolling the borders and ports of entry to the United States of America. They are also responsible for screening those who enter the United States of America either on a US passport, US visa, or US visa waiver. CBP plays an integral part in the US Immigration process.

Prior to this publication, there has been a rumor circulating that those who wish to enter the United States of America must fist obtain a vaccination for the H1N1 influenza vaccination. As a matter of fact, this is not true. Apparently this rumor is unfounded. AILA has provided a quote from a statement from the Customs and Border Protection Service:

“[United States] Customs and Border Protection would like to address rumors regarding U.S. entry requirements and the H1N1 virus: Travelers do NOT need to present proof that they received the H1N1 flu vaccine in order to enter the United States. No such vaccination requirement exists. Travelers are encouraged to visit the Department of Health and Human Services Flu Web site for current information on seasonal flu prevention, and the “Know Before You Go” section under the Travel tab of the CBP Web site for helpful traveler tips.”

For those seeking entry to the United States a flu vaccination is not required at this time.

In recent years CBP has been granted more and more authority to deal with real time situations. This leads many to wonder just how much authority CBP has. This is an interesting question as they are given major discretionary powers with regard to those seeking entry to the United States. For example, CBP is authorized to place foreign nationals into expedited removal (deportation) proceedings if they deem it necessary. One who has been removed through expedited removal could be barred from reentering the USA for as long as five years. That being said, this only seems to come up in the context of US Family Immigration when the loved one of a US Citizen is improperly using a US tourist visa for undisclosed immigration purposes. In situations such as this, CBP may feel it necessary to use expedited removal to send the subject back to their home country. Therefore it is usually wise to process things correctly and utilize the proper visa for a loved one traveling to the United States.

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23rd November 2009

The K1 visa process is long and complicated. At the end of the process, the K1 visa holder is permitted to enter the United States one time for a duration of 90 days. Unlike a United States Tourist visa, the K1 fiance visa is a dual intent travel document. This means that the bearer is entitled to simultaneous immigrant and non-immigrant intent. Luckily, the K1 visa holder would likely not be placed in expedited removal proceedings based upon the notion that the alien is an undisclosed immigrant without proper documentation. That being said, there are still considerations which must be made before a Thai fiancee enters the United States of America.

The first major issue many American men ask about: Can My Thai fiancee leave the USA after she enters on her K1 visa? She can leave the United States, but doing so would cause her to fall out of K1 status and a new visa would need to be obtained. There is a document called an advance parole travel document which would allow the Thai fiancee to leave the USA and reenter in the same status. That being said, it is never wise to leave the USA after entering on a K1 until after the adjustment of status application is approved. It is wise to make certain the the Thai fiancee does not have any pressing concerns that must be dealt with abroad. Some circumstances cannot be foreseen, but it is not advisable to plan on turning around and leaving the USA shortly after entering on a K1.

Upon reaching a port of entry in the USA, the Thai fiancee will pass through Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This is the point at which she will need to present her visa. Most people do not realize that the visa is not merely the document in her passport, but also a large amount of documentation that the Embassy gives her after approving the application. This documentation is remitted in a sealed envelope which is not to be opened by anyone other than the CBP Officer. Generally, the CBP officer will ask some routine questions and usually admit the alien fiancee. In very extreme cases, it may be possible for a CBP officer to turn the entrant away. However, this author has yet to see a K1 visa holder turned away at the port of entry. With this in mind, couples should keep an eye upon the expiration date of the visa as this is critically important. If the visa expires before entry, then the entrant will need to reapply for a new visa at an Embassy or Consulate in Thailand.

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6th November 2009

The United States visa waiver program, not to be confused with an I-601 waiver, allows citizens from certain countries to enter the United States of American without obtaining a visa prior to arrival. In recent years the United States government has implemented ESTA, also known as: the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA requires that travelers wishing to enter the country on a visa waiver inform the US Immigration authorities prior to arrival so that a pre-screening can be conducted. The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service is tasked with monitoring those seeking travel clearances using the ESTA system. Recently it has been reported by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that 221g denials must be reported in the ESTA form, to quote AILA directly:

“CBP recently informed AILA that it, after consultation with the Department of State (DOS), is classifying all §221(g) actions on visa applications as visa “denials.” Thus, Visa Waiver Program (VWP) applicants, who are subject to INA §221(g) refusals, should answer affirmatively in their ESTA applications that they have been denied a visa. This suggestion applies even if the reason for the refusal is due to consular administrative processing. If VWP travelers do not disclose such a “denial” on their ESTA applications or provide an update regarding such “denials,” they may have their ESTA registration rejected or be sent to secondary inspection and potentially refused entry when they apply for admission to the United States.”

This is important to note for those originating from a country participating in the US visa waiver program. For example, if the foreign fiancee of a US Citizen has been issued a 221g with regard to a K1 visa application, then that 221g must be disclosed as a denial on the ESTA form if said fiancee intends to visit the US and the foreign fiancee’s home country participates in this program.

As AILA’s article went on to point out, the Department of State does not even consider 221(g)’s to be outright denials,

Technically, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) classifies a §221(g) action as a visa “refusal,” but DOS explicitly retains authority to “reactivate” the visa application upon receipt of required documents or completion of a government mandated administrative clearance. See 9 FAM 41.121 N2.4.

This situation is a classic example of two different government agencies taking a differing view of the same situation. The Department of State seems to view 221g refusals as administrative refusals to issue a visa without further documentation while the Department of Homeland Security seems to view such refusals as US visa denials that could be viewed as grounds for denying a person’s subsequent entry into the USA.

This issue will likely not be particularly problematic in the Kingdom of Thailand as Thailand is not a country participating in the visa waiver program, but for others around the world this issue could lead to problems entering the USA.

For those in this situation, it is always advisable to be honest, but it may be possible to explain the situation by answering “yes” to the question: Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry? After answering in the affirmative there should be space to explain. Therefore, the applicant probably should note that the denial was: a 221(g), at the Embassy or Consulate (example: US Embassy Bangkok, US Consulate Chiang Mia, US Embassy Burma, etc.),  and the reason for the “denial” (example: Embassy conducted administrative processing, Consulate requested further documentation, etc).

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11th September 2009

On this website, there is a great deal of information regarding I-601 waivers and grounds of inadmissibility.  However, there are other situations where a foreign national can be barred from reentering the United States of America. For example, where an alien has been deported or removed from the United States, they are usually subject to a reentry ban for a statutorily specified period of time. If a foreign national has been previously deported or removed from the United States, then that person must submit an I-212 application to reapply for admission to the United States (also known as advance permission to reenter).

Deportation and removal are technically the same thing as the terms can be used interchangeably. That being said, forms of removal from the United States should be looked at on a kind of legal spectrum. What is commonly referred to as “Deportation” occurs after a finding by an Immigration Judge that a person should be removed from the United States of America. Another form of removal is known as “expedited removal” this commonly occurs at a port of entry in the United States where a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officer finds that an applicant for admission is not fit for entry under one or more of the  provisions of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. In many situations, a Border Patrol Officer will allow an applicant for admission to voluntarily withdraw their application and return to the point of origin. In this situation, which is akin to voluntary departure, the applicant’s US Immigration record is not adversely affected. However, it is within the officer’s discretion to place the alien in expedited deportation proceedings and thereby have them removed from the United States.

When an alien is removed from the United States through the use of expedited deportation, that alien is barred from reentering the United States without first receiving approval of the aforementioned statutorily mandated I-212 petition. These applications are somewhat similar to I-601 waivers in that the applicant must show something  like extreme hardship to a United States Citizen would occur if the application were denied and the applicant remained inadmissible.

Avoiding expedited deportation at a port of entry (and the consequences arising therefrom) is just another reason why visa seekers should apply for a visa which comports with their intent. One who is viewed as using a United States tourist visa improperly (hiding their intention to marry in the US and adjust status) could be placed in expedited deportation proceedings. If removed, then a great deal of time and resources would need to be expended to deal with the inadmissibility. Therefore, it is not only ethically incumbent upon all applicants to be honest in their immigration endeavors, but it is also practical because avoiding expedited deportation is a great benefit from a long term perspective.

For the above described reasons, those wishing to bring a Thai loved one to the United States for the purpose of marriage are encouraged to utilize a K1 visa for this purpose as a fiance visa is the appropriate travel document reflecting the couple’s true intentions. For those already married, a CR1 visa or a K 3 visa is preferable to a tourist visa if adjustment of status is the ultimate goal.

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31st August 2009

In an interesting a convoluted situation, it appears that United States officials deported an American Citizen…on more than one occasion. To quote another website:

“Newly released documents show that federal investigators twice ignored FBI records and other evidence and deported a North Carolina native to Latin America, The Charlotte Observer”

One of the most interesting, and somewhat tragic, aspects of the situation is the fact that the Citizen in question could not speak any Spanish and was also mentally ill. To quote the Charlotte Observer:

“At the time of Mark Lyttle’s deportation, immigration officials had criminal record checks that said he was a U.S. citizen. They had his Social Security number and the names of his parents. They had Lyttle’s own sworn statement that he had been born in Rowan County. None of this stopped them from leaving Lyttle, a mentally ill American who speaks no Spanish, alone and penniless in Mexico, where he has no ties.”

Cases such as this really bring to light important issues regarding the overwhelming power of the United States Federal government. The bureaucracy of the United States government is staggering and at times people fall through the cracks. In this situation, the American Citizen at issue not only fell through the cracks, but he should never have been put in a position where he could have fallen through a crack. Had the federal authorities simply done their due diligence, they would have learned that the subject was a Citizen of the United States of America and therefore, could not be subject to deportation. More importantly, he was a native born Citizen of the United States of America. This is important because American Citizens who are born American Citizens cannot lose their Citizenship, except through the process of renunciation. Further, an American Citizen cannot be deported. Therefore the authorities representing the US government made a grave error by wrongfully deporting someone with US citizenship.

It is very disconcerting to see this kind of thing happening to Americans. However, it should be noted that the American deportee had a history of mental illness and actually had claimed Mexican Citizenship on prior occasions. Even still, other government agencies had informed the Immigration officials that the deportee was a Citizen. Further when the deportee went to the US Embassy in Guatemala, “It took someone in Guatemala one day to prove he was a citizen.”This begs the question, if this was easily ascertainable overseas, why couldn’t US Immigration officials figure it out while in the USA.

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