Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘IR-1 Visa’

1st September 2021

The lockdowns in Bangkok and other highly populated areas of Thailand appear to be abating as it has recently been decreed that certain retail businesses may reopen while restaurants and other eateries may again serve dine-in customers from today onward. There seems to be an implication that further easing will be forthcoming, but we have seen that attitude before only to see things suddenly reverse. Hopefully, the business community in Bangkok and Greater Thailand has finally come through the worst of these rather stringent measures and things can move on.

Meanwhile, various destinations in Thailand are attempting to “Move On“. Notably, Phuket has implemented initiatives in the “Phuket Sandbox” program to allow travelers in that location to travel to other destinations after an initial 7 days on the island in the “7+7” program. Although this is definitely good news tourism numbers remain far below normal and therefore it remains to be seen how many people will actually avail themselves of this opportunity. The sandbox initiative has not garnered the tourism interest that many had hoped, but with high season coming this could change. It is worth noting that a number of non-immigrant Thai visa holders have availed themselves of the sandbox scheme as it is viewed as less cumbersome compared to dealing with 14 days of quarantine when traveling to other parts of Thailand.

It is notable that Thailand is one of the only jurisdictions in Southeast Asia which is permitting tourists to enter the country. Not to mention non-immigrant visa holders (most of whom were completely barred from reentry last summer). That stated, issues still arise for foreign nationals in Thailand as there are those who have problems either maintaining their status due to unforeseen work issues or no longer meet the requirements of their lawful status. Under such circumstances it is optimal to avoid falling into overstay and attempt to obtain a Thai visa conversion in order to remain in the Kingdom.

American immigration is not moving as quickly as was the case prior to 2020. That stated, things are moving more quickly compared to the situation in 2020. Although appointments for non-immigrant visas to the USA such as tourist visas are difficult to come by and even obtaining an appointment for a K-1 visa interview can be difficult. There are those who hope that a change in administration in the USA will result in concrete changes to the American immigration apparatus, but any improvements remain to be seen.

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10th August 2021

As the current economic situation in Thailand continues down a precarious path due to lockdowns. There are many who fear tourism may not return to Thailand in high numbers any time in the near future. In fact, quarantine rules do not look like they are going away and the Phuket sandbox has proven to be less of a draw than initially anticipated. There are some who have speculated that Thailand may have come to overly rely upon tourism as an integral component of the overall economy. Whether or not this is true is difficult to ascertain, but it should be noted that anyone predicting the events of 2020 and 2021 in, say, the year 2018 would have been called worse names than crazy so the notion that Thailand came to overly depend upon tourism is only an argument that operates logically in hindsight.

Although the Phuket sandbox has been discussed a great deal as of late, there is also a similar program which has been initiated in Samui and those wishing to avail themselves of this tourism opportunity may do so by traveling through Bangkok in “sealed terminals” in order to undergo “sandbox quarantine” for 14 days on that island. Presently, travel restrictions in Thailand have precluded wide travel latitude for those wishing to leave the Phuket sandbox, but this does not appear to currently be an issue in the Samui system. Those wishing to travel to Bangkok from abroad may do so, but they are still required to undergo quarantine in a Bangkok hotel via the Alternative State Quarantine system.

Business travelers to Thailand are not precluded from using either the Samui or Phuket sandboxes so those with a Thai business visa and/or Thai work permit may return to Thailand without undue hardship. It is worth pointing out that Thailand is one of the few jurisdictions in Southeast Asia which is trying to maintain tourist travel as well as admitting non-immigrant visa holders such as the aforementioned B visa holders as well as those holding an O visa for marriage to a Thai or for retirement. Thai Embassies and Consulates are still issuing O-A retirement visas to those retirees abroad. Thailand remains one of the few countries in Southeast Asia actively issuing visas to foreign retirees.

Those seeking visas to the USA may continue to do so under present circumstances although appointment scheduling has proven somewhat cumbersome in recent months as the American Embassy in Bangkok appears to be either understaffed or unable to process a large caseload due to restrictions associated with the response to COVID-19. However, appointments are available, albeit it in a relatively limited number.

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24th May 2021

The overall posture of American immigration has improved considerably since the beginning of 2021. With the transition to a new administration there have been a number of changes in how immigration cases are processed. As noted previously, the public charge rule has reverted back to pre-Trump criteria. Concurrently, it appears the current administration has rolled back a potentially disturbing policy regarding collection of biometric data from not only intending immigrants to the United States, but American petitioners and sponsors as well. Presently, there are a number of backlogs holding up cases at various points in the US immigration process. For example, processing times at USCIS are longer overall. Meanwhile issues at the National Visa Center are prolonging case processing. Finally, the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand has had to postpone a number of appointments citing the COVID situation. Although it seems the Embassy is prioritizing family based Immigrant Visa Unit matters over the non-immigrant visa unit as some level of priority seems to be conferred to cases such as applications for the K-1 visa (for fiances of America citizens) and the marriage visa cases (K-3, IR-1, and CR-1 visas). There does seem to be some hope on the horizon that things will start looking better as this administration does not seem as intent on being deliberately obtuse with respect to processing immigration cases.

Turning to Thai immigration news, the situation in Thailand has turned less positive since April and the upshot in an immigration context is the re-extension of the quarantine time in Thailand. As of the time of this writing, all travelers (including those vaccinated) arriving in Thailand are required to undergo a 14 day quarantine. On a more general note, Thailand remains under a state of pseudo-lockdown which is having a tremendously negative impact upon the SME sector. However, there is hope that things will begin to turn around as the COVID vaccination is rolled out in early June. Key officials in Thailand have also stood firm behind their commitment to reopen Phuket for the “sandbox” initiative in July. This is apparently still moving forward and, as yet, this doesn’t seem likely to be cancelled. That stated, many initiatives (such as “travel bubbles” or reduced quarantine) have been proposed and ultimately shot down or have been rolled out only to be rolled back. Therefore, it is difficult to predict exactly how things will progress moving forward in the course of the next few weeks, but hopefully these days ahead will be better than those recently transpired.

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18th March 2021

The overall Immigration system in both the United States and Thailand have been in a state of flux for a number of months. The transition in Administrations in the United States has had a number of effects upon the Immigration apparatus as a whole, most recently the Secretary of Homeland Security announced changes with respect to the public charge rule. To quote directly from the Department of Homeland Security website:

Today, DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that the government will no longer defend the 2019 public charge rule as doing so is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources.

“The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Consistent with the President’s vision, we will continue to implement reforms that improve our legal immigration system.”

President Biden’s Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans called for an immediate review of agency actions on public charge inadmissibility and deportability. DHS’s review, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and State and the federal benefits-granting agencies, is ongoing.

Clearly, this represents a sea change with respect to immigration policy on issues associated with acting as a sponsor for an intending immigrant or in cases where adjustment of status is involved. This is likely to have a tremendous impact upon processing of cases such as the K1 Visa, the K3 Visa, the CR1 Visa, and the IR1 Visa. In K-1 visa cases, those acting as sponsors must file an I-134 affidavit of support while the I-864 applies to immigrant visas. Hopefully, the recently announced policy change will benefit those seeking these types of visas.

Meanwhile, it seems officials in Thailand are going ahead with easing of quarantine measures. The process of lifting the quarantine is slated to occur in phases, with phase 1 set to commence in April. There are to be 4 phases of the quarantine easing with phase 2 (so-called “area quarantine“) set to commence at the beginning of the summer and apparently the Kingdom will open much more in October. Much of the reopening appears contingent upon the broad adoption of so-called vaccine passports, with certificates of entry to be phased out in favor of that documentation. Notwithstanding these announcements, it now appears that quarantine will continue albeit on a truncated basis, with those who can prove prior vaccination and a clear COVID test able to enjoy 7 days of quarantine (as opposed to 14 days) beginning in April. Those unvaccinated with a clear COVID test will only be compelled to quarantine for 10 days.

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2nd May 2020

The past 6 weeks have been very eventful in terms of the response to the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) lock down in Thailand. This crisis has also had a significant impact upon the American visa process. By way of an update, the Thai government has recently announced an easing of restrictions associated with the lock down of business and social interaction in Thailand. It now appears that as of May 3rd, small eateries, parks, hair salons, stores selling certain retail as well as electronic goods, and pet shops will be allowed to reopen. Thai government officials have announced that further phased reopening measures will be implemented in coming weeks should circumstances permit. Concurrently, it was initially announced that the ban on the sale of alcohol in Thailand would be extended throughout the month of May. There was some speculation that a “grace period” would be permitted on Mat 1st and 2nd to allow the public time to “stock up” on alcohol products in anticipation of further restrictions over the forthcoming month.

Shortly after these predictions and the announcement that the ban on alcohol sales would continue, it was announced that retail alcohol sales could recommence beginning May 3rd. Further, it appears that those eateries which maintain an alcohol license and usually sell alcohol in the course of their day-to-day business will be permitted to sell alcohol on a “take-away” basis. Therefore, for the forthcoming days small restaurants and other venues will be reopened to the public and life in Thailand appears to be normalizing somewhat. Notwithstanding these measures, restrictions on pubs and entertainment establishments remain.

While all of this is unfolding in Thailand, in the USA the US immigration system appears to be preparing for further delays associated with the processing of visa cases. The following announcement from USCIS recently came to this blogger’s attention:

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS plans to begin reopening our offices on or after June 4, unless the public closures are extended further.

In prior announcements it had been noted that May 4th would be the presumptive date of reopening. It now appears that there will be at least another month delay for in-person services with USCIS. At the same time, the new Immigration Ban remains in effect although it is unlikely to have any impact upon those seeking a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, or K-1 visa from Thailand as the ban specifically excludes spouse visas and only pertains to immigrant visas. Therefore, as a fiance visa is not, by definition, an immigrant visa, the provisions this new ban do not apply to fiances of American citizens. However, notwithstanding the fact that the immigration ban does no directly impact most family based visas from Thailand it is effectively a moot point for the immediately foreseeable future due to the fact that the Immigrant Visa Unit and the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit at the US Embassy in Bangkok are not currently holding visa interviews nor are the issuance immigrant and non-immigrant visa as they remain closed due to the coronavirus. We, in this office, are currently looking at the USCIS presumed reopening date as the best indication of when it seems prudent to presume that the Embassy will reopen for interviews. That stated, the ultimate date of reopening remains to be seen, but we will try to keep you up to date on this blog.

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22nd April 2020

An Executive Order has been issued by the Trump administration regarding suspension of immigration to the United States for the forthcoming 60 days. However, the order does not appear to apply to those seeking a K-1 visa to bring a foreign fiance to the USA. Concurrently, it also does not appear to apply to American visas for the spouses and children of U.S. Citizens. To quote directly from the relevant sections of the order as posted on the White House website:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would, except as provided for in section 2 of this proclamation, be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and that their entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions.  I therefore hereby proclaim the following:

Section 1.  Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.

Sec2.  Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  (a)  The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall apply only to aliens who:

(i)    are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

(ii)   do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii)  do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

(b)  The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i)     any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii)    any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees;  and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;

(iii)   any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

(iv)    any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;

(v)     any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

(vi)    any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;

(vii)   any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

(viii)  any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

(ix)    any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

Sec3.  Implementation and Enforcement.  (a)  The consular officer shall determine, in his or her discretion, whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility for an exception in section 2(b) of this proclamation.  The Secretary of State shall implement this proclamation as it applies to visas pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish in the Secretary of State’s discretion.  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall implement this proclamation as it applies to the entry of aliens pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion.

(b)  An alien who circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry shall be a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security.

(c)  Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws of the United States.

Sec4.  Termination.  This proclamation shall expire 60 days from its effective date and may be continued as necessary.  Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.

Sec5.  Effective Date.  This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.

Sec6.  Additional Measures.  Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.

Sec7.  Severability.  It is the policy of the United States to enforce this proclamation to the maximum extent possible to advance the interests of the United States.  Accordingly:

(a)  if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this proclamation and the application of its provisions to any other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby; and

(b)  if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid because of the lack of certain procedural requirements, the relevant executive branch officials shall implement those procedural requirements to conform with existing law and with any applicable court orders.

Sec8.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or,

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This proclamation shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This proclamation is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

 

Clearly, there are many who might see their cases negatively impacted by this order. To preface any further analysis, it should be noted that visa processing has been suspended at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand as well as the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos and the US Embassy in Phnom Phen, Cambodia due to the COVID-19 outbreak. So regardless of this order, it is not currently possible to obtain a visa from these posts as interviews have been suspended. Bearing the above in mind, the following analysis will demonstrate that this order will NOT have an impact on fiance visa and marriage visa cases for the fiances and/or spouses of American citizens:

The executive order states: “The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.” The K-1 visa is designed for the fiance of an American citizen to to travel to the United States with the intention of marriage. It grants the bearer 90 days of lawful status in the USA in which to marry their American fiance and file for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (aka Green Card status). It is important to note: the K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, albeit a dual intent visa. For purposes of processing it is treated as an immigrant visa (for example K-1 cases process through the Immigrant Visa Unit of the American Embassy in Thailand), but pursuant to United States law it is in fact a non-immigrant visa. The above cited executive order only pertains to immigrant visas. Therefore, this order does not have any bearing upon the processing of a K-1 fiance visa case.

What about cases involving the spouse of an American citizen where the spouse would enter the USA and be granted an I-551 stamp thereby granting permanent residence to the foreign spouse upon entry? The above executive order speaks directly to such a situation: “The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:…(iv) any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen“[Emphasis Added]. Clearly the suspension ordered in Trump’s executive order will exempt spouses of Americans. Therefore, those foreign spouses of American citizens seeking a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa will not be adversely impacted by the provisions of this executive order.

Finally, the following should be noted: “This proclamation shall expire 60 days from its effective date…This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.” Thus, unless this order is extended it will expire 60 days from now. We will keep readers updated on this blog as the situation progresses.

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21st November 2017

The following is a transcript of a video which can be found here: US Marriage Visa Cambodia

In this video today, we are going to be discussing marriage visas in the specific context of the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

As you can see from the aforementioned preamble to this video, we are based here in Bangkok. I am an American attorney but the firm is based here in Bangkok. The bulk of our work in US immigration matters does revolve around Bangkok and the Consular section of the US Embassy here primarily our cases that are going to end up at the US Consular Section here. That being said, we do take other cases in the region, I do deal with a fair number of these rather frequently. Cambodia is one I deal with probably more often than any other country in the region if I ‘m being very specific. It kind of depends on the year, I guess. But that being said, the K-1, we discussed specifically in another video, that’s a fiancée visa. In this video, we are discussing US marriage visas specifically. So for now, I’m talking about the CR-1, IR-1 or the K-3 visa. There’s another video on this channel which goes specifically into the K-3 visa and I am going to sort of leave it to that video to discuss that directly if there’s specific things to think about with respect to the K-3. But suffice it to say, the CR-1 and the IR-1, CR-1 is Conditional Resident category, IR-1 is Immediate Relative and the person that enters on an IR-1 enters in unconditional lawful permanent residence as opposed to conditional lawful permanent residence to the United States. Generally speaking, I am talking about foreign nationals married, and I am specifically talking about Khmer, Cambodian Nationals married to an American citizen. Although some of this analysis could apply to a lawful permanent resident in the United States trying to bring their Cambodian spouse over as well but I’m going to try to keep it more on point with respect to an American citizen, seeking to bring a Cambodian female or male spouse to the United States.

So the thing to think about with respect to Cambodian nationals applying for marriage visa benefits to the US, it’s kind of a 3 part process in so far as you have to initially deal with the Department of Homeland Security and their United States Citizenship and Immigration Service  apparatus. Then you have got to go ahead and deal with the National Visa Center which in the context of Immigrant Spousal Visas, the National Visa Center is a very different animal than when you compare it to the K categories, the K-1 and the K-3. In the K-1 and the K-3 cases, in those cases where the K-3 gets processed through, in a way NVC just acts as a sort of clearing house or sort of a postal hub, if you will, to make certain that the case gets from USCIS over to the correct embassy abroad. With respect to US Immigrant visas the NVC’s job is much more broad in scope, and depth for that matter. They do a lot of document collection, they will do follow ups if they feel there’s a document deficiency or they feel that more information is necessary. In another video on this channel we discussed the so called extreme vetting protocols of the Trump Administration right now. I don’t know, specifically I haven’t seen anything with extreme vetting happen yet at NVC but I can see theoretically, sometime in the future, extreme vetting protocols may pertain directly to NVC at some point as well.  But that being said, they have a much more active role in the immigrant visa cases.  Once they are satisfied documentarily at National Visa Center, they will then go ahead and process the case out over to the embassy in Phnom Penh and an interview date will be set at the embassy. At the interview, things can happen like what are called the 221-G request for further documentation where basically the interviewing officer determines that they would like to see something more with respect to the case. Generally speaking, after an NVC vetting, this isn’t very frequent, but it does happen. I shouldn’t say that it’s infrequent. In K-1s, it can happen quite frequently because the circumstances are different. Marriage visas, the cases tend to be more clear-cut, I guess is the right way to look at it.  But that being said, basically the point I want to get across is, NVC will set that interview appointment, it will get over to the embassy in Phnom Penh and you have got to get in for an interview. We oftentimes do an interview prep with our clients so that they have an understanding, generally speaking, what the officer is probably going to want to know regarding the application or regarding the specifics of the person making the application and the other thing is we provide some insight with respect to the protocols for how the case is going to be taken in and dealt with at the post.

So to sort of sum up, I think the way to look at the overall process of applying for a US immigrant is this: it starts in the United States with the Department of Homeland Security, it moves over to the NVC which unlike the K categories, the NVC has a very active role in this process and then finally, it’s going to end up at the US Embassy at Phnom Penh and at that point the interview is going to take place and it’s possible more documentation could be requested and you may have to deal with a follow on submission before hopefully, the visa is ultimately approved.

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21st November 2017

The following is a transcript of the video which can be found here: K-3 Visas from Cambodia.

In this video today, we are going to specifically discuss one visa that is sort of an interesting little niche visa, the K-3 visa, in the specific context of a Khmer, Cambodian national who would be seeking that in connection with marriage to a US citizen. Let’s be clear, you have got to be married to a US citizen in order to apply for a K-3.

First things first. As previously noted in my preamble, we’re located here in Bangkok. We do deal with a large number of Thai cases but being fairly geographically close to Cambodia, over the years we’ve done a fair number of Cambodian cases or cases that arise with a Cambodian national, a Khmer national involved. That being stated, it should be noted that the K-3 is an interesting animal.

To provide a little background on what the K-3 visa is. The K-3 visa was created pursuant to the provisions of the LIFE act created under the Clinton presidency and it was created at a time when the back log associated with spousal visas, CR-1 and IR-1, and there’s another video on this channel specific to CR-1 and IR-1 visas, in Cambodia. Basically, at the time, it was taking multiple years to get finalized Department of Homeland secure the approval of the petition for marriage visas. Meanwhile, at the same time it was like 6 or 7 months, 8 months to get a fiancée visa petition approved. So you ended up with the sort of counter intuitive situation where fiancées were moving through the system more quickly than spouses and it should be noted that from a legal perspective there is no qualitative difference as far as the law is concerned, specifically Immigration law is concerned, with respect to a fiancée versus a spouse; from a legal standpoint they’re treated the same way.  From an administrative standpoint, they just had a high back log of marriage visas or marriage petitions, for whatever reason, were they were processing K-1s more efficiently or they just had a lower case load, I don’t know what the deal was, but at the time it was taking multiple years to get a petition for marriage to an American citizen process through and meanwhile it was taking a matter of months for fiancées. So what happened is they created this K-3 category and the K-3 category was created, basically they said “look if you have got a petition on file for a spousal visa benefits in the normal manner, the CR-1 or IR-1 category basically, you can take that filing and do a duplicative version of that and go ahead and file for this K-3 category. You just go ahead and file it again through the K line. That’s basically what they did. They just took these marriage visa cases and said – Okay, it’s been filed, you have got to prove it’s filed and you put it in the line that was processing for fiancées so what ended up happening is K-3 has kind of become the ubiquitous term for a US marriage visa but in point of fact, the traditional methodology of bringing someone into the United States is through a CR-1 or IR-1 visa.  The K-3 just sort of became rather common place in the lexicon of these matters because people got used to dealing with K-3s because that was effectively the way to get your spouse into the United States. It’s interesting because K-3 still requires adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.  Those of you who are interested in learning about that, in order to get a green card you have to undergo the adjustment of status process and I urge you to take a look at the video that specifically discusses the adjustment of status process on this channel, but something to bring up with respect to K-3s in the present context. Although they may be useful under present processing conditions, in the past there was an administrative ruling, it was a policy of administrative closure that was undertaken by the National Visa Center whereby they basically said – “Look, the K-3 was created for these situations where basically a marriage visa, an immigrant visa case got lost in the back log of USCIS. Not lost but stuck in the back log of USCIS. So if we got the K-3 position first we will process through on the K-3. But if we get the petition for the Immigrant Spouse Visa first, we’re going to process the Immigrant Spouse Visa benefits. We’re going to disregard the K-3”. This is important because NVC’s function is qualitatively different in an immigrant visa context that it is in a K Visa context. The K Visa context, NVC just shoots the case on to the embassy in question and the embassy sort of deals with all the nuts and bolts of the consular processing. In an immigrant visa context, the NVC process is slower because NVC deals with the nuts and bolts of document intake and in a way, I won’t say, adjudication but sort of pre vetting to make sure that they have generally what they need to go ahead and continue to process and get an interview scheduled. So in a way, the K-3 may still, if you can go ahead and get one through, the K-3 may still process more quickly compared to an immigrant visa but it’s my understanding that NVC still maintains the policy of administrative closure, where they get the immigrant case first and now processing of immigrant matters, immigrant spouse matters of American citizens, has reduced significantly. USCIS, to their credit, took significant substantial steps to make their process more efficient and they streamlined it, and I think they got more staff and things to deal with those matters and they put more resources on getting those cases processed, and as a result, in a way the K-3 is, I won’t say it’s obsolete, but its original reason for being there is not quite so pressing as it was at the time that it was created. And for that reason, I think it’s very probable that you are going to see fewer and fewer K-3 visas being processed in Cambodia or elsewhere.

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10th November 2016

In light of recent events in the United States election and the campaign promises made by the now President-elect, it seems appropriate to assume that Immigration matters will likely come to the forefront of American political discussion. For this reason, this blogger finds it relevant to provide an overview of the Immigration apparatus and how the components function.

In order to understand U.S. Immigration matters and the enforcement of U.S. Immigration law one must first understand the Department of Homeland Security. This Department oversees most of the Immigration matters arising in the United States (The Department of State deals with matters pertaining to US visas issued abroad, for more information on the role DOS plays in the immigration process please check out the many pages on this blog dedicated to Consular Processing information).

There are three agencies under the jurisdiction of DHS which deal with different aspects of Immigration law and policy. The first agency that many intending immigrant will no doubt have had dealings with is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS. This agency is tasked with adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits such as immigrant visas, work visas, and certain temporary stay visas. Furthermore, the USCIS also adjudicates I-601 waivers of inadmissibility as well as I-212 waivers for those who have previously been subjected to expedited removal. Those wishing to travel from abroad to the United States on some sort of immigrant or work authorized visa will likely have contact with USCIS.

Another component of DHS which deals with Immigration is the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service or USICE. USICE is often the agency tasked with ascertaining the legal status of foreign nationals physically present in the USA and if found to be present in the USA illegally USICE agents are tasked with apprehending such individuals and placing them in deportation proceedings.

Finally, there is the United States Customs and Border Protection Service or USCBP. In the US visa process, USCBP is arguably the most overlooked yet one of the most significant agencies an intending immigrant will deal with. Unbeknownst to most, notwithstanding the issuance of a valid visa, USCBP has the authority to turn away any alien attempting to enter the USA. In actual practice, an alien with a validly issued visa is unlikely to be refused admission at a port of entry, but it can happen. In most cases such refusal is due to a belief on the part of a USCBP officer that an alien attempting to enter the USA on a non-immigrant visa in fact has immigrant intent. This happens frequently to tourist visa holders who are attempting to conduct a so-called visa run in order to remain in the USA. In those cases involving immigrant spouses of US citizens holding visas such as the K-3, the CR-1, or the IR-1 refusal to admit the alien spouse is quite rare. The same can be said for foreign fiancees of US Citizens holding a K-1 visa, but the fact that USCBP has plenary power to turn away any alien seeking admission should not be forgotten.

Meanwhile in an interesting article in The Intercept, it was noted that certain documents have come to light which apparently show that although USCBP has traditionally recognized law enforcement functions (especially with respect to Customs matters) they also work with the FBI in matters not routinely thought of when pondering USCBP’s role. To quote directly from the aforementioned article:

“It is no surprise that law enforcement closely monitors border crossings for criminals or terror suspects. The initiatives described in these documents, however, are explicitly about gathering intelligence, not enforcing the law. A person doesn’t have to be connected to an active investigation or criminal suspect in order to be flagged; the FBI might want them for their potential to provide general intelligence on a given country, region, or group. The goal, according to an FBI presentation on an initiative at Boston’s Logan Airport, is “looking for ‘good guys’ not ‘bad guys.’”

Although immigration matters are often viewed as a “boring” aspect of the United States bureaucracy it should be noted that agents of the Department of Homeland Security play a significant role in maintaining the security of the USA and assist even in the gathering of intelligence.

Although the ultimate policies of the new administration regarding immigration matters remain to be seen it seems logical to infer that should the administration wish to make the immigration process more difficult for foreign nationals, then the sophisticated mechanisms mentioned above would likely have the capacity to make certain that such a course of events actually transpires.

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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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