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Posts Tagged ‘us embassy thailand’

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 January 2020

By any estimate, 2019 was not a great year for those dealing with either the American or Thai Immigration systems. In 2019, those seeking to live in Thailand under an O retirement or marriage visa saw many of the rules regarding that visa category changed. For example, it is now no longer possible for many expats in Thailand to use income affidavits issued from the Embassies or Consulates of their home country in order to prove their financial ability to remain in the Kingdom. Concurrently, the regulations regarding the income or bank balance requirements associated with the marriage and retirement visas are now more strictly enforced and may require a more prolonged maintenance of a bank balance compared with times past. Meanwhile, with respect to Thai retirement visas specifically, the rules regarding retirement visa issuance and extension underwent another adjustment with the introduction of the rule that retirement visa holders in Thailand must obtain health insurance coverage in order to cover medical expenses while maintaining their retiree status in Thailand. Although there were no specific changes with regard to the rules pertaining to Thai business visas, 2019 saw a level of scrutiny with respect to adjudication which is rather unprecedented.

Meanwhile, in the USA the Immigration apparatus has seen a great deal of administrative transformation. Some Immigration practitioners in the USA are calling this the “Invisible Wall” in reference to the current President’s promise to build a wall to deter illegal immigration. With respect to US visas from Thailand specifically, it should be noted that 2019 saw the closing of the USCIS office in Bangkok. Moving forward through 2020 and beyond it appears that those who could once file for Immigration benefits through that office, including applications for IR-1 and CR-1 visas from Thailand, must now file their cases through the relevant USCIS office in the USA. Furthermore, it appears that the number of requests for evidence in cases involving American family based cases is on the rise while it remains to be seen exactly what the National Vetting Center is doing as cases processing through the National Visa Center seem to be processed in increasingly slowly. In cases involving K-1 visas from Thailand the overall process has seen little fundamental change, but the as with other American immigration petitions there seems to be a rise in the number of RFEs issued especially in the wake of changes to the relevant forms associated with such matters.

What can be expected moving forward? With respect to Thai Immigration it seems unlikely that fundamental changes to the retirement visa category (such as the medical insurance requirement) are in the offing. In fact, it seems that the current regulatory framework has been set in place as a rather permanently. However, there is speculation that insurance requirements may be imposed for other categories such as marriage visas and perhaps even business visas, but this remains pure speculation. Further, in light of recent down turns in certain parts of the Thai tourism sector and the increasing strength of the baht it seems Immigration officials are signaling a more moderating tone in order to forestall damage to the tourism sector. With regard to American immigration it seems logical to surmise that the trends of 2019 will continue into 2020 with everyone focusing upon the forthcoming election in November as a possible indicator of where immigration policy will be heading in the forthcoming decade.

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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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5th September 2016

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Consulate-General in Chiang Mai will be suspending services from September 12, 2016. It may be best to quote directly from the US Consulate’s website:

Except for U.S. citizen emergencies, consular services at the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will be suspended from September 12, 2016 to November 1, 2016, due to necessary renovations to the Consular Section…All nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applicants who intend to travel during this period should make appointments with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok…The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit will remain available by email and phone for emergency U.S. citizen services such as death and welfare/whereabouts cases; and we will continue to accept voter registration, absentee ballot requests, and absentee ballots.  Also, please note that the ACS Unit will conduct several U.S. citizen outreach events in and around Chiang Mai during this period…

Those wishing to learn more are well advised to click the link above.

Those seeking non-immigrant visas such as US Tourist visas and US student visas will, at least for the time being, be required to interview for such travel documents in Bangkok. It should be noted that this announcement has no impact upon those seeking immigrant visas such as the IR-1 visa or the CR-1 visa nor does it change the current processing protocols of the K-1 fiancee visa as although such fiance visas are considered non-immigrant visas they are processed in much the same manner as immigrant visas. As dual intent visas, holders of the K-1 visa may enter the United States in non-immigrant status with the intention of remaining and thereby use the adjustment of status process in order to convert into lawful permanent resident status (aka Green Card holder status) once in the USA. All of the aforementioned visa categories are initially adjudicated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security; before undergoing further Consular Processing at the United States Embassy in Bangkok, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of State.

Notwithstanding the continuation of regular immigration services for those wishing to permanently move to the USA. It would appear that this situation may cause inconvenience for those in the North of Thailand seeking American Citizen Services such as passport renewal, notarization, and issuance of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA). Other than occasional Consular outreach, many of these services will apparently need to be obtained from the Post in Bangkok during this renovation period.

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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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27th June 2013

In an effort to provide relevant information for those Americans living abroad as well as those foreign nationals who may have business to conduct at a US Embassy or US Consulate it has been the practice of the administration of this blog to post the holiday closing times for US Embassies and Consulates in and around Southeast Asia. The following is quoted directly from the official website of the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand:

Official Holidays 2013
Month Date Day Occasion
January 1 Tuesday New Year’s Day
January 21 Monday Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
February 18 Monday Presidents’ Day
April 8 Monday Substitute day of King Rama I Memorial and Chakri Day
April 12 Friday Songkran Festival
April 15 Monday Songkran Festival
April 16 Tuesday Substitute day of Songkran Festival
May 6 Monday Substitute day of Coronation Day
May 24 Friday Visakha Bucha Day
May 27 Monday Memorial Day
July 4 Thursday Independence Day
August 12 Monday Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday
September 2 Monday Labor Day
October 14 Monday Columbus Day
October 23 Wednesday Chulalongkorn Day
November 11 Monday Veterans Day
November 28 Thursday Thanksgiving Day
December 5 Thursday His Majesty the King’s Birthday
December 10 Tuesday Constitution Day
December 25 Wednesday Christmas Day
December 31 Tuesday New Year’s Eve

Those seeking information about the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand are encouraged to visit their homepage by clicking HERE.

The US Embassy in Bangkok is tasked with adjudicating visa applications for non-immigrant visas such as the B-1 visa, the B-2 visa, and the F-1 visa; the immigrant visa section adjudicates applications for visas such as the CR-1 visa, the IR-1 visa, the K-1 visa, and the K-3 visa. American Citizen Services is responsible for assisting Americans in renewing passports, issuing new visa pages for US passports, issuing Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, providing notary services, as well as a wide variety of other functions. Generally, it is advisable to make an appointment prior to traveling to the Embassy as this can facilitate quicker processing of relevant requests.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand.

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1st February 2012

In order to provide relevant information to the public-at-large regarding immigration issues in Southeast Asia, the administration of this blog often posts the holiday closing schedules of various American posts in Asia in an attempt to assist those seeking such information. The following is quoted directly from the official website of the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand:

Month Date Day Occasion
January 2 Monday Substitute for New Year’s Day
January 3 Tuesday Special Holiday
January 16 Monday Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
February 20 Monday Presidents’ Day
April 6 Friday King Rama I Memorial and Chakri Day
April 13 Friday Songkran Day
April 16 Monday Substitute for Songkran Day
May 7 Monday Substitute for Coronation Day
May 28 Monday Memorial Day
June 4 Monday Visakha Bucha Day
July 4 Wednesday Independence Day
August 13 Monday Substitute for Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday
September 3 Monday Labor Day
October 8 Monday Columbus Day
October 23 Tuesday Chulalongkorn Day
November 12 Monday Substitute for Veterans Day
November 22 Thursday Thanksgiving Day
December 5 Wednesday His Majesty the King’s Birthday
December 10 Monday Constitution Day
December 25 Tuesday Christmas Day
December 31 Monday New Year’s Eve

For further information please click HERE.

It has been this blogger’s experience that the personnel at the American post in Bangkok can provide a great deal of assistance with services such as notarization, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, passport renewal, and documentation pertaining to the registration of a marriage in Thailand. It is generally advisable that those seeking such services make an appointment with the Consular Services section prior to arrival at the post. In many cases, this can be accomplished online.

Those wishing to obtain an American visa for a loved one in Thailand are generally required to petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and gain approval of said petition before the case file will be reviewed by a visa section at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. Concurrently, the visa applicant is generally required to undergo an interview at the Post with appropriate Consular jurisdiction prior to possible approval of a visa application.

Those seeking a K-1 visa for a Thai fiancee will generally see the visa application processed through the non-immigrant visa unit while those seeking an immigrant visa for a Thai spouse (such as the CR-1 visa or the IR-1 visa) will generally see their visa application consular processed through the immigrant visa unit. In many cases, an approved USCIS petition will be processed through the National Visa Center prior to processing at the appropriate post overseas.

For information regarding legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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