Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Lawyer Thailand’

30th April 2010

Repeatedly, this author uses this blog as a platform to try to educate the public regarding the US visa process and the problems that can arise during that process. In many cases, people are simply unaware of the rules regarding US visa issuance and this blog attempts to provide relevant information that readers may find beneficial. That being said, another frequently discussed topic is the unauthorized practice of law by “visa companies” and “visa agents” or those claiming to be American attorneys. This is not simply a tirade against such practices, but is intended to provide information regarding the detrimental impact that these individuals can have upon the interests of their “clients”.

Under section 292.1 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations a licensed attorney is entitled to represent clients before the United States Department of Homeland Security, specifically the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) which is tasked with adjudicating US visa petitions. Many are unaware of the fact that those who assist individuals in preparing visa petitions are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law if they are not: licensed to practice law in at least one US jurisdiction while being eligible to practice law in all US jurisdictions or certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Licensure is no small matter, especially for those individuals who are “represented” by those claiming to be attorneys who are not, in fact, licensed. For example, if an American talks to an unlicensed individual about sensitive matters, then such communications would not be confidential and also would not be protected under the attorney/client privilege. If one is communicating in confidence to a licensed attorney, then such communication is “out of bounds” for US Courts. However, the same communications with one who is unlicensed could be used as evidence in a US court proceeding. Therefore, licensure is extremely important particularly in US Immigration matters involving a legal ground of inadmissibility or an I-601 waiver as certain information could be very detrimental to clients’ interests and if imparted to a licensed American attorney would be confidential, but if imparted to an unlicensed “fly by night” operator such information could be used against the client at a later date.

For all of these reasons, when an American is outside of the USA it is always prudent to check the credentials of anyone claiming to be an attorney from the United States. An individual can provide adequate credentials if they can show their license to practice law before at least on State Supreme Court in the US, or a Federal license to practice law in the USA, or a license to practice law in one of the US territorial jurisdictions (Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, etc). Anyone who refuses to provide any such credentials and yet still asserts that they are an American attorney should be avoided until proof of credentials can be provided.

For further information about US Immigration from Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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29th April 2010

In a recent case that was heard and adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court, the issue of Immigrants’ right to counsel was taken up and the outcome of the case resulted in a landmark opinion and a watershed moment for the rights of Immigrants in the United States of America. The case is known as Padilla v. Kentucky, the following quote comes from an email from the Law Corporation of Alice M. Yardum-Hunter:

The case involved a 40-year permanent resident, Jose Padilla, whose criminal defense lawyer advised him not to worry about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a crime. That advice was not only wrong but the guilty plea subjected Mr. Padilla to mandatory deportation from the United States. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that Mr. Padilla had no right to withdraw his plea when he learned of the deportation consequence. The Supreme Court reversed that decision and rejected the federal government’s position – also adopted by several other courts – that a noncitizen is protected only from “affirmative misadvice” and not from a lawyer’s failure to provide any advice about the immigration consequences of a plea. The Court held that Mr. Padilla’s counsel was constitutionally deficient and affirmed that immigrants should not be held accountable when they rely on incorrect advice from their lawyers or where counsel fails to provide any immigration advice at all.

The implications of this case are important for attorneys practicing in the United States as they will now be required to provide advice about the legal consequences of certain activities from an Immigration perspective.

This is also important for those American Immigration Lawyers practicing outside of the United States. For example, if an individual with lawful permanent residence in the United States is abroad and learns of a pending criminal warrant or fugitive warrant, then that individual may choose to retain the advice of a US lawyer outside of the United States. In that case, the lawyer would be required, under the provisions of this recently adjudicated decision, to provide advice regarding the immigration consequences of a guilty plea in a pending criminal matter.

This example illustrates one more reason why it is so important to retain the advice of an individual who is licensed to practice law in the USA. This is particularly important in a country such as Thailand where the existence of “visa companies,” “visa agents,” and unlicensed and non-accredited so-called “lawyers” and “attorneys” operate with little oversight. Many are unaware of the implications of a criminal pleading in an immigration context and this ignorance can lead to unforeseen difficulties for US Immigrants overseas.

For information about United States Immigration from Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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20th April 2010

In previous posts this author has discussed the I-130 petition for an immediate relative for a visa to the United States of America. For those present in countries that do not have an office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it may be possible to file such a petition directly with the Consulate by utilizing a method known as Direct Consular Filing. However, in a country where an overseas office of USCIS is located it is incumbent upon to petitioner to file at the local USCIS office, provided he or she meets the residence requirements for the office to take jurisdiction. That being said, many are under the mistaken impression that only the petitioner and beneficiary, together, can submit an application. This is not necessarily the case.

8 CFR 292.1 states:

(a) A person entitled to representation [before USCIS] may be represented by any of the following:

(1) Attorneys in the United States. Any attorney as defined in §1.1(f) of this chapter.

Section 1.1(f), referenced above states:

“The term attorney means any person who is a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any State, possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia, and is not under any order of any court suspending, enjoining, restraining, disbarring, or otherwise restricting him in the practice of law.”

In practical terms, this means that a licensed attorney in the United States is entitled to represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. There is no geographical restriction placed upon this right. Therefore, those wishing to file an I-130 to travel to the United States are entitled, as a matter of law, to attorney representation.

This can provide a real boon to those who do not wish to deal with the petition submission process. Since an attorney in entitled to act on behalf of clients in matters involving petitions for the IR1 visa and the CR1 visa in Thailand, the Petitioner and Beneficiary need simply provide required documents to their attorney and the attorney can file the petition on their behalf. In some limited cases, USCIS officers require that a Petitioner or Beneficiary appear in person regarding a pending case. Should this situation arise, the Petitioner or Beneficiary is entitled to have their attorney present for such a meeting with USCIS officers.

Unfortunately, in Thailand there are many agencies and “fly by night” operations claiming to have the right and expertise to assist in visa matters. However, many of these so-called “lawyers” are not licensed to practice law in the United States, nor in any other jurisdiction. Therefore, they cannot present an I-130 submission on behalf of another. In a way, an I-130 local filing is a “litmus test” of whether or not an individual is really an American attorney. If a so-called “attorney” requires the Petitioner and/or Beneficiary to file the I-130 personally and the so-called “attorney” is unwilling to appear personally, then this may be a sign that they are an unlicensed operator and should be avoided.

For further information please see US Visa Thailand. For further information regarding USCIS local jurisdiction please see: USCIS Bangkok.

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13th March 2010

On many occasions, this author has discussed the issue of the unauthorized practice of law in the context of US Immigration. This problem has been significant in certain areas of the United States as well as abroad. Certain Immigrant groups are more susceptible to fraud than others as it can be difficult for some to decipher who is eligible to represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and other agencies under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security.

Recently, USCIS had a collaboration session to discuss the issue of unauthorized individuals practicing law. The following is a quote from a release promulgated by USCIS’s Office of Public Engagement:

“Scope of the Problem:

  • The unauthorized practice of law encompasses various activities, including:


  • Applying for benefits on behalf of an immigrant who is ineligible for those benefits


  • Misrepresentation of facts in documents submitted to USCIS


  • Accepting an applicant’s money without ever submitting any documents to USCIS (this is the hardest to track because USCIS has no record of the unauthorized practitioner or documents submitted on behalf of the applicant)


  • Other examples include unauthorized practitioners who claim to be able to obtain labor certifications for employers
  • Primarily a “local issue of national scale”


  • Many unauthorized practitioners promise to expedite cases, and then take an applicant’s money and disappear – applicants are willing to pay more to an unauthorized practitioner than they would to a private attorney because they may believe that notary publics can provide premium services (stems from a difference between the role of notary publics in the U.S. and other countries)


  • Some attorneys lend their names and bar numbers to UPL practices – these attorneys can be disciplined for failure to supervise, but there is nothing that can be done to the unauthorized practitioners


  • Unauthorized practitioners sell forms through their websites and conduct phone consultations


  • There are companies overseas that claim to provide assistance with the “green card lottery”


  • In recent years, there has been an increase in internet-based scams


  • Unauthorized practitioners include ex-government officials, including previous employees of INS, USCIS, DHS, and DOS


  • Unauthorized practitioners often threaten to report applicants to USCIS or ICE when they complain about fees or lack of service


  • Most serious threat is mom and pop shops that advertise with flyers and in local papers or through referrals and hand out business cards advertising themselves as notary publics or attorneys


  • Applicants have an incentive to protect unauthorized practitioners because once an unauthorized practitioner is caught, all cases are reopened


  • Some therapists working with U visa applicants assist clients with preparing/filing forms”

Unfortunately one of the worst consequences of hiring an unauthorized representative is that the applicant’s case may be reopened and scrutinized if it is found that they were assisted by someone without authorization to practice US Immigration law. US immigration lawyers routinely “clean up the mess” caused by those without the knowledge base or ethical standards required to represent clients in American Immigration proceedings.  For this reason, it is always prudent to ascertain at the outset if an individual is really entitled to practice law. This can be learned by asking to see a copy of the individual’s US license to practice law in the Supreme Court of one of the 50 states or a territory of the United States. A Bar Association Membership Card can also shed light on an individual’s credentials. In the case of non-profit entities, a copy of a document confirming the organization or individual’s accreditation by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) may also be used to prove an ability to represent people before the Department of Homeland Security.

For those seeking advice about US Immigration from Thailand please see: US Lawyer Thailand or US Visa Thailand.

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8th March 2010

Recently the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that the rules regarding attorney representation would be amended in order to fall in line with the relevant Department of Justice regulations. To quote a the summary in the Federal Register which is displayed on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website:

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its regulations governing representation and appearances by, and professional conduct of, practitioners in immigration practice before its components to: Conform the grounds of discipline and procedures regulations with those promulgated by the Department of Justice (DOJ); clarify who is authorized to represent applicants and petitioners in cases before DHS; remove duplicative rules, procedures, and authority; improve the clarity and uniformity of the existing regulations; make technical and procedural changes; and conform terminology. This rule enhances the integrity of the immigration adjudication process by updating and clarifying the regulation of professional conduct of immigration practitioners who practice before DHS.”

As has been discussed on this blog before, the issue of attorney representation is of great importance due to the fact that there are many disreputable organizations calling themselves such things as “visa company,” “visa agency,” or, “visa consultant” and other unscrupulous operators who go so far as to claim attorney credentials when they are, in fact, unlicensed to practice law in the United States and therefore unable to practice US Immigration law. To quote the Federal Register again:

“Definition of attorney. This rule amends the definition of “attorney” at 8 CFR 1.1(f), to conform with DOJ’s definition at 8 CFR 1001.1(f), by adding the requirement that an attorney must be eligible to practice law in the bar of any State, possession, territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or of the District of Columbia, in addition to the other requirements for attorneys set forth in that regulation. State bar rules uniformly require licensed attorneys to maintain an active status in order to practice law; however, there has been some confusion as to the applicability of that requirement in determining eligibility to appear as a representative before DHS.”

It is interesting that this addition was made as it imposes an more stringent burden upon practitioners as anyone practicing before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or its agencies, like the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP), and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) must be eligible to practice in virtually every American jurisdiction. It should be noted that eligibility is the only new requirement added as DHS does not require that practitioners be licensed to practice in all US jurisdictions.

It should also be pointed out that attorneys are not the only individuals who can represent clients before DHS. In fact, if an individual is accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, then they may represent individuals in certain DHS proceedings. However, such agents are usually non-profit organizations as non-attorney representatives are NOT entitled to charge anything except nominal fees.

For related information please see US Lawyer Thailand or US Visa Thailand.


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