Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Affairs Manual’

1st March 2020

In recent months, both Thai and American immigration systems have been in a state of flux. In some ways the systems have become more streamlined, but in other ways it is becoming more difficult to navigate these systems. The Trump administration has been implementing policies which make immigration to the United States more difficult, as a practical matter. Recently, these prerogatives are starting to have an impact on the ground in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and ASEAN as a whole. For example, Myanmar has been placed upon a list of countries banned from traveling to the USA. As a result, Myanmar nationals will not be able to enter the USA, nor will such nationals be granted visas to travel to the USA. If and/or when this ban will be lifted remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, there has been a great deal of discussion surrounding the administration’s implementation of new public charge rules in relations to immigrant visas for the USA. It is clear that there will be a direct impact upon those who are seeking family based immigrant and non-immigrant visas to the United States. For example, those seeking a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa will need to deal with the DS-5540 Public Charge Questionnaire when undertaking Consular Processing of their cases at the US Embassy or US Consulate in the jurisdiction in which the applicants reside. Concurrently, it is also clear that those who travel to the United States on a K-1 visa or a K-3 visa will need to deal with the I-944 form as part of the implementation of public charge adjudication during adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (a.k.a. “Green Card” status”).

A question posed to this blogger recently: When seeking a K visa abroad, will I need to fill out a DS-5540? The answer to this question is not overly clear at first glance. This blogger did some research and came upon the following information in the Foreign Affairs Manual:

9 FAM 302.8-2(B)(4) (U) Applying INA 212(a)(4) to Nonimmigrants

d. (U) Alien Seeking Admission as K Nonimmigrants: K nonimmigrants and their petitioners are not permitted to complete form I-864. You may request a K applicant complete Form DS-5540 to assist in evaluating likelihood of becoming a public charge. Note that K applicants will again be assessed under the public charge ineligibility by USCIS at the time of adjustment of status where the K nonimmigrant seeking adjustment of status will be required to submit a Form I-864.

It is clear that non-immigrant visas are not the same thing as immigrant visas, but K visas are an odd hybrid creature in the immigration world and their posture in these matters can be somewhat fluid. Note that the FAM states the adjudicating officer “may request a K applicant complete Form DS-5540,” but it is not required. Meanwhile, it goes on to note that the applicant is not allowed to file an I-864 and that the issue of public charge we be adjudicated again at the adjustment of status phase of the process. Is this wording designed to allow American Embassies and Consulates leeway to not require K visa applicants to file a DS-5540? Perhaps, the practical implications of the public charge rule at the US Embassy in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia remain to be personally witnessed by this blogger, but rest assured as soon a there is further clarification we will follow up on those developments.

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28th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a new memorandum regarding the revocation of United States Passports by the United States Department of State. In order to better shed light upon this issue it may be best to quote directly from the interim USCIS memorandum itself:

DOS has authority to issue and revoke passports. Specifically, 22 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) 211a authorizes the Secretary of State and his or her designee (the U.S. Passport Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) to grant, issue, and verify passports. Through Executive Order No. 11295, 31 Fed. Reg. 10603, the President designated and empowered the Secretary of State with the authority to designate and prescribe the rules governing the granting, issuing, and verifying of passports.
DOS revokes passports in accordance with Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) sections 51.60-62, and 51.65. There are also several statutes under which passports may be revoked and that are incorporated into DOS’s regulations, including: 8 U.S.C. 1504 (the passport was illegally, fraudulently or erroneously obtained); 42 U.S.C. 652(k) (for non-payment of child support); 22 U.S.C. 2714 (for certain drug traffickers); 22 U.S.C. 2671(d)(3) (non-repayment of repatriation loan); and 22 U.S.C. 212a (adds authority to revoke passports of persons convicted of sex tourism). The regulations also require DOS to send written notification of the revocation of a passport to the bearer. See 22 CFR 51.65(a).

Clearly, as can be ascertained from the above citation, the Department of State is authorized to issue and revoke United States Passports. This can be of acute concern to those abroad with an outstanding warrant in the United States as Department of State officials routinely rescind passports upon finding that an American Citizen has a pending criminal warrant, fugitive warrant, or even a warrant in connection to domestic matters such as failure to pay American child support. Once a passport is revoked, an American may be issued a travel letter for the specific purpose of returning to the United States of America. For those unfamiliar with so-called travel letters it may be best to quote directly from the Foreign Affairs Manual:

Posts should issue travel letters only in rare or unusual circumstances described in this Appendix, where it is impossible to issue a passport. These circumstances include: (1) Law enforcement related travel letters in situations other than extradition. Such travel letters must be expressly authorized by CA/PPT/L/LA, which works with the U.S. law enforcement authority on matters related to revocation of the passport of the subject of an outstanding federal warrant. (See 7 FAM 1380 Passport Denial, Revocation, Restriction, Limitation and Surrender.)

Clearly, the Department of State only issues travel letters under rare circumstances, but US Passport revocation and travel letter issuance can occur especially in the context of Federal warrants. That said, the authority reserved to the Department of State regarding passport issuance and revocation would appear not to extend to the Department of Homeland Security‘s USCIS. To quote further from the USCIS memo cited above:

USCIS lacks the authority to revoke or confiscate a U.S. Passport. If reasons to doubt the validity of a passport come to the attention of USCIS, USCIS will not seize the passport, instruct the bearer to return the passport to DOS, or otherwise notify the bearer that there may be issues with the passport…In recent months, USCIS employees have on occasion informed customers that their U.S. Passports were invalid and should be surrendered to DOS. Upon review of certain cases, DOS determined that the passports were, in fact, valid and recognized in accordance with DOS policies and statutes. DOS has requested that USCIS direct any concerns regarding the validity of passports to DOS and not to the bearer of the passport.

It would seem from the quotation above as though the Department of State is in the best position to make a decision regarding the validity of a US Passport as such matters are within that Department’s bailiwick. As noted in the the US visa process, some matters pertaining to travel and immigration are bifurcated between the USCIS and the Department of State. Based upon the above memorandum and the Foreign Affairs Manual it would appear that Passport issues remain almost entirely within the Department of State’s mandate.

For related information please see: Arrest Warrant or Federal Warrant.

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2nd July 2010

Those American Immigrants who remain outside of the United States for prolonged periods are strongly advised to either obtain a Re-Entry Permit or make certain that their absences from the United States comport with their lawful status in the USA. That said, in those cases where a lawful permanent resident has been overseas for a long period of time and wishes to go back to the United States for purposes of reestablishing their residence they may opt to apply for an SB-1 Returning Resident Visa.

Recently the Department of State announced changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual’s guidelines for issuance of SB-1 visas the following is a direct quote from the aforementioned announcement made available by AILA:

9 FAM 42.22 Notes has been updated to provide guidance on the processing of applications for special immigrant Returning Resident (SB) visas for lawful permanent resident (LPR) aliens who were unable to return to the United States within the validity of their I‐551 Permanent Resident Card or reentry permit. The guidance covers where applicants are able to file their DS‐117 Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, how post should process such applications, and new procedures for the creation of a permanent refusal record for denied DS‐117 applications.

Returning Residents must have their case re-adjudicated by a Consular Officer prior to returning to the USA to take up residence. The announcement went on to further note:

You [the Consular Officer] must conduct a personal interview with the applicant to determine whether the application for Returning Resident status is approvable…If you determine that the applicant has provided sufficient justification and evidence in accordance with 9 FAM 42.22 N1.1‐7, then you must obtain supervisory approval from a consular manager, mark form DS‐117 as approved, open a case in Immigrant Visa Overseas (IVO), and scan in the approved form DS‐117 and supporting documents…If the application is denied, you should enter [redacted] scanned copies of form DS‐117 and all supporting documents, and also enter notes supporting the denial decision.

As this author has stated repeatedly on this blog, those who may be outside of the United States of America for a period lasting longer than 6 months are well advised to apply for, and hopefully obtain, a US reentry permit. This travel document would allow the lawful permanent resident to remain abroad for up to two years without raising the presumption of residential abandonment. That said, there are always extenuating circumstances where an individual was unable to obtain a reentry permit and thereby placed their lawful status in jeopardy. For these individuals, an SB-1 visa may be the necessary travel document to reestablish lawful status.

For further reading about Consular Processing at the US Embassy in Bangkok please see: US Embassy Thailand.

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7th April 2010

As this author has discussed in previous blog posts, one major reason for US visa denial is based upon a finding that a legal grounds of inadmissibility exists in a given case. One legal grounds of inadmissibility is based upon a finding by the Consular Officer that the applicant committed a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). That being said, at times it can be difficult to determine whether or not an individual’s prior actions would be considered a crime involving moral turpitude. The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) provides some insight into what types of crimes are considered to be crimes involving moral turpitude, the following are excerpts from the FAM:

“9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-1 Crimes Committed Against
Property
(CT:VISA-1318; 09-24-2009)
a. Most crimes committed against property that involve moral turpitude
include the element of fraud. The act of fraud involves moral turpitude
whether it is aimed against individuals or government. Fraud generally
involves:
(1) Making false representation;
(2) Knowledge of such false representation by the perpetrator;
(3) Reliance on the false representation by the person defrauded;
(4) An intent to defraud; and
(5) The actual act of committing fraud”

Property Crimes are not the only activities that can be construed as crimes involving moral turpitude as criminal actions which violate or undermine governmental authority are also considered to be CIMT:

“9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-2 Crimes Committed Against
Governmental Authority
(CT:VISA-1318; 09-24-2009)
a. Crimes committed against governmental authority which fall within the
definition of moral turpitude include:
(1) Bribery;
(2) Counterfeiting;
(3) Fraud against revenue or other government functions;
(4) Mail fraud;
(5) Perjury;
(6) Harboring a fugitive from justice (with guilty knowledge); and
(7) Tax evasion (willful).”

The FAM also goes on to note the various activities that may not be considered CIMT. However, it is incumbent upon the adjudicating officer to examine the facts of a given case and make a decision as to whether the underlying actions that gave rise to a criminal conviction in fact constitutes a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude for purposes of visa issuance. If the officer decides that a CIMT was committed, then the visa application will likely be denied. Under the doctrine of Consular NonReviewability (also known as Consular Absolutism) this decision is not subject to appeal. However, the applicant make be able to overcome the visa denial by applying for, and obtaining, an I-601 waiver.

Of interest to some may be the recent Circuit Court decision which held:

“An order of removal from the United States was entered against Petitioner Armando Alvarez-Reynaga based on his felony conviction for receipt of a stolen vehicle in violation of section 496d(a) of the California Penal Code. His petition for review presents the questions of whether a conviction under that statute qualifies categorically as a conviction for an aggravated felony, and whether it qualifies categorically as a crime involving moral turpitude. We conclude that it qualifies as the first, but not the second. We deny the petition for review.”

As the law continues to evolve, so to does the definition of CIMT and the activities that are considered to be covered by the CIMT provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

For more information about US Visas from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

(Readers should be advised that the above does not constitute a full analysis of CIMT issues. Each application has its own unique set of facts and those facts must be analyzed on an individual basis in order to form a professional opinion.)

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30th November 2009

There is some misunderstanding as to an attorney’s role at the Consular processing phase of the US visa process. The Consular processing phase is usually the final visa processing phase as it usually culminates in the issuance of a US visa. In cases involving legal grounds of inadmissibility this may not be the case (as such cases require the extra step of obtaining an I601 waiver), but in a routine family visa application, such as an application for a CR1, K3, or K1 visa, the visa is generally issued soon after the Embassy interview.

Many are under the mistaken impression that an attorney can be present at the visa interview. Although this may be true at some posts, the US Embassy in Bangkok does not permit this practice. Under the provisions of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), US Embassies and Consulates are entitled to set policy regarding attorney representation at the post:

“Each post has the discretion to establish its own policies regarding the extent to which attorneys and other representatives may have physical access to the Consulate or attend visa interviews, taking into consideration such factors as a particular consulate’s physical layout and any space limitations or special security concerns. Whatever policies are set must be consistent and applied equally to all.” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.4]

Although a post has wide discretion with regard to presence therein, the post is required to notify the attorney of record regarding the ultimate status of the application:

“The post must send a notification of the action taken at the time of the final immigrant visa appointment to the applicant’s attorney of record on a locally reproduced nonstandard form letter… If the immigrant visa is refused, you must hand a copy of the refusal letter, and a copy of Form OF-194, The Foreign Service of the United States of America Refusal Worksheet, attached to the form letter to the alien (making sure that the refusal worksheet is retained in the applicant’s visa file).” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.2]

The Foreign Affairs manual goes further by permitting direct correspondence between attorneys and Consular Officers:

“You may correspond directly with the applicant’s representative of record, even in cases where the applicant is physically present in the United States, unless the applicant requests otherwise.” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.1]

Importantly, the Foreign Affairs Manual requires that an attorney licensed in the US, but practicing abroad, be accorded those same courtesies granted to attorneys practicing in the USA:

“You must extend to a U.S. attorney who has been practicing abroad and is a member of a State bar association or to a local attorney-at-law, the same courtesies in correspondence that are extended to an attorney practicing in the United States…” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.3]

In this author’s experience, the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand diligently adheres to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual while exercising reasonable discretion in order to efficiently process a very large caseload. Although not permitted to be present at the visa interview, a US visa lawyer in Thailand can provide a great deal of insight into the final phases of the US visa process.

For more information on the Foreign Affairs Manual please see the US Department of State Website by clicking here.

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