Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thai Visa’

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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14th February 2021

Since the last posting on this blog there have been a number of developments and discussions with respect to both Thai and American immigration issues. One development which has received substantial media coverage has been the Executive Orders signed by President Biden with regard to Immigration policy. Of particular note to the administration of this web log was the order titled: Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. The content of this Executive Order seems designed to impose a new policy paradigm upon the Immigration bureaucracy (or perhaps reimpose of a previously existing paradigm). This effort to change the prevailing paradigm is evidenced in the opening lines of the order itself:

Consistent with our character as a Nation of opportunity and of welcome, it is essential to ensure that our laws and policies encourage full participation by immigrants, including refugees, in our civic life; that immigration processes and other benefits are delivered effectively and efficiently; and that the Federal Government eliminates sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them…The Federal Government should develop welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship, and it should embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy.

Clearly, the administration seeks to re-establish a sense of decorum and compassion tot eh immigration system. The order goes on the delineate as to more concrete steps toward those ends:

Sec. 3.  Restoring Trust in our Legal Immigration System.  The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall review existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that may be inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(a)  In conducting this review, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall:

(i)   identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits and make recommendations on how to remove these barriers, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law; and

(ii)  identify any agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system — such as the final rule entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” 85 Fed. Reg. 46788 (Aug. 3, 2020), in light of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (title I of division D of Public Law 116-159) — and recommend steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to revise or rescind those agency actions.

(b)  Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a plan to the President describing the steps their respective agencies will take to advance the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(c)  Within 180 days of submitting the plan described in subsection (b) of this section, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a report to the President describing the progress of their respective agencies towards implementing the plan developed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and recognizing any areas of concern or barriers to implementing the plan.

It remains to be seen precisely how this will impact the American immigration system, and it should be noted that the apparatus is unlikely to fundamentally change over night. That stated, there is good reason to hope there may be “light at the end of the tunnel” after months of seemingly unnecessary delay and obfuscation in the visa process. There does appear to one area of particular interest to the current administration with respect to US immigration. Namely, there have been a number of issues associated with the “Public Charge rule” and prior to the issue of COVID-19 coming to the forefront of immigration analysis, public charge was shaping up to be a significant obstacle for a number of family based immigration cases (including, but not limited to: the K-1 visa, the K-3 visa, the CR-1 visa, and the IR-1 visa categories). The recently promulgated order seems to take this issue seriously:

The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, as appropriate, shall review all agency actions related to implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility in section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), and the related ground of deportability in section 237(a)(5) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(5).  They shall, in considering the effects and implications of public charge policies, consult with the heads of relevant agencies, including the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

(a)  This review should:

(i)    consider and evaluate the current effects of these agency actions and the implications of their continued implementation in light of the policy set forth in section 1 of this order;

(ii)   identify appropriate agency actions, if any, to address concerns about the current public charge policies’ effect on the integrity of the Nation’s immigration system and public health; and

(iii)  recommend steps that relevant agencies should take to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes, if any, to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.

(b)  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a report to the President describing any agency actions identified pursuant to subsection (a)(ii) of this section and any steps their agencies intend to take or have taken, consistent with subsection (a)(iii) of this section.

It seems the administration is particularly keen to address the difficulties imposed by rules changes pertaining to public charge and hopefully some revision of the rules may be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, although there has not been a great deal of substantive change to current immigration policy in Thailand, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding possible policy changes to in an effort to revitalize the Thai tourism sector which, depending upon the source, seems to have seen between 1-3 million layoffs since the response to the pandemic began. Once solution discussed has been the notion of a “vaccine passport” or “immunity passport“. Essentially, this notion centers upon the idea that those who can prove they have been inoculated against COVID-19, via one of the many vaccinations currently on the market, will be allowed to travel to Thailand without the need to quarantine in one of the alternative state quarantine (ASQ) facilities. Notwithstanding the fact that there has ben a great deal of discussion on this matter, it currently appears, as with the so-called “travel bubble” scheme, that this program will not be implemented any time soon. As the tourism sector in Thailand languishes, long stay tourists may avail themselves to special tourist visas or standard TR visas to stay in Thailand. Furthermore, the Thai retirement visa remains a viable option for those wishing to travel to Thailand for retirement purposes.

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5th January 2021

As 2021 dawned the situation in Thailand, specifically the response to COVID-19, deteriorated. Presently, in place of full lockdowns, much of Thailand is operating under a system of provincial imposition of “highly controlled area” status which is restricting many operations many people once took for granted. How has this impacted the immigration system? Initially, it seemed this turn of events would not impact prospects for gaining admission to Thailand. Then, it appeared that those from the UK might be restricted from arriving in Thailand. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The Ministry of Public Health will ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to defer the entry of British visitors to the country after the fast-spreading B117 strain of Covid-19 was found in four British nationals entering Thailand on Dec 21.

This caused a great deal of consternation especially among those seeking Thai visas from the Embassy in the UK. However, further deliberation seems to have resulted in the decision that arrivals from the United Kingdom will not be impeded. Quoting directly from The Nation:

Thailand’s measures to control the spread of Covid-19 are strong enough to not warrant special measures against travellers from the United Kingdom, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Thanee Saengrat said.

Based upon the above information, it seems logical to presume that the overall situation regarding foreign nationals arriving in Thailand remains much as it did prior to the new year. Meanwhile, a number of travelers are finding that trying to process their Thai visa application on their own from abroad is a cumbersome endeavor. The overall process of gaining lawful admission to Thailand is greatly changed compared to times past. One major sticking point for many is the addition of the certificate of entry to the process. This document is required in addition to a Thai visa. Concurrently, documentation showing a lack of infection for COVID-19 in addition to fit to fly documentation has proven nettlesome for many. Couple this with the fact that those entering Thailand are still required to undergo Alternative State Quarantine for 14 days prior to gaining total access to the Kingdom. There was some discussion regarding the possibility of seeing the quarantine time frame reduced to 10 days or even less. However, under present circumstances this seems highly unlikely. The notion of “travel bubble” arrangements also being brought online seems unlikely at this time as well.  Although many in Thailand are hopeful that the disbursement of a vaccine may result in a return of tourists in 2021. As of the time of this writing, this remains conjecture.

Turning to American immigration, many have found themselves in a kind of processing “limbo” with respect to cases such as the K-1 fiance visa as well as the various marriage visas including the K-3 visa, CR-1 and IR-1 visa categories. Currently, a large number of cases remain at the National Visa Center and seem unlikely to be processed out for interview soon. There appeared to be hope in the last part of the final quarter of 2020 as some cases were being scheduled for interview, but that hope may be dashed as the current situation in Thailand may result in further interview cancellations. This situation is fluid and still evolving.

Many hope that a transition to a new administration will herald an end to certain arbitrary and capricious aspects of the immigration process in its current form, but it should be noted that it takes time for bureaucracies to change and therefore a Biden presidency may not immediately see major changes to visa case processing in 2021.

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8th December 2020

There have been a number of developments regarding Thai immigration in recent weeks including the recent announcement that the Special Tourist Visa program will be expanded to include more than a limited number of countries. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet on Tuesday resolved to offer long-stay special tourist visas (STV) to visitors from every country instead of only those with low risks of the novel coronavirus.

This news comes as it appears there are again talks of creating “travel bubble” corridors on a bilateral basis between Thailand and counterpart countries. It seems under this travel bubble scheme nationals from some countries may be fast-tracked through quarantine or not required to quarantine at all so long as they remain in a restricted geographic area. As of the time of this writing, such a plan has yet to be implemented. With respect to in-country Thai Immigration matters is noteworthy that the Thai visa amnesty has been extended for those unable to leave the country. Meanwhile, the caseload volume of Thai visas being consular processed appears to be increasing as visa categories such as the Thai retirement visa, business visa, and tourist visa are, depending upon the jurisdiction, opening up. At the same time, there is some discussion surrounding the notion of implementing a contact tracing app for those traveling to Thailand as tourists. It remains to be seen whether this will apply to non-immigrants such as retirees and businesspersons. A notable requirement now associated with Thai visa processing which has become ubiquitous, but was never required in the past is insurance. Insurance coverage for COVID-19 is required for all visa categories including the Single Entry Tourist Visa (or SETV). Concurrently, some of those who were able to avoid needing insurance due to usage of an O retirement visa (as opposed to an O-A retirement visa) are finding that, if abroad, they are being compelled to obtain insurance in order to obtain a Certificate of Entry (COE) notwithstanding the fact that such coverage would not be required if applying for or extending status in Thailand.

With respect to American immigration, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding whether the transition from a Trump administration to an administration of the presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden will change the overall process and paradigm of the American immigration apparatus. In the long run, it is likely that a change of administration would dramatically improve processing conditions for American visas, including K-1 visas and immigrant visas which seem to be languishing at the National Visa Center and at US Embassies and Consulates abroad. That stated, the transition, although likely, is not yet a foregone conclusion as of the time of this writing. Meanwhile, it should be noted that bureaucracies such as the USCIS, NVC, and Department of State do not “stop on a dime” it takes time to reorganize and implement new policy. Therefore, it is likely that substantial changes will not be seen until deep into 2021.

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5th November 2020

For those unaware, our firm maintains a Youtube channel in order to provide daily updates regarding Thai, American, and international immigration matters as well as information of a general nature regarding Thai legal issues and legal news for expats.

In the aftermath of the 2020 election in the USA, there has been a question posed: how will the outcome impact American Immigration? As noted in a video on our aforementioned YouTube Channel, it appears that the ultimate result of the election is unlikely to have a dramatic impact upon American visa processing, at least in the near term. As noted in prior postings to this blog, the US government’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in a slowing of case processing at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the National Visa Center (NVC), and US Embassies and Consulates abroad (including the American Embassy in Bangkok). It seems unlikely that even if the government’s administration changes due to the election that we will see faster processing times for immigration cases in the near term. That stated, the situation remains fluid and unforeseen developments could see cases such as K-1 visa applications move with more speed compared to the past months.

The Thai Immigration situation remains fluid as well. Recently, the government terminated the Thai visa amnesty. Concurrently, it appears that some tourists are beginning to return to Thailand using the special tourist visa (STV) scheme. However, the tourist numbers are small compared to numbers in the years leading up to 2020. Thai Immigration and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seem increasingly keen to allow the return of expats from abroad. The O-A retirement visa category has been prioritized for issuance of certificates of entry (COE) for prospective travelers to Thailand. This is happening as foreign nationals traveling to Thailand in business visa status appear to be on the rise. Those who have a Thai spouse or other family in Thailand can also avail themselves of an O visa in order to enter the Kingdom.

There has been some conjecture that the Thai government may promulgate rules allowing property purchasers to travel to Thailand. This proposal seems to be geared toward increasing the demand for Thai condos. However, these proposals have yet to be taken up by relevant authorities and therefore it remains to be seen whether Thai property ownership will be deemed a sufficient reason for sponsoring a visa and/or certificate of entry for the Kingdom of Thailand.

The entire process for traveling to Thailand remains cumbersome compared to routine protocols. As noted above, a certificate of entry, in addition to a Thai visa, is necessary for one to travel to Thailand. Prospective entrants are also required to obtain fit to fly documentation and remain in alternative state quarantine (ASQ) for 14 days (although there is speculation this may be reduced to 10 days) before being permitted unfettered access to the Kingdom.

 

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8th October 2020

There have been some recent developments with respect to Thai immigration in recent weeks. Notably, the Thai visa amnesty was retroactively extended after ostensibly ending. Concurrently, it now appears that those who hold a Thai retirement visa (specifically an O-A or O-X visa as opposed to an O visa) will now be able to seek a Certificate of Entry to Thailand. There has also been discussion in recent weeks about the notion of decreasing the amount of quarantine that one must undergo when traveling into Thailand. Furthermore, Thai immigration officials have discussed easing travel restrictions for those traveling to Thailand on business as APEC card holders can now seek a COE while there has also been discussion about allowing certain businesspeople into Thailand without the requirement that they hold work permit status. However, implementation on rules regarding this issue remain to be seen. Finally, officials are attempting to bring the new Special Tourist Visa online as fast as they can, but actual practical developments remain to be seen. In short, there seems to be something akin to a “slow thaw” taking place with respect to Thai immigration rules and while things appear to be trending toward further opening of the country there is still a long way to go before normality returns.

Meanwhile, with respect to American immigration there have been some notable developments as the US Embassy in Bangkok has begun processing interviews again for those whose prior interview was cancelled due to the shutdown. It should be noted that interviews are merely being re-scheduled as cases that had not received an interview date prior the shutdown have yet to be scheduled, but the trend seems to be pointing to further interviews occurring in the future. Concurrently, news from inside the United States is not as positive as layoffs related to USCIS funding shortfalls may result in delayed processing times for immigration petitions. It appears likely that certain aspects of the American immigration process are poised to take longer compared to times past, while perhaps other segments of the process may be unaffected or, in limited circumstances, more expedited compared to more routine circumstances.

Amidst all of the turmoil in the immigration world, we are bringing online the Immigator App. Admittedly, the timing is not optimal for an app which assists people in keeping their visas, passport, and immigration documentation organized. However, in many ways it is more important than ever for people to keep careful track of their lawful immigration status and the documentation associated therewith. Therefore, we hope that this free app will assist both clients of our firm and the public at large in navigating the Thai, American, and international immigration systems.

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12th September 2020

The overall immigration and visa environment in both the USA and Thailand are in an extreme state of flux. In recent months the response by the US Embassy in Bangkok to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to shutdown the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visa Units and preclude interviews. However, an announcement in recent weeks suggests that this shutdown is coming to an end. Quoting directly from the US Travel Docs website:

Beginning October 1, 2020, U.S. Embassy Bangkok and U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai will resume routine nonimmigrant visa services for all visa categories.  The number of visa interviews per day will be limited to ensure social distancing. Starting from September 9, 2020, you can renew your visa by mail, provided you meet all the qualifications listed on https://www.ustraveldocs.com/th/th-niv-visarenew.asp.  Please read all the information before submitting your application by mail. Applicants for H1B, H2B, L1, and certain J categories and their dependents covered by Presidential Proclamation 10052 should request an appointment only if you have reason to believe you may qualify for one of the exceptions listed in the Proclamation here.  For more information on exceptions, click here. U.S. Embassy Bangkok has also resumed processing most immigrant visa categories and is currently addressing its backlog of cases, namely those applicants whose interview appointment was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Immigrant Visa unit will be in direct contact with applicants currently eligible to reschedule their interview appointment.

Although the actual easing of current restrictions remains to be seen, many waiting for a K-3, CR-1, IR-1, or K-1 visa interview are anxious to see the beginning of October and, along with it, the resumption of visa processing.

Meanwhile, the current posture of the Thai Immigration system remains relatively inert compared to normal circumstances as most all travel to Thailand is heavily restricted. That stated, there are some non-immigrant visa categories which are approved for usage to enter Thailand. Most notable among the categories are the Thai Business Visa (with work permit or work authorization [either WP3 or WP10 depending upon circumstances) and the Thai O visa for those foreign nationals who have a Thai spouse, children or parents. Presently, those with a Thai retirement visa will not be able to gain access to Thailand utilizing that travel document as their sole and exclusive means of lawful admission. Based upon some accounts, it appears likely that this restriction may remain until the beginning of 2021.

Thai officials have been attempting to balance health and safety concerns against the strong desire to readmit tourists to Thailand. A multitude of initiatives have been discussed in recent weeks including further discussion of a “travel bubble” initiative as well as discussion of the “safe and sealed” program. More recently, the “Phuket Model” is being discussed in earnest as a means of admitting foreign tourists while simultaneously taking necessary precautions to assuage those concerned about public health. It seems the roll out of the “Phuket Model” is not a foregone conclusion and it now seems likely that, once implemented, it will be a plan pertaining to all of Thailand rather than specifically targeting Phuket. However, implementation remains to be seen and therefore comment as to the details associated therewith would be an exercise in conjecture at this time. Concurrently, there also appear to be discussions regarding “Green Lanes” to allow business travelers access to Thailand.

Within Thailand, issues surrounding Thai immigration are becoming increasingly urgent as the Thai visa amnesty (sometimes referred to as the automatic Thai visa extension) is coming to an end on September 26th. Thai Immigration officials have made a number of statements regarding the end of the amnesty and noted that waiting until too close to the deadline may prove problematic for prospective visa applicants. Some officials have even gone so far as to hint at possible future announcements regarding Thai immigration rules in coming days. At the same time, it appears an ad hoc system is being put in place to allow temporary extensions for those who can produce an Embassy letter requesting such accommodation. That stated, statements from both he American and British Missions to Thailand would suggest that compelling reasons must be shown in order to ultimately have one’s Thai visa status maintained on a temporary basis pursuant to this prospective scheme. Those wishing to maintain long term lawful status past the end of the amnesty are well advised to either obtain an extension of status or a conversion into longer term immigration status in Thailand BEFORE the September 26 deadline.

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16th August 2020

The coronavirus pandemic continues to create issue in the realm of immigration. However, in an American context, politics may also be playing a role as noted in a recent article from Forbes:

“Earlier this month, the USCIS notified about two-thirds of its employees that they would be furloughed starting August 30th because of budget shortfalls, which the agency hoped Congress would fill in its next relief package before negotiations stalled recently…“I don’t think I can emphasize enough how large an issue this will be – we’re looking at the final days of legal immigration as we know it in the United States,” said Ruark Hotopp, a representative for USCIS workers in Nebraska…”

A decrease in manpower of the scope and scale contemplated in the article above, when discussing this possible USCIS furlough, would have a tremendous impact upon the American immigration apparatus as it would likely cause substantial increases in processing times and therefore delays in the acquisition of visas. It stands to reason that no visa category would be unaffected by this turn of events. Therefore, it is likely that those seeking employment based visas as well as family based visas (such as the K-1 visa, K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa) will see negative consequences should funding fail to materialize.

Meanwhile in Thailand, the Thai immigration system remains in a strange state. On the one hand, those stranded in Thailand have seen a chaotic situation unfold, to quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

“Immigration rules tend to remain unchanged and rather rigid for a prolonged period of time, but when they shift, they shift dramatically. COVID-19 may prove to be the catalyst for a major paradigm shift in terms of Immigration policy thinking in Thailand.”

Concurrently, those with long term Thai visas stranded abroad have had to wait patiently as returning to Thailand has proven effectively impossible until recent days and even those permitted to return to Thailand are only permitted to do so under extremely constrained parameters. The Thai government seems keen to permit entry of tourists to Thailand, while simultaneously concerned about forestalling the spread of infections. For these reasons, initiatives such as the “travel bubble” scheme were initially floated, only to be reassessed as it now appears that the “safe and sealed” initiative to allow in certain foreign tourists may be taking off. However, as the flight ban on the vast majority on in-bound air travel remains in force it seems unlikely that Thailand will see standard tourist numbers return in the immediately foreseeable future. That stated, the future of immigration policy in Thailand remains to be seen.

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7th July 2020

The Immigration systems of both the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand have arguably been subjected to more changes recently than they have undergone in many years. Recently, President Trump announced an expansion of his travel ban on certain foreign nationals. The relevant portions can be found in the excerpt from the White House’s website:

Sec2.  Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  The entry into the United States of any alien seeking entry pursuant to any of the following nonimmigrant visas is hereby suspended and limited, subject to section 3 of this proclamation:

(a)  an H-1B or H-2B visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;

(b)  a J visa, to the extent the alien is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien; and

(c)  an L visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien.

It should be noted, although the expanded ban appears to have rather wide ranging effects, those seeking the K-1 visa for a foreign fiancee, a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa for the spouse of an American citizen are unaffected by this recent proclamation. That stated, while this ban does not have a direct impact, the fact that US Embassies and Consulates overseas are still not open for visa processing continues to stall immigration matters.

Meanwhile, Thailand is taking stringent measures in an attempt to forestall any further spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom. With nearly 6 weeks of zero in-country transmissions, Thailand is a proving to be a global success story in the “fight” against Coronavirus. These measures appear to be bearing fruit, but Thailand remains in lock down from an international travel context. It was recently announced that some foreigners would be allowed to enter Thailand. At the same time, Thai officials are attempting to implement a “travel bubble” scheme which will allow some tourists to enter Thailand under specific conditions. As of the time of this writing, the initiation of “travel bubbles” has yet to be seen, but they are expected to come online in September. Thereafter, there will be a phased program of increasingly less stringent restrictions with the culmination presumably manifesting as tourism to resume as normal. It should be noted that the countries surrounding Thailand appear to be taking similar positions to that of Thailand with respect to inbound tourist arrivals, at least for the foreseeable future.

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2nd June 2020

While certain aspects of the COVID-19 situation seem to be evolving in a positive manner, there remain many travel restrictions in Thailand and the USA.

It appears that notwithstanding the overall restriction of foreign travel into Thailand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that accommodation for foreign nationals entering Thailand may be possible, provided they have a Thai Work Permit. However, it should be noted that a work permit (and presumably Business Visa or O Visa) is not the exclusive requirement to gain entry to the Kingdom. It appears that “fit-to-fly” documents must be obtained by travelers before departing for Thailand. Concurrently, it also appears that a Thai Entry Certificate issued by the Ministry of foreign Affairs in Bangkok will also be necessary, in addition to standard travel documents. These announcements are rather recent and full implementation of these policies remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, there is a great deal of interest regarding the possibility that the US Embassy in Thailand and the surrounding countries may reopen for visa interviews. However, as of the time of this writing it appears that the Embassies in Southeast Asia are unlikely to process out cases for K-1 visas, CR-1 visas, K-3 visas, or IR-1 visas any time soon. The following statement is noted on the US Travel Docs website for Thailand:

As of March 19, 2020, the United States Embassy and Consulate in Thailand are cancelling routine non-immigrant visa appointments. From March 24, the United States Embassy and Consulate is not accepting applications through Interview Waiver for any visa categories. We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

The following is noted on the same website for Cambodia:

In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates have canceled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020

Finally, a similar message is noted for Laos:

As of March 20, the United States Embassy in Vientiane, Laos is suspending routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.  We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

Clearly, it seems unlikely that visa applications, and the interviews associated therewith, are unlikely to occur in any of the above posts for the foreseeable future. The overall situation regarding entry to the USA and Thailand remains rather fluid, we will keep updating this blog as the situation progresses.

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