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Posts Tagged ‘US Immigration Thailand’

12th December 2009

After the tragedy of 9/11 many changes were made with regard to Homeland Security. Specifically, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created and many tasks previously undertaken by other agencies were brought under the jurisdiction of DHS. One example is the United States Customs Service which was reincorporated into the Department of Homeland Security as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service. This agency is responsible for patrolling the borders and ports of entry to the United States of America. They are also responsible for screening those who enter the United States of America either on a US passport, US visa, or US visa waiver. CBP plays an integral part in the US Immigration process.

Prior to this publication, there has been a rumor circulating that those who wish to enter the United States of America must fist obtain a vaccination for the H1N1 influenza vaccination. As a matter of fact, this is not true. Apparently this rumor is unfounded. AILA has provided a quote from a statement from the Customs and Border Protection Service:

“[United States] Customs and Border Protection would like to address rumors regarding U.S. entry requirements and the H1N1 virus: Travelers do NOT need to present proof that they received the H1N1 flu vaccine in order to enter the United States. No such vaccination requirement exists. Travelers are encouraged to visit the Department of Health and Human Services Flu Web site for current information on seasonal flu prevention, and the “Know Before You Go” section under the Travel tab of the CBP Web site for helpful traveler tips.”

For those seeking entry to the United States a flu vaccination is not required at this time.

In recent years CBP has been granted more and more authority to deal with real time situations. This leads many to wonder just how much authority CBP has. This is an interesting question as they are given major discretionary powers with regard to those seeking entry to the United States. For example, CBP is authorized to place foreign nationals into expedited removal (deportation) proceedings if they deem it necessary. One who has been removed through expedited removal could be barred from reentering the USA for as long as five years. That being said, this only seems to come up in the context of US Family Immigration when the loved one of a US Citizen is improperly using a US tourist visa for undisclosed immigration purposes. In situations such as this, CBP may feel it necessary to use expedited removal to send the subject back to their home country. Therefore it is usually wise to process things correctly and utilize the proper visa for a loved one traveling to the United States.

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5th November 2009

An interesting hypothetical question that is sometimes posed when researching the K1 visa is: who can my Thai fiancee marry once she arrives in the United States of America?

After issuance of a fiance visa, a beneficiary has six months to use the visa for travel to the US. The K1 visa is a single entry visa. Therefore, the beneficiary will only be allowed to enter the United States one time (if multiple entries are necessary, then the beneficiary must obtain an advance parole travel document). After entry, the beneficiary must marry the petitioner and apply for adjustment of status to conditional lawful permanent residence in the USA, but what happens if the beneficiary and petitioner decide not to get married? This occasionally occurs and in this situation the foreign fiancee must leave the USA within 90 days from their date of arrival.

In rare cases, a foreign fiancee will meet another individual and a romantic relationship arises. In this situation, there is not a way for a for fiancee to adjust status to permanent residence based upon marriage to another US Citizen or lawful permanent resident), if that US Citizen (or lawful permanent resident) is not the person specifically named on the K1 visa. In order to adjust status in this situation, the foreign beneficiary would need to leave the USA, obtain a new visa,  and reenter.

The K1 visa was designed to provide the foreign fiancee of a US Citizen with a travel document to be utilized for the sole purpose of specifically marrying the US Citizen petitioner. Therefore, an adjustment of status cannot be executed based upon a marriage to anyone else. There is a misconception that a K1 visa beneficiary can marry anyone in the USA and use that marriage as a basis for adjustment. This author believes that this misconception is based upon the fact that sometimes US Citizens will marry and adjust status with a foreign national present in the US on a tourist visa. Although this practice is very frowned upon by the Department of Homeland Security, it is possible to adjust status this way provided the foreign national did not enter the country with that undisclosed intention. That being said, in the case of the K1, the beneficiary may only adjust status based upon a marriage to the K1 petitioner.

On a related note, after adjustment of status, the foreign spouse will be considered a conditional lawful permanent resident (CR1) of the USA. The conditionality is based upon the continuation of the underlying marital relationship. Should the parties divorce while the beneficiary is in CR1 status, then the foreign spouse’s permanent residence will expire at the 2 year anniversary of the adjustment of status. However, a foreign spouse could remarry during this time period and apply for an adjustment of status based upon a marriage to another US Citizen. In this scenario, it would be highly likely that the officers at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) would carefully scrutinize the bona fides of both relationships in order to be certain that the relationship is genuine.

No one should attempt to utilize a visa based upon false pretenses, the above scenarios are meant to provide insight into how the Immigration rules apply in practice. Applying for a visa based upon false statements of fact could be construed as an attempt to defraud the US Immigration service.

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7th September 2009

Under Section 214b of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a Consular officer can deny a non-immigrant visa (J1, F1, B1, B2) if they believe that the foreign applicant has not overcome the statutory presumption that they are actually an intending immigrant. In some cases, a consular officer may grant a tourist visa application, but the foreign national will be refused entry upon arrival in the United States of America.

How can a foreign national be granted a visa and still be denied entry to the United States? There is a common misconception that visa application approval creates a “right” to enter the United States of America. In fact, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers have the discretion to turn away alien nationals if they believe that there is a ground of excludability. If a CBP officer reasonably believes that an ostensible non-immigrant actually has immigrant intent, then they have the right to deny entry and it is further within the officer’s discretion to use expedited deportation to remove the prospective entrant.

The following paraphrases the INA:

According to section 212(a)(7)(A)(i) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), any immigrant who, at the time of application for admission:

is not in possession of a valid unexpired immigrant visa, reentry permit, border crossing identification card, or other valid entry document required by the Immigration and Nationality Act, and a valid unexpired passport, or other suitable travel document, or document of identity and nationality if such document is required under the INS regulations, or whose visa has been issued without compliance with the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act is excludable [from the United States].

A waiver is available under INA §212(k) where the Attorney General is satisfied that the exclusion was not known to, and could not have been ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence by, the immigrant before the time of departure of the vessel or aircraft from the last port outside the United States and outside foreign contiguous territory or, in the case of an immigrant coming from foreign contiguous territory, before the time of the immigrant’s application for admission.

The powers of CBP officers described above illustrate the reason for seeking a proper visa rather than attempting to circumvent the Immigration rules. For example, there are some Americans who have a Thai loved one and they wish to bring them to the USA for the purpose of marriage and adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence. Generally a K1 visa (also known as a fiancee visa) would be the proper travel document for this purpose. However, some opt to pursue a US Tourist visa because the K1 visa has a processing time of approximately 6-7 months whereas a tourist visa generally takes a few weeks to acquire if the application is approved. Even if the visa application is approved, denial at the port of entry poses the risk of expedited deportation as well as the underlying monetary loss due to the fruitless visa application as well as travel expenses to get to the port of entry and be turned away. Removal from the United States can later be used to bar admission particularly if an Immigration officer finds that the entrant was intentionally misrepresenting themselves. In a situation such as this, the only way to remedy the inadmissibility could be the use of an I601 waiver.

Entry denial does not automatically lead to expedited deportation, the CBP officer has the discretion to allow the prospective entrant to withdraw their request for entry and leave at their own expense, but improper usage of non-immigrant visas does include the inherent risk of removal and those seeking entry to United States of America should bear this in mind when researching US Immigration issues.

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19th August 2009

Each year the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand processes numerous applications for visas to the United States. In recent years, their caseload has become increasingly large particularly since tourist visa applicants and applicants for other non-immigrant visa categories (student, exchange visitor, etc.) have required interviews at the consular post. With this in mind, the Embassy also must conduct due diligence to ensure that those applying for visas are presenting a bona fide application.

In some cases, applicants attempt to defraud the United States consular officers by presenting a knowingly false application or attempting to acquire immigration benefits based upon a relationship that is not bona fide. Due to increasing demand for access to the United States, there has been an increasing number of instances where fraudulent applications are submitted. In an effort to curtail fraudulent applications, the United States Embassy has a division called the Fraud Prevention Unit.

The Fraud Prevention Unit’s mission is best described using the following excerpt from the website of the United States Embassy in the Dominican Republic:

“Welcome to the Fraud Prevention Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.  Our principal mission is to safeguard U.S. borders by detecting and stopping fraud in applications for U.S. passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas.  We accomplish this critical goal by training Consular Section staff on fraud detection, maintaining close cooperation with U.S. and Dominican law enforcement agencies and deploying our staff of highly trained investigators to conduct interviews and investigations.”

The US Embassy Bangkok also has a Fraud Prevention Unit with a similar, if not identical mandate. The Unit screens applications and applicants for red flags which could denote fraudulent activity. For instance, if an application for a K1 visa does not have a great deal of evidence that shows a bona fide relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary, then the case might be forwarded to the Fraud Prevention Unit for review. Most applications will never be placed under the scrutiny of the Fraud Prevention Unit, and the staff of the United States Embassy in Bangkok is very cooperative with regard to visa applications, but fraud prevention is a legitimate reason to scrutinize applications where the underlying bona fides are questionable.

For couples in a truly bona fide relationship, it is important to produce adequate documentation to show that the relationship is real and the parties are serious about their intentions. Further, lying to the officials at the Embassy or intentionally misrepresenting oneself before the Embassy is a good way of increasing the odds that the Fraud Prevention Unit will be looking over your visa petition and therefore it is not only ethically correct to tell the truth, but a better strategy for achieving one’s immigration goals.

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27th July 2009

US Immigration and Nationality is an interesting and complex area of American jurisprudence. As a statutorily driven field of law, it can be one of the more rules driven areas of Federal regulation. Many Americans born in the United States acquire their citizenship through a combination of jus sanguinis (Latin meaning “right of blood”) and/or jus soli (Latin meaning “right of the soil” or “right of the territory”). For those born outside of the United States, or its possessions, how can United States Citizenship be proven? This is why the United States government has promulgated the US Certificate of Citizenship.

The Certificate of United States Citizenship is a legal document distributed by the government authorities of the United States of America and used in order to provide proof of the bearer’s United States Citizenship. Those who are qualified to submit an application for a United States Certificate of Citizenship include those who acquired United States of America citizenship while living in the United States or those Americans who were born outside of the United States, or any possession or territory of the USA, to United States citizens. Specifically eligible to submit an application for a US Certificate of Citizenship are:

  • those born abroad who have parents with United States citizenship, or
  • those with at least one naturalized parent who naturalized when the citizen was  under 18 years of age and met special criteria of United States Immigration and Nationality law.

It should be noted that the US certificate of citizenship is a substantially different document from the United States naturalization certificate. Naturalization occurs when a foreign national acquires United States Citizenship. The certificate of naturalization is conferred in order to prove acquisition of US Citizenship. The certificate of citizenship is generally granted to those who were born as United States Citizens.  Therefore, the documents, although similar, denote two different types of US Citizenship.  Generally, one must submit an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in order to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. USCIS is an agency under the Department of Homeland Security which is tasked with maintaining Immigration, naturalization, and Citizenship records for those persons in the USA.

United States Citizenship is important from a US Immigration perspective because only a US Citizen can petition for a K1 visa (fiance visa) or a K-3 visa (expedited marriage visa) on behalf of a foreign national. Therefore, proving one’s United States Citizenship could be critical in obtaining a USA Visa for a foreign loved one.

(This content is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute advice regarding the law. No Lawyer-Client Relationship exists between author and reader.)

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17th July 2009

Yesterday I received an inquiry regarding the possibility of obtaining a United States V Visa. It had been a while since I had read anything about that category so I decided to do some quick research and share a few things regarding the US V Visa.

The Immigration Category known as the V visa was created under the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act of 2000. In the provisions of this legislation, spouses and minor children (not married and under the age of twenty-one) of United States Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) could receive a temporary visa in order to join their family member in the United States, while the immigrant visa process is pending.

As a rule, spouses and children of American permanent residents must wait for a comparatively longer period of time to get a visa than the spouse of a United States Citizen or a child (or step-child) of a United States Citizen. That being said, lawful permanent residents cannot avail themselves of the comparative benefits of a fiance visa, also known as a K-1 visa, because that visa category is only available to those betrothed to an American Citizen.

Currently, the V visa is only available to spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents who filed their visa application on or before December 21, 2000, as a result of this provision, fewer and fewer V visas are being issued as the pending applications are adjudicated.

The V visa is somewhat similar to the K-3 visa because they were statutorily designed with the intention of allowing spouses and children to travel to the United States of America while their immigrant visa was processing through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). A major difference between these two visa categories is the fact that the K-3 is still currently obtainable for the spouse of any United States Citizen and has not been effectively “phased out,” by statute. Thai being said, those that enter the United States on a K-3 visa after the approval of a K-3 application still must go through the adjustment of status process or return to Thailand in order to go through consular processing and visa interview at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand because, like the V visa, the K-3 is a two year non-immigrant multiple entry visa and therefore is only issued for a validity of limited duration.

(This post is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Please contact an Immigration lawyer for individualized legal advice. No Attorney-Client relationship is formed by reading this piece.)

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6th July 2009

US Immigration and Thai Immigration have a great deal in common and also many differences. I decided to write a quick blog post exploring the differences between the two systems in order to provide more clarity for those seeking to immigrate to either Thailand or the United States.

With regard to ease of visa obtainment, overall it is generally more difficult to obtain a USA visa than a Thai Visa. That being said, there are certain aspects of US Immigration that are far more generous than Thailand’s system. For example Thai Permanent Residence is very difficult to obtain from a practical standpoint and almost no one enters the country with Permanent Residence, especially if they have never been to Thailand before. In contrast, the United States confers lawful permanent residence upon entry to the USA for those married to a United States Citizen for longer than 2 years at the time of visa application.  For those married less than 2 years at the time of application, conditional permanent residence is immediately granted upon entry and the conditionality must be lifted later.

A Thai Business Visa is somewhat similar to an American Business Visa in that both allow for travel to the USA or Thailand for business purposes. However, neither visa actually confers the right to work in either country. This is where the similarities end because in order to obtain lawful employment in the USA the immigrant would need to get a visa that has work authorization. In Thailand, the immigrant would need to obtain a Thai work permit. Getting work authorization for Thailand is somewhat easier in Thailand than in the United States.

The Thai Tourist Visa and the American Tourist Visa are quite similar. They both are non-immigrant visas designed for recreational purposes. Currently, the Thai Tourist visa is being offered free of charge to those wishing to visit the Kingdom of Thailand. This is not the case for the American tourist visa as a non-immigrant application fee and pin number fee are required for those applying for a tourist visa.

One of the most significant differences between United States Immigration and Immigration to Thailand is the fact that Thailand does not have any provisions in its Immigration law for a Fiance visa. The Fiancee Visa in the United States is commonly know by its visa category classification: K-1 visa. No matter what it is known as, it is designed to allow a Fiancee of an American Citizen entry into the United States for the purpose of marriage and permanent residence in the USA. Thailand has nothing remotely resembling this type of visa. Further, it does not appear that Thailand will be creating anything like the K1 Visa anytime soon.

Overall, Thai Immigration is dissimilar to American Immigration because US Immigration is far more substantially funded and has more agents operating under the aegis of USCIS and the US State Department.

(Nothing contained in this blog post should be used as legal advce. No Attorney/client relationship shall be created between author and reader.)

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28th June 2009

US Immigration from Thailand can be a complex and multifaceted process. Compiling Immigration forms and  documentation can be an arduous task for an American Citizen who understands the English language fluently. This difficulty is compounded when one takes into account the fact that a language barrier and 12 hour time difference can slow the visa obtainment process immeasurably. In some cases, the Thai fiancee must deal with Thai government offices, which can be frustrating and confusing depending upon the office in question.

In a previous post we discussed how retaining a US Immigration Lawyer can be highly advantageous for those seeking to obtain a US visa from Thailand. An American attorney on the ground in Bangkok can expedite the visa process by assisting a Thai fiancee with the US Immigration forms and 221 g follow up documentation at the US Embassy Thailand. Many American Citizens enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing a US visa lawyer is assisting their Thai loved one in real time.

That being said, there are certain aspects of the US visa process where a Thai attorney can be a boon to both the American client and the Thai fiancee. The first instance in which a legally trained Thai who is fluent in English can be useful is document translation. Thai legal documents that are pertinent to Visa obtainment should be translated by one with both a fluency in English and a familiarity with Thai law.  Further, some documents that are quite common in Thailand, have no analogous counterpart in the American common law system. A lack of familiarity with Thai legal documentation can create confusion and delay for visa cases submitted and processed by American citizens who opt not to retain representation. Therefore, a Thai attorney’s expertise with Thai legal documents can be essential to an expeditious visa processing time frame. Requests for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS and 221 g denials are far less common where the petitioner and beneficiary have opted to retain a firm that employs Thai and American attorneys.

A Thai Attorney can be of real assistance when it comes to dealing with government offices because they are familiar with bureaucratic protocol and can speak to the Thai officers in their own language.

A Thai attorney can assist an American attorney with preparing the applicant for the visa interview in Bangkok.  This preparation helps the fiancee or spouse feel more comfortable about the impending interview and also will make the interview proceed more quickly because the Thai is given a “heads up.”

A Thai attorney can be of great assistance in US Immigration matters, but they will not be able to accompany a Thai fiancee to the Visa interview at the US Embassy in Bangkok. No one is allowed to accompany a Thai visa applicant to the visa interview (this includes the US Citizen spouse or fiancee). With the large caseload processing through the American Embassy in Bangkok, the waiting room cannot accommodate all of the relatives of those seeking US Visas.

(Please note: the content contained herein is intended for informational purposes only. No attorney/client relationship is created by reading this post.)

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18th June 2009

Hiring an Immigration attorney is a decision that each couple makes based upon their unique set of circumstances and that decision should be made after careful review and research. That being said, when the decision is made that a US visa lawyer is necessary,  sometimes couples are unwittingly duped into hiring a non-licensed “immigration consultant” or “visa agent.” In even worse situations, the couple believes that they are actually retaining the services of a licensed lawyer when in fact they are dealing with someone who has never completed formal legal training or been licensed to practice law.

Form G-28 is a required form that must be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) when the initial visa application is sent to the USCIS Service Center. Basically, the G-28 puts the United States government officers working at USCIS on notice that an attorney will be representing the petitioner, beneficiary, or (more common in family base cases) both parties. Further, the US Embassy in Bangkok will currently allow attorney’s to present 221g follow up documentation provided a G-28 form has been signed by the Beneficiary and the attorney can produce credentials showing that they are in fact licensed to practice law in at least one United States jurisdiction.

One of the convenient aspects of hiring an attorney from the point of view of the United States Citizen petitioner and the Thai fiancee Beneficiary is the fact that once the attorney enters his or her appearance, then most, if not all correspondence, will be sent to the attorney’s office.

Also, the G-28 acts as a litmus test to determine if the person or organization one is dealing with is an actual attorney or law firm. USCIS has made regulations which stipulate that only attorneys and non-profit organizations are allowed to represent clients in United States Immigration matters. With regard to non-profit organization, these types of institutions are defined as those like the Red Cross or other non-governmental refugee organizations. In circumstances where a “representative” is used who is not a licensed attorney, USCIS has stated that the representative must take little or nothing with regard toa fee. This provision seems truly to have been designed with organizations assisting indigent refugees in mind.

On the G-28 form, the attorney, petitioner, and beneficiary will need to affix their signatures. The attorney will also place his or her state of licensure on the form. In the case of the K-1 visa application, the attorney will also place his or her G-28 number on the form I-129f.

For further information please see:

K1 Visa

K3 Visa

(Please be on Notice: this piece is not intended to be regarded as a substitute for legal advice. Please seek legal advice from a licensed attorney. This post creates no lawyer-client relationship between the parties writing or reading it.)

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3rd June 2009

The Thai legal system is based upon a system known as civil law. Unlike common law countries, civil law countries generally do not recognize marriages that are not duly registered. In a common law jurisdiction that upholds the concept of “common law marriage,” a couple that holds themselves out to the public as married can be deemed to be married by operation of law. This is not the case in Thailand where even having a wedding ceremony, referring to one another as man and wife, and sharing tax liability will generally not be enough for any court to recognize the existence of a marriage.

This marriage recognition system can have an impact with regard to US Immigration because one’s marital status in the eyes of USCIS can determine what type of visa a couple can apply for. There are some situations in which USCIS will recognize a customary marriage when the couple has no ability to register a marriage in the appropriate jurisdiction, this issue can arise in refugee marriages. However, this is the exception and not the rule. In most cases, USCIS will make determinations based upon actual marital registration status.

Therefore, if a couple has conducted a customary wedding ceremony (religious or otherwise) and has yet to register the marriage at the Amphur office, then it is likely that USCIS will view the couple’s status as unmarried. However, it may be wise to retain attorney assistance in cases where marital registration is an issue, because failure to properly explain the couple’s marital situation could lead to a visa denial by USCIS based upon the decision that the couple does not meet the statutory requirements for the visa category.

From a strategic point of view, marriage registration can be beneficial or disadvantageous depending upon where the US petitioner resides because residence will determine which USCIS office has jurisdiction. In some cases being married will qualify the couple for an Immigrant Spouse visa that would have a comparatively quick processing time because the US Citizen petitioner qualifies for overseas filing. In other cases, being unmarried may be an advantage because a K1 visa can be obtained. Regardless, decisions pertaining to marriage should not be made solely or the purpose of acquiring US Immigration benefits. It is always wise for couples to make informed and thoughtful decisions after careful research and investigation.

Issues regarding a couple’s relationship status will likely become even more complex should Congress decide to pass the Uniting of American Families Act which would entitle Permanent Partners of US Citizens to Immigration benefits.

(Please take notice: this blog post should be used for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of competent legal advice from a licensed attorney. An Attorney-Client Relationship is NOT created between the author and reader of this piece.)

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