Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Immigration’

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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21st April 2020

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that President Trump has announced he will be suspending immigration into the USA. To quote directly from a recent artcile in Bloomberg.com:

President Donald Trump said he’ll sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States as the country tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Trump made the announcement by tweet late Monday night, and did not offer specifics, such as the time frame or the scope of who would be affected. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearly, the ramifications of this announcement are significant. However, as noted above, the specifics of this suspension have yet to be fully explained. That stated, as this executive order is designed to be temporary there may not be long term ramifications. Concurrently, it seems probable that while immigration is suspended it is still possible to file immigration petitions so as to have one’s case in the queue when the visa interview facilities are brought back online at US Embassies and Consulates abroad and, provided the proposed executive order is lifted, immigration to the USA can continue.

Meanwhile, on a somewhat brighter note, it appears that Thai Immigration will be extending the automatic Thai visa extension program, also referred to as the Thai visa amnesty or Thai visa waiver program, for those who have been stranded in Thailand, to quote directly from a recent article from Reuters:

Thailand’s cabinet approved a second automatic visa extension for foreigners for three more months on Tuesday, in a bid to prevent long queues at immigration centres and stem the spread of the coronavirus. Foreigners whose visas had expired since March 26 will be permitted to stay until July 30 without having to apply for an extension, said Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokeswoman for the Thai government…

Although this is certainly good news it remains to be seen if this announcement will pertain to those who are present in Thailand in a non-immigrant visa, such as a Thai Business Visa, Thai Retirement Visa, or Thai O visa. Further, those who saw their visa status expire prior to March 26, 2020 may have issues maintaining visa status if they used  an Embassy letter to maintain lawful status prior to the enactment of the amnesty. It should also be noted, that the previous announcement regarding visa extension took some time to see implementation after cabinet approval as the regulatory scheme had to be drawn up. Therefore, it remains to be seen exactly what the practical implications of both of these announcements will be.

We will keep readers posted via this blog.

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6th January 2019

As the year 2019 opens, it appears as though the process of obtaining and maintaining a Thai or American visa will be more difficult compared to years past. Although certain aspects of each process may involve increased laxity, flexibility, or efficiency the overall theme from immigration authorities in the United States and Thailand would seem to be one of heightened scrutiny and increasingly stringent enforcement measures.

American Immigration Issues

Some facets of the US visa process look to be improving. For example, the Department of State through the National Visa Center and various Embassies and Consulates abroad are becoming more efficient by shifting away from paper documentation over to a new digitized interface allowing faster processing of supporting documentation for immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications. This blogger can say from personal experience that the new system still has some issues to be worked out, but the overall system would suggest that faster processing times at NVC are likely to be a mainstay in the future.

That stated, the overall process of obtaining a US visa would appear to be getting more difficult especially in light of the current administration’s addition of a National Vetting Center tasked with adding scrutiny to the overall adjudication of visa petitions. Meanwhile, policy changes regarding adjudication of visa applications are likely to have substantial impact upon the amount of denials which are issued by USCIS in coming years. A memorandum which came into effect in September of 2018 allows officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to deny visa petitions much more easily compared to times past when a Request For Evidence generally had to be issued before a denial. These developments coupled with creation of bodies such as the DeNaturalization task force and the prospect of a prolonged government shutdown would suggest that matters pertaining to American immigration are likely to prove more difficult moving forward.

Thai Immigration Issues

Meanwhile, as the United States’ Immigration apparatus becomes more cumbersome, Immigration authorities in Thailand do not seem to be backing down from their position regarding immigration and immigration enforcement in the Kingdom. In the lead up to 2019, the overarching policy of “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” (a policy of encouraging lawful visitors and immigrants to the Kingdom while attempting to discourage travelers with more nefarious motives) manifested itself in terms of enforcement with “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner“. By the end of 2018 Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn had announced that tens of thousand of illegal aliens had been arrested, deported, and blacklisted from returning to Thailand. In December of 2018 further statements would suggest that although a great number of visa violators have been precluded from remaining in Thailand, the Immigration office’s vigilance will not decrease. Concurrently, the process of obtaining extensions of Thai retirement visas and Thai marriage visas are likely to become more difficult for some people as it will no longer be possible to obtain an income affidavit for such extensions. This comes at the same time as immigration authorities make comments that would indicate prospective increased scrutiny on those using visa services to obtain retirement and marriage visa extensions by dint of funds on account in a Thai bank.

All of the above developments would indicate that immigration matters in both countries will continue to be complex if not downright difficult in the coming year and beyond.

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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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10th November 2017

The following is a transcript of the video found here: K-1 Fiance Visas From Cambodia:

In this video we are going to be discussing the K-1 Fiancee Visa specifically in the context of Consular processing in the Kingdom of Cambodia; specifically the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

For those of you who have checked out this channel and seen some of the other videos, you probably know that we are based in Bangkok, Thailand, we do deal primarily with immigration matters arising with Thai-American nationality generally, we deal with a lot of US family immigration matters, fiancée visas, marriage visas etc.

Just because we’re located here, does not mean necessarily that this is our exclusive bailiwick with respect to US immigration.  It is sort of interesting in so far as immigration attorneys who practice in the United States tend to have a plethora of rather wide range of nationality of clientele that they deal with, whereas, it is sort of somewhat inverted by us being based in Bangkok we primarily deal with Thai nationals. But that being said, I have dealt with cases involving the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, quite a number of cases involving that particular post, mostly because of its nearby proximity to Thailand here.  But that being said, for those who are interested in sort of an overview of the process it’s best to sort of look at it in 2 phases: One involves the Department of Homeland Security.  The Immigration apparatus, USCIS under the auspices of DHS, Department of Homeland Security, is going to go ahead and adjudicate what is called an I-129 F petition. That petition is basically the starting point of the process if you will. You have got to file a petition and you have got to get approval from the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, before being able to proceed further with the K-1 visa. After the initial adjudication of the petition, and let’s go into some details of some requirements associated with the petition, most notably the couple in question must both be legally free to  marry at the time that the application is filed. Moreover, both parties need to have met physically, in person within a 2-year period of their initial filing of the petition for a K-1 visa status. The big things to keep in mind is that “You have got to be legally free to marry”, you can’t be getting a divorce, you have to already be divorced if you have a prior spouse; you have got to be legally free to marry and the other thing to keep in mind is this can sort of happen in certain common law jurisdictions or sometimes even in civil law jurisdictions. You can’t get married legally while the K-1 is processing, even if it’s to each other, you have to wait and remain fiancées until the foreign fiancée in this case Khmer, presumably coming out of Phnom Penh, comes to the United States and then you have 90 days to get married and file to adjust status. Adjustment of status is a different process. It comes subsequent to marriage, in the United States. There’s another video on this channel which specifically discusses the details of adjustment of status. Suffice it to say that basically that’s the process by which the foreign fiancée, and later spouse, becomes a lawful permanent resident, aka a green card holder in the United States.  So that’s sort of the back end of the process. Going back, petition, have to have met within 2 years of filing, need to be legally free to marry, there’s other details associated with this, I am not going to get too deep into that side of things, but presuming USCIS DHS approval, the matter is going to move quickly over to the National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearing house or routing hub to send it to the appropriate Embassy or  Consulate abroad, in the case of Cambodia Nationals, presumably that’s going to be Phnom Penh , Cambodia and at that point, you need to deal with the specific Consular processing mandates of the visa section of the Embassy over there.

It is interesting to bring up with respect to K-1 visas, they are what is considered a dual intent visa. So technically speaking, they’re non-immigrant category but for purposes of consular processing, and sort of the application process, they are treated for all intents and purposes as Immigrant visas, just like a spouse visa, CR -1 IR -1 or “shades of grey” here but the K-3 visa. So basically to sum up, with respect to this video, the process for getting a fiancée of Cambodian nationality into the United States, begins in the United States, progresses through multiple agencies over there before getting to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh and then there’s various documentation associated with the overall process and various documents which need to be translated from Khmer to English etc. Our services, we can provide those translations, part and parcel with what we deal with on a regular basis. I oftentimes have to go over to Phnom Penh to deal with clients as well and that can sometimes come up. But just generally speaking, as sort of from an overview of how the process works and what we can do to assist if necessary is basically, it starts in the US, comes over to the Embassy and finally, I think it is pretty safe to say probably 8 months, 9 months on average, all in, the processing time for getting a K-1. It can move faster, it can move slower. The thing to keep in mind with respect to all US visa applications is they’re like snowflakes, every one of them is unique, every one of them is slightly different and you are going to see one case may move inordinately quickly, we actually had one process through quite quickly as far as sort of compared to averages and I think it sort of just hit the right desk at the right minute and just sort of went through whereas some cases they just move more slowly.  It’s going to differ, case to case, circumstance to circumstance but that being said, with respect specifically to Cambodia K-1 Visas again are going to start processing in the United States, they’re going to end up in Cambodia and then once the Cambodian national comes to the United States and marries their American citizen fiancée, they can go ahead and petition to adjust status and receive a green card in the US.

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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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11th March 2017

It recently came to the attention of the administration of this web log that the subject of the Value Added Tax (VAT) has been a hot news item in Thailand in recent days as the current Prime Minister was noted speculating about the advantages to be gained by the Thai government if the VAT were to be raised one percentage point from the current level of 7% to 8%. To quote directly from The Nation’s website:

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has floated the idea of raising the value-added tax (VAT) rate by one percentage point from the current 7 per cent to 8 per cent to raise an additional Bt100 billion in annual tax revenues to finance various public projects.

Meanwhile, it became unclear from further reports whether the Prime Minister was simply expounding upon the advantages to be gained by an increase in VAT or if a change of policy was being discussed. To quote from the official website of the Bangkok Post:

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the government plans to keep VAT unchanged at 7% for another year when the previous extension of the last period for keeping VAT at 7% ends on Sept 30. VAT would not increase during the term of this government, he added.

Setting aside the issue of what the Prime Minister’s intentions were with respect to his comments regarding VAT increase (and it would appear from this writer’s perspective that he was indeed simply commenting upon the benefits to be garnered by the government should VAT be increased to 8%) it appears that at least for the foreseeable future the VAT in Thailand will not be increased.

For those who have had experience doing business in Thailand VAT is known as a fact of business-life. In fact, those foreign nationals wishing to setup a Company in Thailand are well advised to note that in order to get a Thai work permit associated with such companies the relevant corporate entity oftentimes must be registered for VAT. Therefore, unlike Thai businesses which may or may not require VAT registration, foreign companies in Thailand will often be VAT registered and therefore an increase in VAT will have a substantial impact upon such enterprises.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of recent changes to American policy with respect to US Immigration it appears that a number of new Immigration Judges have been impaneled to deal with the staggering backlog of United States Immigration cases in the Immigration Courts. To quote directly from Reuters News Service:

The Department of Justice is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention facilities across the United States, according to two sources and a letter seen by Reuters and sent to judges on Thursday. The department is also considering asking judges to sit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., split between two rotating shifts, to adjudicate more cases, the sources said. A notice about shift times was not included in the letter.

Clearly, the new Administration in the USA is stringently enforcing immigration laws as evidenced by the recent stories of increased deportations, travel bans, and heightened scrutiny of immigrants (both Green Card holders and other immigrants) at ports of entry in the USA. It seems rather reasonable to infer that US Immigration matters are likely to be more difficult and time consuming to process in coming weeks and months.

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29th January 2017

For those who have been following the news in recent days it is not new information that President Donald Trump has signed new executive orders with respect to US immigration and travelers from various countries. Effectively, these orders ban certain foreign nationals from obtaining a visa to the USA or entering the USA for at least 90-120 days. Although at present it appears that these orders will only directly impact nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen there are certain aspects of the order which may impact the US immigration process in a broad sense. For example so-called “extreme vetting” protocols which these orders call for may conceivably be implemented by State Department personnel worldwide in connection with the US visa process. Furthermore, it now appears that those who already hold green cards, but are outside of the USA may be turned away by United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) or be required to undergo further screening which was not required for reentry to the USA in the past.

Many following this story may be asking themselves: by what authority is the President able to impose these recent restrictions? Pursuant to 8 U.S. Code § 1182:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

It should further be noted that the same statute goes on to mention that the Attorney General has specific powers with regard to the aforementioned issue:

Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

Clearly, the President has statutory authority to impose restrictions like those recently created by Trump. The section regarding the power of the Attorney General in this regard is mentioned because in many cases individuals affected by these new rules will be denied the ability to board an airline bound for the USA as airlines and airline personnel do not wish to be the subject of fines and sanctions associated with transporting someone to the USA who has a strong chance of being refused entry.

As of the time of this writing, it remains to be fully seen exactly how these recent executive orders will play out. This is especially true in light of the fact that certain legal actions have resulted in court orders against implementation of these initiatives. Notwithstanding these developments it is very likely that many of the recently enacted restrictions will remain, at least for practical purposes, in place in the foreseeable future.

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3rd January 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the officials of the Royal Thai Immigration Police have made policy changes regarding passport holders of certain countries. It appears that passport holders from 37 different countries will now be able to obtain a 30 day visa exemption stamp by crossing a land border into Thailand. The recently announced list includes the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey

It should be noted that most holders of passports on the above list were already eligible to receive 30 day exemption stamps when arriving at one of Thailand’s many international airports. However, 30 day exemption stamps were apparently not available when arriving at land borders. While this liberalization is likely welcome news to prospective tourists who wish to travel to countries surrounding Thailand it should be be analyzed in conjunction with recent announcements regarding so-called border runs.

As previously noted on this blog and other sites, Thai border runs are effectively a thing of the past as recent laws have been enacted which bar individuals from making border runs more than 2 times per calendar year. Although this new rule is unlikely to impact genuine tourists in Thailand, those who have used ostensibly temporary visas and visa exemption stamps to live in Thailand are likely to find maintaining their status in this way to be very difficult in the future. This news comes at the same time as a number of foreign owned or managed businesses in Thailand are reporting significant increases in immigration inspections as well as well known hostels are being raided by those seeking not only criminals, but over-stayers in particular. How this will all play out in 2017 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: staying long term in Thailand is becoming increasingly difficult, expensive, and time consuming.

Meanwhile, as Thai Immigration cracks down, it appears that the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made new regulations regarding the forms which must be submitted in connection with petitions for various immigration benefits. Forms such as the I-130 (associated with spousal immigration petitions for visas such as the CR-1 or the IR-1) have been upgraded and apparently the USCIS will no longer accept forms of an older pedigree. The same is apparently true with respect to the I-129f (the form associated with the K-1 visa used to bring fiancees of American Citizens to the USA) as that form has been updated.

Concurrently, it appears that there has been an across-the-board increase in the fees associated with the filing of certain immigration petitions. It is advised that those interested in this matter either speak with a qualified professional or conduct their own research to ascertain the current costs and fees associated with a visa to the USA.

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