Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘K1 Visa Laos’

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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19th March 2020

It now appears that all visa services provided to foreign nationals at American Embassies and Consulates abroad have been suspended. In a recent article from Reuters, the following was reported:

The United States is suspending all routine visa services as of Wednesday in most countries worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak, a spokeswoman for the State Department said, an unprecedented move that will potentially impact hundreds of thousands of people…The State Department spokeswoman said U.S. missions abroad will continue to provide emergency visa services “as resources allow,” and that the services to U.S. citizens will remain available.

Concurrently, the following message was issued by the US Embassy in Thailand:

Information for Immigrant Visa applicants regarding novel coronavirus: As of March 19, 2020, the United States Embassy and Consulate in Thailand are cancelling Immigrant Visa appointments until further notice.  We will resume routine Immigrant Visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.  Once we resume Immigrant Visa operations, we will contact you with a new appointment date. Applicants who had their Immigrant Visa interviews cancelled due to the cessation of operations will be given first priority for rescheduling.

Meanwhile, it now appears that all intending entrants to Thailand will be required to present a medical certificate prior to boarding a plane for Thailand. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand now requires all air passengers, Thai and foreign, to show Covid-19-free health certificates and Covid-19 insurance before boarding their flights to Thailand…Airlines must require passengers to present health certificates issued no more than 72 hours before the  flight departs. The certificates must guarantee that the passengers are free of Covid-19, regardles where they board. Airlines must also require that passengers have insurance covering Covid-19 treatment in Thailand, up to at least US$100,000.

We will keep this blog updated as the situation evolves.

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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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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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5th June 2011

This posting discusses the issues associated with retaining an American attorney to assist with the K-1 visa process. Those thinking about retaining assistance in the K-1 visa process are well advised to conduct thorough research prior to making any irrevocable decisions.

The K-1 visa is a non-immigrant US fiance visa which was intended to be used solely by the foreign fiances of American Citizens. The K-1 visa allows the foreign fiancee of an American Citizen to enter the United States for a period of 90 days of the purpose of marriage. Those who do not marry their American fiance after 90 days in the USA will be required to depart from the USA. Readers should bear in mind that the entrant to the United States on a K-1 visa who marries their loved one must undergo the adjustment of status process in order to gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.A.

The purpose of this article is to provide insight to Americans about the perils of dealing with non-licensed individuals who purport to be qualified to practice United States Immigration law (or any American law, for that matter) . Pursuant to 8 CFR 292.1 only a qualified lawyer licensed to practice law in at least one U.S. State or Federal jurisdiction is entitled to engage in the receiving of client fees in connection with the practice of United States immigration law. Therefore, those not so qualified must either fit within a narrow exception to the aforementioned rule lest their behavior be deemed to be illegal. It should be noted that attorney-client confidentiality is a significant issue which should be considered when ascertaining the credentials of those claiming qualification in United States immigration matters abroad as there are many so-called “visa agents” or “immigration consultants” claiming qualification to provide services in connection with U.S. immigration. Attorney-client privilege is not extended to those not qualified as an American attorney and therefore discussions with unqualified individuals are likely not privileged communications. Meanwhile, some individuals brazenly, albeit falsely, portray themselves as American attorneys when, in fact, this is simply not the case.

For all of the reasons outlined above it should be noted that only a competent licensed attorney from the United States should be retained to assist prospective clients. Readers should understand that this message is not conveyed as an advertisement of this particular blogger’s services, as this is not this blogger’s intention in creating this posting. Instead, this post should be viewed as a reminder to readers that this decision should be made by prospective clients after serious contemplation and thorough research of all possible candidates for an attorney position. Attorney-Client relationships are not “one size fits-all” and neither is quality legal service. Therefore, the public should conduct research before coming to an informed decision about hiring an attorney.

For related information please see: K1 Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Cambodia.

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25th March 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) may be changing some of the procedures associated with the processing of immigration petitions pertaining to the application for issuance of the CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, K-1 visa, and K-3 visa filed by United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. To quote directly from a recent USCIS Memo posted on ILW.com:

This memorandum provides guidance to USCIS service centers regarding changes in the handling of all stand-alone I-130 and I-129F petitions filed by petitioners who have been convicted of any “specified offense against a minor” under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (“Adam Walsh Act” or “AWA”) and related issues.1 This memorandum applies only to petitions that are adjudicated at the service centers and not to petitions adjudicated at USCIS field offices.

Generally I-130 petitions (the categorical designation used to refer to the petition for a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa) are processed by the USCIS Service Center designated by the lockbox upon receipt. In some cases, it may be possible to process an I-130 petition at one of the various USCIS field offices located abroad, such as the USCIS office in Bangkok. The I-129f petition (categorical designation used to denote the US fiance visa or K1 visa) can only be processed at a USCIS Service Center in the USA as the field offices overseas do not process such petitions as of the time of this writing. To quote further from the previously mentioned memorandum:

USCIS will centralize at VSC all files currently at service centers if the service center adjudicator has made a preliminary determination that the petition warrants review as an AWA-related case. The VSC will serve as a central clearinghouse for inquiries from Federal, State, and local agencies regarding AWA-related cases that are pending or were recently adjudicated at one of the four service centers [hereafter referred to as “originating service center” or “sending service center”]. While AWA-related cases require special handling, the decision to centralize AWA-related adjudications at the VSC will affect caseloads at other service centers only minimally.

Clearly, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is making policy changes in an effort to take steps to more efficiently process cases requiring further scrutiny pursuant to the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). In a way, the Vermont Service Center’s role in AWA-related cases is somewhat similar to the role of the National Visa Center in the overall US visa process as that agency is tasked with acting as a sort of clearinghouse for visa applications arriving from USCIS and being processed out to a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. Although, NVC is under the authority of the Department of State whereas the Vermont Service Center (like the other USCIS Service Centers) is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS.

For related information please see: Adam Walsh Act.

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17th January 2011

Those who read this web log with any degree of frequency may have noticed that the administration routinely posts the closing schedules of the various US Missions in Asia in an effort to provide wide access to such information for Americans traveling abroad seeking Consular services. Hopefully, postings such as these will help to forestall fruitless trips to US Posts abroad made by Americans unaware of local holiday observance. The following is quoted directly from the official website of the United States Embassy in Vientiane, Laos:

Date Day Holiday Lao/U.S.
December 31, 2010 Friday Substitute for New  Year’s Day U.S./Lao
January 17 Monday Martin Luther King’s Birthday U.S.
February 21 Monday Presidents’ Day U.S.
March 8 Tuesday International Women’s Day Lao
April 13-15 Wed.-Friday Lao New Year Lao
May 2 Monday Lao Labor Day Lao
May 30 Monday Memorial Day U.S.
July 4 Monday Independence Day U.S.
September 5 Monday Labor Day U.S.
October 10 Monday Boat Racing Festival Lao
October 22 Monday Columbus Day U.S.
November 10 Thursday That Luang Festival Lao
November 11 Friday Veteran’s Day U.S.
November 24 Thursday Thanksgiving Day U.S.
December 2 Friday Lao National Day Lao
December 26 Monday Christmas Day U.S.

Substitution days. Please note: According to the prevailing practice in Laos, official holidays which fall on Saturday will be observed on the preceding Friday and Sunday on the following Monday.

Note: Administrative Days: In addition to the dates above, the Consular Section will be closed on the following Fridays for administrative days – February 18, April 8, June 3, September 2, November 25, and December 9.

Those seeking the official homepage of the United States Embassy in Vientiane, Laos please click HERE.

Those seeking services such as issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, US Passport, or additional visa pages for a previously issued US Passport are well advised to contact an American Citizen Services Section of the nearest US Embassy or US Consulate with appropriate jurisdiction.

Those seeking temporary US visas such as the B-2 visa (US Tourist Visa), B-1 visa (US Business Visa), F-1 visa (US Student Visa), or J-1 visa (US Exchange Visitor Visa) are likely to have their visa applications processed through a Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) Unit abroad. It should be noted that those applying for most non-immigrant visa categories are scrutinized pursuant to section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act.

Those who are seeking US family visa benefits in the form of travel documents such as the CR-1 visa or the IR-1 visa are generally required to process an immigration petition through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) prior to applying for a US visa abroad. The K-1 visa, although technically a non-immigrant US fiance visa, is generally treated much the same way as an immigrant visa for application processing purposes. L-1 visa seekers and EB-5 visa seekers should take notice of the fact that applying for such a travel document may entail the processing of an immigration petition prior to visa application at a US Post abroad.

For related information please see: US Visa Laos or K1 Visa Laos.

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21st October 2010

Those who have read some of the blog will no doubt note that this administration often posts information about the K3 visa process and the overall impact of administrative closing of K3 visa applications by the US State Department’s National Visa Center. Many American Citizens who have a Laotian husband or wife pose the question: “Can I get a K3 visa for my wife (or husband) to reunite with me in the USA?” The answer to this question, at the time of this writing, is a rather qualified: no. However, a brief overview of the K3 visa and the recent changes to the K3 visa process may enlighten those who are researching this issue on their own for the first time.

At one time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) had a substantial backlog of immigrant spouse visa petitions. This lead to a situation in which it could take as long as 3 years to receive USCIS adjudication of a mere immigrant spousal visa petition filed by an American Citizen. Due to this rather untenable situation, the United States Congress and President William Jefferson Clinton promulgated and executed a piece of legislation commonly referred to as the “Life Act”. Under the provisions of the Life Act, the K3 visa category and the K4 visa category were created (The K4 visa is a derivative visa for the children of foreign spouses similar to the derivative K2 visa which can be “piggybacked” onto a K1 visa application). At the time, the K3 visa was greeted by many as a severely needed stopgap solution to a rather pernicious problem: slow processing of classic immigrant visa petitions. In recent years, the USCIS has gone to great lengths to streamline the adjudication process and thereby decrease the time it takes to see an immigrant spouse visa petition adjudicated. As a result, many adjudicated immigrant visa petitions began arriving at the National Visa Center at the same time as their K3 counterparts. At one point, it would appear that a decision was made to “administratively close” K3 visa applications when the Immigrant petition arrives either before or at the same time as the K3 petition. This leads to a situation where American-Lao bi-national couples are compelled to seek immigrant visa benefits rather than K3 visa benefits. It should be noted that immigrant visa benefits are substantially superior to K3 visa benefits as immigrant visas confer lawful permanent residence upon the bearer at the time of his or her entry into the United States. Whereas the K3 visa is simply a non-immigrant spouse visa. Therefore, those entering the USA in K3 status must either file for an adjustment of status or Consular Process their immigrant visa petition at a US Embassy or US Consulate outside of the USA.

The term “K3 visa” has sort of become the buzzword used to refer to a US Marriage Visa over the internet. In point of fact, the classic travel documents used by Lao spouses to reunite with their American counterparts are referred to as either the CR1 Visa or the IR1 Visa. Depending upon a bi-national couple’s circumstances such travel documents may confer either conditional or unconditional lawful permanent residence upon admission to the USA.

For related information please see: K1 Visa Laos or K3 Visa Laos.

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5th October 2010

Southeast Asia is a beautiful and  often visited part of the world. One of the lesser known, but highly enjoyable, destinations in Southeast Asia is the country of Laos. This small landlocked country north of the Kingdom of Thailand, the Kingdom of Cambodia, and South of the Peoples’ Republic of China has been a destination of choice for those seeking the adventure and natural beauty of tropical Asia. Some Americans who travel to Laos meet a special someone whom they wish to bring back to America. For these people, the first thing that comes to mind is: “Will my girlfriend (or boyfriend) need a US Visa?” In most cases, a visa will be necessary as the United states does not allow Laotians to come to America on the US Visa Waiver Program. Therefore, the next question for many is: “Can I get my Lao girlfriend (or boyfriend) a US Tourist Visa?” In most cases, the answer to this question is: no, but a deeper understanding of relevant immigration law may provide insight into the reason for possible denial.

Relatively few Americans are aware of a provision in the United States Immigration and Nationality Act called section 214(b). Under this section of the INA a Consular Officer adjudicating a non-immigrant visa application (like a B2 visa application, B2 is the official category for tourist visas) must presume that the applicant is an intending immigrant unless the applicant can provide strong evidence to the contrary. This creates a sort of “strong ties” vs. “weak ties” analysis whereby the Consular Officer will balance the applicant’s ties to the USA and Laos (or another country abroad). If the applicant can show strong ties to Laos and weak ties to the USA, then that applicant may be granted the tourist visa. However, in cases where a US Citizen is a significant other of the applicant such a relationship may have a negative impact upon the visa application as the relationship itself could be viewed as a “strong tie” to the USA. This should NOT be read as to imply that a relationship should not be disclosed as it is this author’s opinion that failure to disclose the existence of an American significant other could be construed as misrepresentation. That said, such a relationship could still have an adverse impact upon an applicant’s tourist visa application.

Those who wish to bring a Lao loved one back to the United states for the purposes of marriage and subsequent residence are well advised to seek either a US fiance visa (K1 visa) or a US Marriage Visa (CR1 Visa, IR1 Visa, or a K3 Visa although the K3 visa category has been effectively phased out by the National Visa Center in recent months).  That said, no one should ever enter into any type of relationship strictly as a pretext for obtaining a US Immigration benefit. Therefore, the relationship that acts as a basis for any visa application or petition ought to be bona fide and genuine.

For related information please see: US Visa Vietnamese Girlfriend or K1 Visa Laos.

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24th September 2010

In previous posts on this blog, this author has discussed proposed fee increases of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). In a recent announcement from USCIS, this matter again came to this author’s attention as USCIS announced a final rule on the issue. To quote directly from the actual announcement as distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced a final rule adjusting fees for immigration applications and petitions. The final rule follows a period of public comment on a proposed rule, which USCIS published in the Federal Register on June 11, 2010. After encouraging stakeholders to share their input, USCIS considered all 225 comments received. The final rule will increase overall fees by a weighted average of about 10 percent but will not increase the fee for the naturalization application. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow,September 24, and the adjusted fees will go into effect on November 23, 2010.

“USCIS is grateful for the valuable public input that we received as we prepared the final fee rule,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “We remain mindful of the effect of fee increases on the communities we serve, and we will continue to work to enhance the services we provide.”

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.

USCIS is a primarily fee-based organization, with about 90 percent of its budget coming from fees paid by applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits. The law requires USCIS to conduct fee reviews every two years to determine the funding levels necessary to administer the nation’s immigration laws, process immigration benefit requests and provide the infrastructure needed to support those activities. The final fee rule announced today concludes a comprehensive review begun in 2009.

USCIS’s fee revenue in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 was much lower than projected, and fee revenue in fiscal year 2010 remains low. While USCIS received appropriations from Congress and made budget cuts of approximately $160 million, this has not bridged the remaining gap between costs and anticipated revenue. A fee adjustment, as detailed in the final rule announced today, is necessary to ensure USCIS recovers the costs of its operations while also meeting the application processing goals identified in the 2007 fee rule.

Those with foreign fiances may take note of the fact that within this same announcement it was noted that the petition fees for the fiance visa will be reduced from 455 United States dollars to 340 United States dollars. On the whole, there are some who may not particularly welcome this announcement, but it would appear that the costs associated with providing Immigration services have reached the point that a fee adjustment is in order.

It should be noted that the fees noted above may not be the only costs that arise during the processing of a United States visa. This is due to the fact that the US visa process is somewhat bifurcated as USCIS is tasked with adjudicating the initial immigration petition while a US Embassy or US Consulate with appropriate jurisdiction is responsible for processing visa applications for travel documents sought outside of the United States of America. Recently, the US Department of State announced an increase in fees associated with adjudication of K1 visa applications abroad. That said, other fees were reduced. These fee adjustments seem to correlate to the underlying costs and fees associated with the adjudication of these applications.

For related information please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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