Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Fiance Visa’

23rd November 2017

The following is a transcript of the video which can be found here: K-1 Visas from Vietnam

In this video we are going to be discussing K-1 Visas specifically in the context of cases that will be processed presumably through the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City primarily.

As can be heard from the preamble to this video, I’m an American attorney but we’re located here in Bangkok. Primarily we do the vast majority of our cases do involve Thai nationals though we do deal with cases regionally and I sort of thought about it the other day and I said that you know, I really don’t do enough videos talking about some of the other posts and other nationalities we deal with in the immigration context within the immigration practice here. So I went ahead and decided to do this video.

The way to look at the K-1 process specifically and the K-1 fiancée process is slightly different than dealing with other family based petitions. First of all, you have to be intending to marry an American citizen unlike marriage visas where you can be married to a lawful permanent resident and process a case that way for one of the preference categories. K-1 Visas are only between a foreign national and an American citizen. Both parties have to be legally free to marry, that’s rather important. This can come up and cause some confusion, and cause some problems in a lot cases because folks think “oh, we filed and now we can marry”. “No, you have to remain fiancées throughout the whole process!”  You have to be legally free to marry up until the fiancée, the Vietnamese fiancée comes to the United States at which point it is then possible to go ahead and get married in the United States and file for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence. In another video on this channel I discuss specifically adjustment of status. Adjustment of status is the process by which an individual comes to the United States, in this case in K-1 status, gets married and goes ahead and  lawful permanent residence attached,  aka Green Card Status. Another thing to keep in mind with respect to the K-1 specifically, the couple in question needs to have met physically in person within 2 years of the filing of the petition for the visa benefits.  There are exceptions to this rule but they are very, very narrow in scope and for that reason it’s best to effectively just go ahead and say “look, I have to meet in person. That usually means they are going to have to travel at least once to, in the case of a Vietnamese fiancée, presumably Vietnam and meet physically in person, the Vietnamese fiancée before filing can be perfected or at least before an acceptable filing can be perfected.

Some things to think about as far as how it works.  Well the case starts off over at the Department of Homeland Security, specifically USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. They go ahead and process the petition. If the petition is approved, the case moves to the National Visa Center which is under the auspices of the Department of State. The National Visa Center, they act as a sort of clearing house or sort of administrative hub for sending these cases out, making sure it gets from the approval at DHS and gets to the appropriate embassy or consulate. In the vast majority of cases involving Vietnam you’re  not going to be dealing with the post in Hanoi, in the vast majority of cases at least that we deal with, you’re dealing with the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a higher volume post, so processing can take a little bit longer. In Vietnam, as far as Consular processing goes, it can take a little bit longer when compared to other posts in the region, Bangkok included, but Bangkok is a pretty high volume post as well. Some of the other smaller posts, Cambodia, Laos definitely, even Yangon, don’t quite have the volume so things may move a little bit more quickly.  But that being said, it’s just the process you have to deal with and every case is sort of being unique and you have to deal with the circumstances as you take them.  So that being said, it will go to the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City and at that point the case, the Vietnamese fiancée will be informed of the protocols that he or she needs to undertake to go ahead and complete the consular processing portion. In the cases where we have been retained to assist in these matters, we often assist with translations, compilation of documentation, filling out of various forms, both online and physical forms cases and in a lot of cases going ahead and submitting the request for the actual visa application interview.  And then on top of that we go ahead and assist in preparing certain questions or I really hate to say we provide the questions that they are going to ask, we don’t; we provide an overview with respect to how, what is the process looking for? What kind of due diligence is the Consular Officer likely to be interested in conducting? In most cases it’s ascertaining that the couple is a genuine couple, they are legally free to marry, they’ve remained legally free to marry, they adhere to the law, they adhere to the Immigration policy, they don’t have any legal grounds of inadmissibility and all the documentation relevant to the case that that officer feels is pertinent is present and accounted for with respect to the underlying application. That’s basically what they’re looking to do. It’s not an exercise in “stump the applicant”, it’s an exercise in due diligence. They want to make certain that the couple is bona fide.  So for that reason, that is sort of a general overview of what the interview process is like. If the officer requests further documentation, they can issue what is called a 221-G request for further documentation.

In some cases they may feel that the case is denied for various reasons. They have to give a legal reason why they are denying the case. In most cases that I have dealt when you get a denial, you are looking at a legal ground of inadmissibility, and a legal ground of inadmissibility is defined in the Immigration Nationality Act and in some cases it’s often possible to overcome that legal ground of inadmissibility through use of an I-601 waiver. There are various videos on this channel with respect to the I-601 specifically but to sort of just sum up K-1 visa processing through Vietnam, you’re looking at a matter of months; I think you are looking at probably 8 or 9 months with respect to the overall “door to door” process with respect to processing a successful K-1 visa, on average.  There are outliers on both sides. Every case is unique; it’s like a snow flake. But that being said, that’s kind of a general overview with respect to timeline, the thing to keep in mind, just sort of in sum. It’s a 3 part process. It effectively begins in the US, goes through various offices in the US, finally to wind up, generally speaking, at the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City where the matter will be adjudicated by the Consular Officer at the Immigrant Visa Unit. Again, K-1s are interesting because they’re a non-immigrant visa that has dual intent. You are actually a non-immigrant visa but to all intents and purposes, the consular section treats it as if it were an immigrant visa and you go ahead and undertake the interview and hopefully, presuming a successful interview, a visa will be issued shortly after the interview date.

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12th November 2017

Below is a transcript of the video which can be found at the following link: K-1 Visas From Laos

In this video today we are going to be discussing K-1 visas but with the specific context of Laos. As previously mentioned, we’re based here in Bangkok and for those who have checked out this channel before, you can probably surmise that a lot of our activity with respect to, especially Immigration practice surrounds the US Embassy here in Thailand and a lot of our clientele are Thai nationals. But that being said, we do deal with cases that come up with respect to nationalities within this region rather frequently so it’s not uncommon for us to have a case or cases that may or may not end up, or will likely end up at the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

The overall process for those of you who are watching this video and have never really dealt with the K-1 before. The process has got to begin in the United States, you have got to deal with DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, petition needs to be filed for fiancée visa benefits and certain requirements that are inherent to the petition with some exceptions, the couple needs to have met within 2 years of initial filing for K-1 visa benefits, they have to physically have met in person at least once within 2 years of the filing. The other thing to keep in mind with respect to the K-1 visa or the petition thereof is both parties need to be legally free to marry and moreover have to remain that way throughout the process. So, this can kind of be a little bit confusing to folks; you can’t marry each other while you are going for a fiancée vise benefit because it’s specifically is a fiancée visa benefit. So you can’t get legally married to one another. Now having a party to celebrate impending nuptials or something like this, that’s a different story but something to keep clearly in mind with respect to the fiancée visa category.

The thing that’s interesting with respect to Laos is you often will see a little bit of, you’ll see the occasional Laos national living and working in Thailand who will process through the embassy down here in Bangkok because they’re living and working down here in Bangkok and where certain local jurisdictions requirements are met for consular processing here, a Lao national could theoretically process through the US Embassy in Bangkok rather than up in Laos. Depending on the circumstances of the given case, that may or may not be more or less convenient for the applicant in question but that being said, presumptively, consular processing jurisdiction is based on the nationality of the applicant so if they’re a Lao national that happens to live in Thailand, but would prefer to process up in Laos that is certainly acceptable and they can go ahead and do that.

So basically, once the case, let’s presume it gets approved, the petition gets approved by the Department of Homeland Security, the case will move over to the national visa center. The National Visa Center acts as a sort of clearing house, or routing hub if you will, for immigrant visas, or for cases going throughout the world on behalf of the Department of State. It will then go to the Embassy in Vientiane and the Consular Section, the Immigrant Visa section of the Embassy in Vientiane will go ahead and inform the applicant what needs to be undertaken in order to finish up the process to get the visa issued.  It should be noted, it’s rather an interesting aspect of the K-1 visa it that it is considered a dual intent travel document and the reason that this is interesting is because, as a dual intent travel document, it’s a non-immigrant visa category, but for practical purposes, for consular processing purposes, it is treated as if it was an immigrant visa category. So that’s something to sort of keep in mind and once the applicant obtains their K-1 visa, they can go to the United States within the window of time for the expiration of the underlying visa, and then once they arrive in the United States they can go ahead and remain in the US lawfully for 90 days but with the sole purpose of marrying their American citizen fiancée and then subsequently adjusting status to lawful permanent resident. There is another video on this channel, which specifically gets into adjustment of status. I recommend those who are interested in that topic,  to specifically go to that video to check that out but suffice it to say, once one has adjusted to lawful permanent resident, the Green Card status, that’s effectively sort of the end of the  process, in a way. Definitely, I look at is as a kind of conclusion  of what was being sought which was bringing ones Lao fiancée into the United States to live permanently with the American citizen counterpart. So to sum up, the thing to keep in mind with respect to how this process works, it starts at the Department of Homeland Security, proceeds to the National Visa center and then finally ends up at the Consular Section of the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

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10th November 2017

The following is a transcript of the video found here: K-1 Fiance Visas From Cambodia:

In this video we are going to be discussing the K-1 Fiancee Visa specifically in the context of Consular processing in the Kingdom of Cambodia; specifically the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

For those of you who have checked out this channel and seen some of the other videos, you probably know that we are based in Bangkok, Thailand, we do deal primarily with immigration matters arising with Thai-American nationality generally, we deal with a lot of US family immigration matters, fiancée visas, marriage visas etc.

Just because we’re located here, does not mean necessarily that this is our exclusive bailiwick with respect to US immigration.  It is sort of interesting in so far as immigration attorneys who practice in the United States tend to have a plethora of rather wide range of nationality of clientele that they deal with, whereas, it is sort of somewhat inverted by us being based in Bangkok we primarily deal with Thai nationals. But that being said, I have dealt with cases involving the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, quite a number of cases involving that particular post, mostly because of its nearby proximity to Thailand here.  But that being said, for those who are interested in sort of an overview of the process it’s best to sort of look at it in 2 phases: One involves the Department of Homeland Security.  The Immigration apparatus, USCIS under the auspices of DHS, Department of Homeland Security, is going to go ahead and adjudicate what is called an I-129 F petition. That petition is basically the starting point of the process if you will. You have got to file a petition and you have got to get approval from the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, before being able to proceed further with the K-1 visa. After the initial adjudication of the petition, and let’s go into some details of some requirements associated with the petition, most notably the couple in question must both be legally free to  marry at the time that the application is filed. Moreover, both parties need to have met physically, in person within a 2-year period of their initial filing of the petition for a K-1 visa status. The big things to keep in mind is that “You have got to be legally free to marry”, you can’t be getting a divorce, you have to already be divorced if you have a prior spouse; you have got to be legally free to marry and the other thing to keep in mind is this can sort of happen in certain common law jurisdictions or sometimes even in civil law jurisdictions. You can’t get married legally while the K-1 is processing, even if it’s to each other, you have to wait and remain fiancées until the foreign fiancée in this case Khmer, presumably coming out of Phnom Penh, comes to the United States and then you have 90 days to get married and file to adjust status. Adjustment of status is a different process. It comes subsequent to marriage, in the United States. There’s another video on this channel which specifically discusses the details of adjustment of status. Suffice it to say that basically that’s the process by which the foreign fiancée, and later spouse, becomes a lawful permanent resident, aka a green card holder in the United States.  So that’s sort of the back end of the process. Going back, petition, have to have met within 2 years of filing, need to be legally free to marry, there’s other details associated with this, I am not going to get too deep into that side of things, but presuming USCIS DHS approval, the matter is going to move quickly over to the National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearing house or routing hub to send it to the appropriate Embassy or  Consulate abroad, in the case of Cambodia Nationals, presumably that’s going to be Phnom Penh , Cambodia and at that point, you need to deal with the specific Consular processing mandates of the visa section of the Embassy over there.

It is interesting to bring up with respect to K-1 visas, they are what is considered a dual intent visa. So technically speaking, they’re non-immigrant category but for purposes of consular processing, and sort of the application process, they are treated for all intents and purposes as Immigrant visas, just like a spouse visa, CR -1 IR -1 or “shades of grey” here but the K-3 visa. So basically to sum up, with respect to this video, the process for getting a fiancée of Cambodian nationality into the United States, begins in the United States, progresses through multiple agencies over there before getting to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh and then there’s various documentation associated with the overall process and various documents which need to be translated from Khmer to English etc. Our services, we can provide those translations, part and parcel with what we deal with on a regular basis. I oftentimes have to go over to Phnom Penh to deal with clients as well and that can sometimes come up. But just generally speaking, as sort of from an overview of how the process works and what we can do to assist if necessary is basically, it starts in the US, comes over to the Embassy and finally, I think it is pretty safe to say probably 8 months, 9 months on average, all in, the processing time for getting a K-1. It can move faster, it can move slower. The thing to keep in mind with respect to all US visa applications is they’re like snowflakes, every one of them is unique, every one of them is slightly different and you are going to see one case may move inordinately quickly, we actually had one process through quite quickly as far as sort of compared to averages and I think it sort of just hit the right desk at the right minute and just sort of went through whereas some cases they just move more slowly.  It’s going to differ, case to case, circumstance to circumstance but that being said, with respect specifically to Cambodia K-1 Visas again are going to start processing in the United States, they’re going to end up in Cambodia and then once the Cambodian national comes to the United States and marries their American citizen fiancée, they can go ahead and petition to adjust status and receive a green card in the US.

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27th January 2014

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that Vietnam has legalized same sex wedding ceremonies performed in that Southeast Asian nation. Prior to this announcement it was illegal for same sex couples to have a marriage ceremony performed in Vietnam and also illegal for same sex couples to cohabit without fear of government reprisal. It should be noted that these recent measures only allow same sex couples to have a marriage ceremony, notwithstanding the fact that such ceremonies will have no legal recognition in Vietnam (or elsewhere). However, many LGBT rights activists believe that this is a significant step towards eventual marriage equality in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Thailand the struggle still continues to see the full marriage equality. Unlike Vietnam, Thailand has allowed same sex marriage ceremonies within their jurisdiction for some time. It should also be noted that Thailand is one of the most tolerant nations in Southeast Asia when it comes to LGBT issues. However, the law in Thailand still stipulates that a legally recognized marriage is a union between one man and one woman. There are many activists in the Kingdom hoping to change these rules in order to allow same sex couples the right to get married. With recent political turmoil in the Kingdom and uncertainty surrounding upcoming elections it remains to be seen whether any change to the current law will speedily occur, but some believe that the tolerant attitude in Thailand will lead to changes in the law especially in light of the fact that recent proposals in the Thai parliament would, if adopted, allow same sex couples to legalize their marriages.

The issue of same sex marriage legalization is of concern to many same-sex bi-national couples since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision granting federal recognition of same sex unions. One result of this decision was that same sex couples and spouses are now eligible to receive United States visa benefits in the same manner as different sex couples. Therefore, visas such as the CR-1 visa and IR-1 visa are now available to same sex couples who are already married. Although this may not be a highly sought after category in Southeast Asia at this time as no jurisdiction in the region currently recognizes same sex marriage, it could be of substantial importance in coming years as laws may be amended to equalize marriage laws for the LGBT community. Meanwhile, officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as well as the Department of State have noted that same sex couples, where one of the partners is American, who maintain a bona fide intention to marry in the USA may be eligible for the K-1 visa (more commonly referred to as a fiance visa). This type of visa allows the foreign fiance of an American citizen to travel to the United States for 90 days for the express purpose of getting married and filing for adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Residence.

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21st October 2013

Updated USCIS Processing Times

Posted by : admin

The administration of this blog routinely posts the updated processing time estimates for the Service Centers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The following was quoted directly from the official website of USCIS:

Field Office Processing Dates for California Service Center as of: August 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 2.5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Blanket L 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker E – Treaty traders and investors 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Visa to be issued abroad 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Change of status in the U.S. 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Extension of stay in the U.S. 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-2A – Temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-2B – Other temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-3 – Temporary trainees 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker L – Intracompany transfers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker O – Extraordinary ability 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker P – Athletes, artists, and entertainers 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Q – Cultural exchange visitors and exchange visitors participating in the Irish Peace process 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker R – Religious occupation 5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker TN – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional 2 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-3/K-4 – Already married – spouse and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 March 11, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 November 3, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 June 21, 2010
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister February 11, 2010
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants 5 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant Religious workers 5 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications May 30, 2012
I-526 Immigrant Petition By Alien Entrepreneur For use by an entrepreneur who wishes to immigrate to the United States March 16, 2012
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change status to the F or M academic or vocational student categories 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change of status to H or L dependents 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change Status to the J exchange visitor category 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other change of status applications 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for F or M academic or vocational students 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of stay for H and L dependents 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for J exchange visitors 2.5 Months
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other extension applications 2.5 Months
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility 4 Months
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement Application for a waiver of the 2-year foreign residence requirement based on exceptional hardship or persecution 4 Months
I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents 6 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] July 2, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for Honduras/Nicaragua [(c)(19), (a)(12)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program May 25, 2011
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension 3 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing 3 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition 3 Months
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) May 16, 2012
I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (immigrant investors) based on PL107-273 September 12, 1997
Field Office Processing Dates for Nebraska Service Center as of: August 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 June 16, 2013
I-131 Application for Travel Document Refugee or asylee applying for a refugee travel document 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document Permanent resident applying for a re-entry permit 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) dependent applying for advance parole 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) principal applying for advance parole 3 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Extraordinary ability March 2, 2013
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Outstanding professor or researcher 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Multinational executive or manager April 2, 2013
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Skilled worker or professional 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Unskilled worker 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability requesting a National Interest Waiver 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Schedule A Nurses 4 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants 5 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Under the Indochinese Adjustment Act 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Based on grant of asylum more than 1 year ago 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Based on refugee admission more than 1 year ago 4 Months
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility April 2, 2013
I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition Petition for accompanying family members of a refugee or an asylee 5 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved asylum application [(a)(5)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] 3 Weeks
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program May 30, 2011
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition April 15, 2013
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document U.S. citizen applying for a replacement of naturalization or citizenship certificate 6 Months
Field Office Processing Dates for Texas Service Center as of: August 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 2.5 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-3/K-4 – Already married – spouse and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Extraordinary ability 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Outstanding professor or researcher 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Multinational executive or manager 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Skilled worker or professional 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Unskilled worker 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Advanced degree or exceptional ability requesting a National Interest Waiver 4 Months
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker Schedule A Nurses 4 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants June 2, 2010
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications 4 Months
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Based on grant of asylum more than 1 year ago May 2, 2013
I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility 4 Months
I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition Petition for accompanying family members of a refugee or an asylee March 16, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] 3 Weeks
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program 6 Months
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action 6 Months
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition March 17, 2013
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document U.S. citizen applying for a replacement of naturalization or citizenship certificate 6 Months
Field Office Processing Dates for Vermont Service Center as of: August 31, 2013
Form Title Classification or Basis for Filing: Processing Timeframe:
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Record Initial issuance or replacement of a Form I-94 2.5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Blanket L 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Visa to be issued abroad April 17, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Change of status in the U.S. April 17, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-1B – Specialty occupation – Extension of stay in the U.S. April 10, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-2B – Other temporary workers 1 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker H-3 – Temporary trainees 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker L – Intracompany transfers July 3, 2013
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker O – Extraordinary ability 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker P – Athletes, artists, and entertainers 2 Weeks
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker Q – Cultural exchange visitors and exchange visitors participating in the Irish Peace process 2 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker R – Religious occupation 5 Months
I-129 Petition for A Nonimmigrant Worker TN – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional 2 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 5 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 March 27, 2013
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 October 22, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 April 30, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 April 30, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 April 9, 2012
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister March 27, 2011
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant All other special immigrants February 20, 2013
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) October 8, 2012
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status Employment-based adjustment applications November 19, 2012
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change status to the F or M academic or vocational student categories April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change of status to H or L dependents April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Change Status to the J exchange visitor category April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other change of status applications April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for F or M academic or vocational students April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of stay for H and L dependents April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Extension of Stay for J exchange visitors April 17, 2013
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status All other extension applications April 17, 2013
I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence Removal of lawful permanent resident conditions (spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents 6 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student. [(c)(3)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending asylum application [(c)(8)] 3 Weeks
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on a pending I-485 adjustment application [(c)(9)] 3 Months
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for El Salvador [(c)(19)(a)(12)] April 24, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on TPS for Honduras/Nicaragua [(c)(19), (a)(12)] April 24, 2013
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Based on an approved, concurrently filed, I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (c)(33). 90 Days
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization All other applications for employment authorization 3 Months
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits Voluntary departure under the family unity program 6 Months
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador extension April 24, 2013
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status El Salvador initial or late filing April 24, 2013
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua extension April 24, 2013
I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status Honduras and Nicaragua initial or late filing April 24, 2013
I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Request for Deferred Action February 28, 2013
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition To request further action on an approved application or petition 3 Months
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card Initial issuance or replacement 3.5 Months
I-90A Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card Initial issuance or replacement for Special Agricultral Workers (SAW) 3.5 Months
I-914 Application for T Non-immigrant Status Provide temporary immigration benefits to an alien who is a victim of trafficking in persons, and immediate family 4 Months
I-918 Petition for U Non-immigrant Status Provide temporary immigration benefits to an alien who is a victim of qualifying criminal activity, and their qualifying family June 25, 2012

It should be noted that these processing time estimates do not reflect the time it takes to obtain a US visa as the US visa application process can be time consuming even after an initial immigration petition receives approval since processing at the National Visa Center and/or a US Consulate or US Embassy abroad may also be required.

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21st July 2013

In an effort to provide relevant information to travelers and expatriates who read this blog, the administration posts the holiday closing schedules for the various US Emabssies and US Consulates in the Southeast Asia region. The following is the holiday closing schedule for the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as posted on the official Embassy website:

Month Day Holiday Khmer/U.S.
January 1 Tuesday New Year’s Day U.S.
January 21 Monday Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. U.S.
February 18 Monday George Washington’s Birthday U.S.
March 8 Friday International Women’s Day CAM
April 15 Monday Khmer New Year’s Day CAM
April 16 Tuesday Khmer New Year’s Day CAM
May 13 Monday Birthday of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah​Boromneath NORODOM SIHAMONI, King of Cambodia CAM
May 14 Tuesday Birthday of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah BoromneathNORODOM SIHAMONI, King of Cambodia CAM
May 27 Monday Memorial Day U.S.
June 18 Tuesday Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen-Mother NORODOM MONINEATH SIHANOUK of Cambodia CAM
July 4 Thursday Independence Day U.S.
September 2 Monday Labor Day U.S.
October 3 Thursday Pchum Ben Day CAM
October 4 Friday Pchum Ben Day CAM
October 14 Monday Columbus Day U.S.
October 15 Tuesday National Day of Mourning for His Majesty King Father​Preah Bat Samdech NORODOM SIHANOUK CAM
November 11 Monday Veterans Day U.S.
November 18 Monday Water Festival CAM
November 28 Thursday Thanksgiving Day U.S.
December 25 Wednesday Christmas Day U.S.

Each year, many Americans travel to a US Embassy or US Consulate in an effort to obtain services such as US Passport renewal, notary service, additional US Passport pages, and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. Meanwhile, many foreign nationals from around the world must undergo Consular Processing in order to eventually be granted a US visa. Non-Immigrant visa units are tasked with adjudicating applications for non-immigrant visas such as the B-1/B-2 visa (US Tourist visa), F-1 visa (student visa), and the J-1 visa. Business visa units are responsible for the adjudication of business visa applications for travel documents such as the E-1 visa, the E-2 visa, the EB visa, the L-1 visa, the O-1 visa, and the H1-B visa. Finally, immigrant visa units have the responsibility for adjudicating applications for immigrant visas such as the IR-1 visa and the CR-1 visa. However, those seeking a K-1 visa (fiance visa) may also find themselves being interviewed by an officer with the immigrant visa unit as such travel documents are treated in much the same way as immigrant visas, notwithstanding the fact that K-1 visas are technically non-immigrant visas.

Those wishing to receive service from American Citizen Services at a US Embassy abroad or those wishing to have a visa application adjudictaed are encouraged to make an appointment online prior to traveling to the US Post.

For related information please see: US Embassy Thailand.

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2nd July 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a statement regarding the implementation of policies regarding adjudication of immigration petitions for same-sex bi-national married couples. To quote directly from the official website of DHS:

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly.  To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

This statement is a significant moment in the long fight for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples. In order to provide further information regarding these developments the DHS has posted some frequently asked questions on the same page as the aforementioned quotation. These FAQ’s are quoted below:

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?

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 automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Clearly, the United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident same sex spouse of a foreign national can now submit an I-130 petition for Lawful Permanent Residence (also known as “Green Card” status) for their husband or wife. In fact, it would appear that a same-sex couple in Florida was recently granted immigration benefits for the same-sex spouse. This would especially be true in a case where the couple not only was married in State recognizing same-sex marriage, but also resides in that same State or another of the 13 States which recognize such unions. An issue which is, as of yet, not so clearly delineated hinges upon a situation in which a same-sex married couple has married in a State which recognizes same-sex marriage (and performs them), but resides in a State which does not recognize such unions. To shed further light upon this issue it is necessary to quote again from the same DHS webpage, quoted above, regarding this issue:

Q2:  My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not.  Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?

A2: Yes, you can file the petition.  In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward.

For those wishing to visit the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to learn more please click HERE.

For those unfamiliar with the recent Supreme Court decision striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) it should be pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision did not impact section 2 of DOMA which reads as follows:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that there are some who argue that section 2 of DOMA violates the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, no Court ruling nor Act of Congress has repealed section 2 of DOMA and, in the words of the DHS website itself, in those “fact-specific” situations in which Section 2 of DOMA may be relevant the provisions of Section 2 could prove detrimental to a same-sex bi-national couple. That being said, according to the DHS website, a petition could still be filed and it would be adjudicated accordingly.

One final point to ponder on this issue is the K-1 visa. Under current United States Immigration law it is possible for an American Citizen to apply for a Fiance Visa, also known as the K-1 visa, for a foreign fiance residing abroad, so long as the couple intends to marry in the United States within 90 days of the foreign fiance’s arrival (other regulations apply to K-1 visa holders, but for the purposes of this analysis they are not necessarily relevant). If a same-sex couple, who are not yet legally married, wishes to obtain a K-1 visa based upon their intention to wed in the United States, then it could be inferred from the DHS Secretary’s statement that they might be adjudicated in the same manner as the same petition for a different-sex couple. However, this should not be viewed as a foregone conclusion because the statements quoted above only pertain specifically to couples who are already married. Neither the Court, nor the DHS, have specifically dealt with the question of those same-sex couples who wish to seek a K1 visa based upon an intention to marry in the USA. It could be inferred from the Court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor that those same-sex couples with the intention to marry in a jurisdiction where same-sex unions are recognized should be granted the same treatment as those different-sex couples in similar circumstances; but the issue has yet to be clearly adjudicated and therefore no completely clear answer arises.

Meanwhile, one significant question remains: based upon the above information how will USCIS adjudicate K-1 visa applications for same-sex couples who wish to travel to the United States to marry in a State which recognizes same-sex marriage, but reside in a State which does not? Hopefully the answer to this question will come soon. Until then it would appear that although DHS clearly intends to adjudicate same-sex married couples’ petitions for immigration benefits in the same way as different-sex couples; it remains to be seen how same sex fiances will be treated in the eyes of U.S. Immigration law.

For information on immigrant visas please see: CR-1 Visa or  IR-1 Visa.

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26th June 2013

In a landmark case, UNITED STATES v. WINDSOR, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF SPYER, ET AL., the United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision has ruled that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. For those unfamiliar with this issue, section 3 of DOMA reads as follows:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

The upshot of this legislation is that up until the Supreme Court handed down this ruling same sex couples have not been able to receive the same federal benefits as different-sex couples. In the case at hand, a widow of a same sex spouse who was legally married and residing in the State of New York (one of 12 States which recognize same sex marriage) was barred from receiving an estate tax refund because the federal government, citing section 3 of DOMA, did not recognize the couple’s marriage. To quote directly from the majority opinion of the Supreme Court:

DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment…By history and tradition the definition and regulation of marriage has been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States. Congress has enacted discrete statutes to regulate the meaning of marriage in order to further federal policy, but DOMA, with a directive applicable to over 1,000 federal statues and the whole realm of federal regulations, has a far greater reach. Its operation is also directed to a class of persons that the laws of New York, and of 11 other States, have sought to protect…By seeking to injure the very class New York seeks to protect, DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. The Constitution’s guarantee of equality “must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot” justify disparate treatment of that group. Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 534–535. DOMA cannot survive under these principles. Its unusual deviation from the tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage operates to deprive same-sex couples of the benefits and responsibilities that come with federal recognition of their marriages.

In order to shed further light upon this decision it is necessary to quote the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

As the majority of the Court held that “DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government” pursuant to the Fifth Amendment it appears that from this point on those same sex couples legally married in a State which recognizes same sex marriage (or possibly in international jurisdictions which legalize same sex marriage as the parties in the Windsor case were actually married in Canada) will receive federal recognition of those marriages and be able to enjoy federal benefits arising from their marital status. The question of interstate recognition of same sex marriage remains a bit murky as there has yet to be a decisive ruling regarding this issue, but the issue of federal recognition of a same sex marriage would appear to be fully resolved.

How Might This Decision Impact The United States Immigration Process?

In the past, same sex bi-national couples were unable to receive immigration benefits such as a Green Card or a K-1 visa (fiance visa) because The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) precluded federal recognition of same sex marriage. This preclusion even applied to those same sex bi-national couples who were married in one of the 12 States which recognize same sex marriage (some could argue that there are now 13 States which recognize same sex marriage since the Supreme Court in another decision handed down at roughly the same time as the Windsor decision effectively leaves the door open for California to legalize same sex marriages). As a result of the federal government failing to recognize same sex marriage agencies such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) could not grant immigration benefits such as lawful permanent residence (Green Card status) to the same sex spouse of an American Citizen or lawful permanent resident solely based upon the couple’s marrriage. Now, that would appear to no longer be the case, although the Court did not explicitly rule upon the issue of immigration benefits for same sex couples the fact that the Court struck down section 3 of DOMA means that a same sex marriage must be accorded the same federal recognition as a different-sex marriage. Therefore, it is logical to surmise that the Court’s decision should allow same sex couples to undergo adjudication for immigration benefits such as visas and Green Cards in a manner similar to different-sex couples. There are likely to be complications as federal regulators implement policies which comport with the Court’s decision, but one thing is clear: the Windsor decision is a major victory for same sex bi-national couples.

For related information please see: Equal Protection or same sex marriage.

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8th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued memorandum regarding the process of expediting the adjudication of I-601 waivers. To provide further insight it may be best to quote directly from the official website of USCIS, USCIS.gov:

Purpose
This Policy Memorandum (PM) provides guidelines on how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes requests to expedite the adjudication of Forms I-601 filed by individuals outside the United States. These guidelines will be included in the AFM Chapter 41.7 and in the revised version of International Operations Division Field Guidance for Form I-601 adjudications.
Scope
Unless specifically exempted herein, this memorandum applies to and is binding on all USCIS employees adjudicating Forms I-601 filed by individuals outside the United States.
Authority
8 CFR 212.7 governs USCIS adjudication of Form I-601.
Background
It has been USCIS’s longstanding policy to accept requests to expedite processing of petitions or applications where the applicant or the petitioner demonstrates reasons that merit expedited processing of a petition or application. Consistent with this policy, an applicant may request that the adjudication of a Form I-601 be expedited. Requests to expedite in the Form I-601 adjudication context present unique challenges. Almost all Form I-601 applicants outside the United States have an interest in expeditious processing given that most are required to establish extreme hardship to a qualifying family member in order for USCIS to consider whether to exercise its discretion to waive the bar to an applicant’s entry into the United States. However, some applicants may be experiencing extraordinary circumstances that present the kind of compelling and urgent, time-sensitive reasons that merit expedited processing of a Form I-601. This memorandum provides guidelines on responding to requests to expedite Forms I-601 filed by applicants overseas. Policy Subject to case management requirements and resource constraints, USCIS managers overseas may, in extraordinary circumstances, exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis to approve a request to expedite adjudication of a Form I-601.1 The strong desire to immigrate to the United States as soon as possible is not by itself “extraordinary.” The types of extraordinary circumstances that may, generally, merit expedited processing are those in which there are time-sensitive and compelling situations that necessitate the applicant’s presence in the United States sooner than would be possible if the application were processed under normal processing times…

For those who are unfamiliar with matters pertaining to United States Immigration it should be noted that the I-601 waiver is often utilized as a remedy for those who have been found inadmissible to the United States or ineligible to receive a US visa (such as a K-1 visa [fiance visa], CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa) during Consular Processing at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad.

The I-601 waiver is sometimes confused with the I-212 waiver (also referred to as an application for advance permission to reenter the United States). However, the I-601 waiver and the I-212 waiver are two different application categories which are somewhat similar, but not exactly alike.

For related information please see: Legal.

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29th October 2010

In recent postings on this blog, the administration has noted that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is poised to raise some of the costs and fees associated with American Immigration. To quote directly from the official website of USCIS:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds customers that its new fee schedule goes into effect Nov. 23, 2010.  Applications or petitions postmarked or otherwise filed on or after this date must include the new fee, or they will be rejected.

USCIS published the new fee schedule in the Federal Register on Sept. 24, following a comprehensive review of public comments received after publication of the proposed rule this summer.

The new fee schedule increases application and petition fees by an average of about 10 percent but does not increase the naturalization application fee.

Although no one likes to see fee increases, there are some who argue that an increase in processing fees is a necessary consequence of both inflation and the rising cost of the services sought. It should be noted that USCIS recently posted a shortfall and the recent fee increase would seem to be one response to this issue.

The new policy will also usher in new fees that have not previously existed. As they did not exist before it is not really correct to call the new fees “increases,” but as they result in new overall costs, the term increase could be used since the fee was technically increased from nothing to the new fee. To quote from another page of USCIS’s website:

The final fee rule establishes three new fees, including a fee for regional center designations under the Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Pilot Program, a fee for individuals seeking civil surgeon designation, and a fee to recover USCIS costs to process immigrant visas granted by the Department of State. Additionally, the final rule reduces and eliminates several fees, including some for servicemembers and certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces who are seeking citizenship-related benefits. The final rule also expands the availability of fee waivers to additional categories.

It is interesting to note that one of the newly instituted fees involves the EB-5 visa (also referred to as an investor visa). There are those who posit that the EB-5 visa might become increasingly popular in the upcoming months as the American dollar remains somewhat low compared to other currencies. Therefore, some foreign nationals could invest in EB-5 programs at comparatively cheaper rates due to the current exchange rate with the dollar. This is a net benefit to the United States as influxes of foreign capital would likely prove beneficial in a monetary sense while the infusion of foreign investors with a stake in the American economy could prove to be a catalyst for future innovation, economic activity, and overall growth.

As noted in a previous posting, the USCIS fee associated with the K-1 visa is expected to decrease when the final rule in promulgated. Although, Department of State fees associated with the K1 visa interview have recently been increased.

For related information please see: EB-5 Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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