Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘us embassy bangkok’

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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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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18th April 2020

Those following this blog are likely well aware that that the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) is having a dramatic impact upon logistical issues around the world. In Thailand, the Immigration Bureau has promulgated regulations to allow certain tourists stranded in Thailand to automatically extend Thai visa status. Meanwhile, while the American Embassy in Bangkok has been assiduous in providing up to date information regarding the ongoing ramifications of the crisis with respect to travel arrangements to the USA, a recent segment of a Health Alert from the Embassy drew this blogger’s attention. To quote directly from the Embassy’s website:

When booking a flight out of Thailand we urge you to do so at the earliest opportunity, ideally within the next several days.  If you have booked a flight after this time period, you should consider rebooking for an earlier date or make plans to stay in Thailand indefinitely. [Emphasis Added]

Although readers were likely aware that COVID-19 is causing consternation in booking travel arrangements, this particular warning definitely made this reader acutely cognizant of the possible long term ramifications of failing to make timely travel arrangements back to the USA. On the one hand the term “indefinitely” could be viewed simply as “unspecified period” or “foreseeable future,” but, on the other hand, it certainly has a somewhat ominous undertone. Therefore, those with an intention to return to the USA sooner rather than later are well advised to make all necessary arrangements as soon as possible in order to forestall a situation wherein one’s return to the USA is delayed for a substantially prolonged period of time. Concurrently, those wishing to remain in Thailand are strongly advised to fully ascertain the posture of their visa status as falling into overstay could result in the precarious predicament of being stuck in Thailand out of visa status while simultaneously being unable to return to the USA. This could lead to a situation wherein one finds themselves arrested and/or placed in the Thai Immigration Detention Center. Under such circumstances detention could prove to be a prolonged ordeal as  arranging an expedited deportation could prove difficult in light of the fact that international flights have been severely truncated and the latitude of travel for the deportee may be restricted as other countries may not wish to accept such an arrival especially if onward travel to the USA cannot be readily arranged.

Although we will be updating this blog as the situation evolves, the administration of this platform strongly urges readers to seriously ponder their situation as failure to make a decision in a timely manner could have serious consequences in the future.

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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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25th October 2018

It recently came to this blogger’s attention, via a press release from the US Embassy in Bangkok, that the Embassy seems to be in the process of discontinuing issuance of income affidavits pertaining to verification of finances in the context of application for certain types of Thai visa extension. To quote directly from the press release:

As of January 1, 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will cease to provide the income affidavit for the purpose of applying for Thai retirement and family visas and will not notarize previous versions of the income affidavit.  The Royal Thai Government requires actual verification of income to certify visa applicants meet financial requirements for long-stay visas.  The U.S. government cannot provide this verification and will no longer issue the affidavits.

Those unaware of the importance of these documents should take note of the fact that in the past notarized income affidavits were used in connection with applications for either a Thai retirement visa or a Thai marriage visa. Such documents were utilized in lieu of presenting evidence of a lump sum in a Thai bank account (800,000 THB for a retirement visa, and 400,000 THB for a marriage visa) or proof of a prolonged history of income in a Thai bank account (65,000 THB per month for a retirement visa and 40,000 per month for a marriage visa). These documents were generally issued by the American Citizen Services (ACS) Section of the US Embassy. In the past, a notarized income affidavit from the US Embassy which was legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sufficient to meet the evidentiary requirements of the Thai Immigration officers adjudicating financial documentation in connection with applications for visa extensions. As seems to be the case in matters pertaining to British income letters, American officials appear to be unwilling to continue issuance these instruments in light of the recent official Thai requests that the veracity of the information in the affidavit be verified rather than merely the authenticity of the signature on the document. It seems that although the Embassy is unable to continue issuing such documentation as it was issued in the past, they will continue to notarize other documentation.

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6th February 2018

It has recently been announced that the Trump administration is creating a new “National Vetting Center”. The following article is intended to shed light on what this institution is designed to do and how it will fit into the overall immigration process.

It should first be noted that the National Vetting Center should not be confused with the preexisting National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearing house and central repository for documentation pertaining to visa applications through the Department of State. The National Visa Center’s function is to gather relevant documentation and forward cases to the appropriate US Embassy or US Consulate for visa interview scheduling.

The National Vetting Center would seem to have a different mandate, although not altogether different as both institutions deal with matters pertaining to US Immigration. In an effort to provide further insight it is necessary to cite a recent article from the website of USA Today:

The National Vetting Center will be run by the Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the intelligence community and the departments of State, Justice and Defense. Its mission: To “collect, store, share, disseminate, and use” a broad range of information about people who seek to enter the United States, with a goal of identifying people who may be a threat to national security or public safety. “This is yet another step towards knowing who is coming to the United States — that they are who they say they are and that they do not pose a threat to our nation,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

Although disregarded by some at the time as overreacting, this blogger has noted in prior discussion of so-called extreme vetting policy that although it was initially discussed in a very narrow geographical and situational context the establishment of the National Vetting Center and the presumption that all future US Immigration processing will involve said institution shows that this policy will have broad ramifications for all visa applicants.

What does this mean for the timing of US visa applications? At this time it is too soon to say whether the addition of National Vetting Center protocols will result in slower processing times. However, it stands to reason that adding an entirely new institutional bureaucracy to the overall immigration framework will result in at least some delays in the processing of petitions and applications.

As has been discussed previously on this blog and through some of our firm’s videos: the Trump administration’s policies with respect to Immigration could have wide ranging and long lasting ramifications for those seeking visas in the future. Furthermore, if a deal can be reached with respect to Comprehensive Immigration Reform it looks as though the era of so-called “chain migration” (allowing extended family of Lawful Permanent Residents and American citizens to seek visa benefits)  and the visa lottery will likely come to an end.

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22nd June 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that President Trump recently promulgated an executive order which amends a prior Obama administration order which dealt directly with processing procedures for non-immigrant visas to the United States of America. This Presidential executive order was enacted on June 21, 2017. The most pertinent section of the order, in this blogger’s opinion, reads as follows:

Section 1.  Amendment to Executive Order 13597.  Executive Order 13597 of January 19, 2012 (Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness), is amended by deleting subsection (b)(ii) of section 2 of that order.

In order to better understand the importance of this amendment, it is important to quote directly from the aforementioned order, specifically the section being deleted:

(b) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the heads of such agencies as appropriate, shall develop an implementation plan, within 60 days of the date of this order, describing actions to be undertaken, including those that build upon efforts underway, to achieve the following…

(ii) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;

As the underlined portion noted above points out the specific section which has been deleted seems imply that fast non-immigrant visa processing is no longer a significant priority of the administration. Moreover, the President has specifically ordered Department of State personnel to disregard the previous administration’s clear policy of using best efforts to quickly process visa applications of those seeking non-immigrant visa benefits for the USA.

What type of visa applicants will most likely be affected by this policy change? Applicants for visas such as the B-1 visa (business visa), the B-2 visa (tourist visa), F-1 visa (student visa), J-1 visa (exchange visitor visa), as well as any other visa which is considered a non-immigrant visa (with the probable exception of so-called “dual intent visas“) will be directly impacted by this recent order. Concurrently, what will this mean in practical terms for processing of future visa applications? On the bright side, it takes time for policies to be enacted and thus result in a substantial impact on applicants. Furthermore, as the previous administration enacted policies to speed up non-immigrant visa processing and made practical provisions associated therewith it seems logical to infer that such measures are unlikely to be reversed quickly. Therefore, those seeking non-immigrant visa benefits in the near future are unlikely to be overwhelmingly adversely affected. That stated, those seeking similar benefits in a longer term context could see application processing times lagging compared to present time frames.

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27th May 2017

It has come to this blogger’s attention that the new administration in the USA has promulgated policies which will place more scrutiny upon those who may be applying for visas to the USA in the future. The proposed “extreme vetting” of US visa applications in a Consular Processing context appears to be aimed at narrow subsets of “red flagged” visa applicants. In order to best summarize this policy shift, it is necessary to quote directly from a relatively recent Reuters article:

The final cable seen by Reuters, issued on March 17, leaves in place an instruction to consular chiefs in each diplomatic mission, or post, to convene working groups of law enforcement and intelligence officials to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.” Applicants falling within one of these identified population groups should be considered for higher-level security screening…

The new administration appears keen to narrowly target those applicants which are deemed to be appropriate for “increased scrutiny”. However, a rather recent proposal has been submitted by the U.S. Department of State requesting implementation of the emergency review procedures of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. In short, the DOS is requesting expedited processing of a request to modify the forms associated with applications for US visas. To quote directly from the US government website Regulations.gov:

The Department proposes requesting the following information, if not already included in an application, from a subset of visa applicants worldwide, in order to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children;
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

 

Most of this information is already collected on visa applications but for a shorter time period, e.g. five years rather than fifteen years. Requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and, for some applicants, children are new. The request for social media identifiers and associated platforms is new for the Department of State, although it is already collected on a voluntary basis by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for certain individuals.

It is this blogger’s opinion that the long term implications of these policy changes will be broad. However, from reading the aforementioned notice, it appears that, at the present time, DOS personnel will only be seeking more detailed information on certain individual applicants, and not from all applicants seeking visas to the USA. How will the narrow subset of applicants subject to increased scrutiny be determined? To answer that it is necessary to quote further from the Regulations.gov website:

Department of State consular officers at visa-adjudicating posts worldwide will ask the proposed additional questions to resolve an applicant’s identity or to vet for terrorism or other national security related visa ineligibilities when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny.

Notwithstanding the fact that enhanced scrutiny will apparently only be applied on a case by case basis and only upon those individuals who are deemed to be in need of such scrutiny it seems logical to infer that at some point these additional screening protocols may be applied on a broader basis; if for no other reason than the fact that applying such scrutiny across the board might save time and resources of Consular Officials making cases by case determinations. As it stands, as of the time of this writing, the new protocols add a degree of uncertainty to the visa application process and Consular processing in general as it is difficult to foresee what may be considered a trait which warrants heightened scrutiny. Therefore, planning for such an eventuality is problematic.

As this situation continues to evolve this blog will post further updates.

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1st October 2013

The United States government has recently shut down due to the inability of Congress to make a deal regarding the budget and current debt ceiling level. The reverberations from this recent turn of events will likely be felt in many sectors of the United States government and by those who may have business with the US government. As a general matter, governmental functions which are deemed essential will still be available. However, those governmental activities and employees deemed non-essential will likely be discontinued and work furloughed until such time as Congress reaches an agreement. It has been 17 years since the United States government last shut down. As of the time of this writing, the Office of Management and Budget has instructed supervisors of various governmental entities to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown.”

What is the practical impact of the government’s closure upon the immigration process? It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the following has been posted on the official website of the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand:

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and Consulate General Chiang Mai remain open to the public. As always, our priorities remain providing safety, security, and service to U.S. citizens. We are open for all consular services, including visa processing.

It could be inferred that the Embassy is attempting to dispel rumors that a shutdown will negatively impact the processing of US visa applications as well as applications for US passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and various notarial services requested by Americans living in Thailand. Hopefully, the recently announced government shutdown will not last long and thus not cause any great problems for those seeking visas to the United States of America. However, a protracted shutdown could mean that processing of US visa applications could move at a slower pace, or, in a worst case scenario, be discontinued until such time as a budget is agreed upon. Hopefully, this will not happen and the processing of applications will continue apace.

Meanwhile, it is likely that the shutdown will not affect processing of immigration petitions at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). As USCIS is funded by the fees paid by petitioners, it seems likely that a government shutdown will not adversely impact those seeking immigration benefits from USCIS. Again, as the United States has not seen a government shutdown in nearly two decades some of the details about the impact of the current shutdown remain somewhat speculative. Readers of this blog should take note that further information will be provided herein as it becomes available.

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