Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Tourist Visa Thailand’

10th June 2010

A frequently discussed topic on this blog is the US Tourist Visa. The US Embassy Bangkok processes a significant number of US Tourist Visa applications each year. In the past, most non-immigrant visa applications required the submission of form DS-156. Recently, the US State Department announced that the DS-156 should no longer be used  by those seeking a US B2 Tourist Visa:

The new DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, is a fully integrated online application form that is used to collect the necessary application information from a person seeking a nonimmigrant visa. The DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State via the Internet. Consular Officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.

Apparently, the DS-160 has been introduced in an effort to streamline the visa process for those seeking non-immigrant visas outside of the United States of America. To quote the above announcement further:

All U.S. Embassies and Consulates that process nonimmigrant visas now use the new online DS-160. Therefore, visa applicants will need to apply using the online DS-160 for most, but not all, nonimmigrant visa categories. Review the [State Department] FAQs for exceptions and to find out which nonimmigrant categories continue to use the DS-156 at this time.

There are many who worry that these recent changes will impact other types of applications. This worry seems to be most prevalently felt by those seeking K1 visa benefits or K3 Visa benefits for a foreign fiancee or spouse. That said, consultation with an American legal professional may be necessary in order to determine which forms should be used when filing for certain visa categories. As always, it should be noted that only a licensed American attorney is entitled to assist in American Immigration matters. That said, many find that applying for a US Tourist Visa does not require the assistance of an American lawyer as such assistance would likely add little value to such an application. However, many applicants for US family immigration benefits find that attorney assistance is beneficial.

It should be noted that many applicants find their application for a visa denied pursuant to the Consular Officer’s application of Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Such a finding basically means that the applicant was unable to show requisite “strong ties” to their home country and “weak ties” to the United States. Those seeking a visa to the USA should be advised that if immigration is the ultimate goal, then a tourist visa is not the proper travel document. Even if a visa application is approved by a US Consulate overseas, the foreign national could still be placed in expedited removal proceeding upon arrival at the port of entry in the USA if the Customs and Border Protection officers have reason to believe that the applicant is an undisclosed intending immigrant attempting to enter the USA.

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30th March 2010

It is common knowledge that many people seek United States travel documents from the US Embassy Thailand. However, are those who have complex questions regarding United States Tourist visas and in many cases, these questions can only be answered by either an attorney or a Foreign Service Officer. Thanks to the internet, there are more and more opportunities for those with sought out knowledge to communicate with those who need specific questions answered. The website Thaivisa.com is reporting that the US Embassy in Bangkok has initiated a live chat program to allow the public to interact directly with Embassy personnel online:

“U.S. Embassy Bangkok Non-Immigrant Visa Webchat

Interested in visiting the U.S. as a tourist? Looking to study in the U.S.? If you have questions about non-immigrant visas to the U.S. here is your chance to ask! The U.S. Embassy Bangkok Consular Section will be online to answer questions about non-immigrant visa services for Thai citizens and residents of Thailand. Join us for this special webchat!

Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Time: 6:00-7:00pm (Bangkok time)

To participate:

1. Go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/bangkok
2. Enter as a Guest (Type your name)
3. Submit your questions (We accept questions and comments in advance of, and at any time during the program)

We look forward to chatting with you then!

Please Note: At this time questions can be submitted in English only.”

Although this chat session has already occurred one should note that this is a terrific resource for those interested in a tourist visa as it allows for an applicant to have their inquiries answered in real time by one who is knowledgeable about US visa matters. It is interesting to note that the Thaivisa.com posting only makes reference to the the US Tourist Visa and not other visa categories. This is probably due to the fact that employment based visas such as the E2 visa or the L1 visa are granted after an assessment of the unique set of facts and issues in a given case so it would be difficult to discuss such visas through the internet. That being said, tourist visa adjudications are based upon the facts in the case, but judging an applicant’s likelihood of obtaining a US visa is often easier, compared to employment based cases, due to section 214(b) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act. Family based visa applications for visas such as the K1 visa, the K3 Visa, the IR1 visa and the CR1 Visa are also adjudicated based upon the facts of the case and in many cases the likelihood of ultimate approval is not easy to determine unless one delves deeply into the details of the case. This could explain why these types of applications do not appear to be the intended topic of discussion in the aforementioned live chat session.

Hopefully, this will become a regular addition to the already quality service provided by the US Embassy in Bangkok.

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17th March 2010

Many people contact this author in order to ask questions about the United States Immigration process. Sometimes, a question becomes so common that I feel the need to post an article about the subject on this blog. The question that has been recently posed with great frequency is: Can I get my Thai girlfriend to the United States on a US tourist visa? Strictly speaking, yes, but this answer needs to be highly qualified. Anyone who is approved for a US tourist visa can go to the United States and request admission, but obtaining approval of a US tourist visa application can be difficult for the boyfriend or girlfriend of an American Citizen. The difficulty arises under the provisions of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act.

Pursuant to Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act a Consular Officer at a United States Embassy or United States Consulate-General is required to make a presumption that a non-immigrant visa applicant is actually an intending immigrant unless they can prove otherwise. This, in turn, leads to a factual analysis by the Consular Officer. The Consular Officer must believe that the applicant has “strong ties” to their home country, or any other country outside of the USA, and “weak ties” to the United States. In many cases, the mere existence of a US Citizen boyfriend or girlfriend will mitigate against any “strong ties” abroad and lead to a visa denial under section 214(b). This reasoning on the part of US Embassy personnel should not be misconstrued as a personal denial. Instead, the officer is legally compelled to deny a tourist visa application if the applicant cannot overcome the presumption imposed by section 214(b).

Many people then ask the question: can this visa denial be appealed? No, although an applicant may ask for a tourist visa application to be reopened. That being said, in virtually all cases, the denial will be upheld. A Consular Officer’s factual findings are not subject to appeal based upon the doctrine of Consular Absolutism. However, a legal finding may be subject to reversal. With that in mind, one should recognize that a visa denial under section 214(b) is a factual determination and therefore not generally subject to reversal.

If a couple truly has a bona fide intention to marry in the USA and apply for adjustment of status, then a tourist visa is really not the correct travel document as it specifically precludes immigrant intent (unlike a dual intent travel document such as a K1 visa or an L1 visa). Therefore, if the couple wishes to marry and adjust status, then a Fiance Visa is a more appropriate travel document. However, the couple must have a truly bona fide intention to marry and not simply a pretextual intention in order to pursue US Immigration benefits.

For further information for about visas in general and the complex issues surrounding family based petitions please see: US Visa Thai Girlfriend.

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11th March 2010

There are many people of all nationalities who submit applications for a US Tourist Visa at the US Embassy Thailand. Although these applications are quite common, they are becoming increasingly subject to denial pursuant to section 214(b) of the United States Citizenship and Nationality Act. This provision basically requires that the Consular Officer make a presumption that the tourist visa applicant is an undisclosed immigrant unless the applicant can provide strong evidence to the contrary. This creates the “strong ties” vs. “weak ties” analysis which requires that the applicant show “strong ties” to a country outside of the United States and “weak ties” to the USA. This can be a very problematic provision especially for those Americans who wish to bring a Thai significant other back to the US.

The existence of an American Citizen boyfriend can be very detrimental for a Thai’s B2 visa application (or any non-immigrant visa application for that matter ex: F-1 visa, J-1 visa, B-1 visa, etc). The detriment arises from the fact that the applicant has a primary relationship with an American and therefore could be construed to have a “strong tie” to the USA. Some couples try to get around this problem by “not mentioning” the existence of a relationship with an American. This is not a good idea, in this author’s opinion, because any dishonesty, even dishonesty by omission, is unethical and could be viewed by the Embassy and/or Consulate as an attempt to defraud the US government. For an American Citizen, a finding of fraud and misrepresentation could lead to penalties, but such a finding could have a highly negative impact upon the applicant’s chances of ever obtaining a US visa in the future as fraud and misrepresentation is considered a legal grounds of inadmissibility to the USA that would likely only be remedied upon the approval of an I601 waiver.

However, the DS-156 form that is used to apply for a US tourist visa does not ask “do you have an American boyfriend/girlfriend?” Instead the forms asks:

“Are Any of The Following Persons in The U.S., or Do They Have U.S. Legal Permanent Residence or U.S. Citizenship? Mark YES or NO and indicate that person’s status in the U.S. (i.e., U.S. legal permanent resident, U.S. citizen, visiting, studying, working, etc.)”

The form then allows the applicant to note family relationships, including “fiance/fiancee.” The reason this is being discussed is due to the fact that the rest of the form’s questions can be relatively easily answered. For example,  one can say with near certainty if they have a US Citizen husband, but “fiance” is another, more opaque, concept. Defining “fiance” is difficult as relationships, prior to marriage, are fairly fluid from a legal standpoint. In this author’s opinion, if the applicant has a romantic relationship with an American Citizen, then this fact should be disclosed to the Consular Officers either in writing or at the visa interview, but if there is any inkling that marriage and adjustment of status may be a possibility, then it may be better to forgo an attempt at a tourist visa, as this is not really the proper travel document, and submit a petition for a K1 visa.

For further information, please see: US Visa Thailand.

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6th March 2010

Since the recent worldwide economic downturn the global tourism industry has suffered a great deal. Much can be attributed to the fact that people have less disposable income, but others are of the opinion that increased promotion may be the key to dealing with this issue. In the United States, the government and business leaders have devised a plan to promote more travel to the USA. To quote a recent posting on CNN’s website:

“President Obama signed legislation into law Thursday to create the United States’ first national travel promotion program…The act will create a nonprofit Corporation for Travel Promotion that will promote the United States as a travel destination and explain travel and security policies to international visitors…”

One aspect of the new program that is stirring up some resentment is the addition of a $10 fee that much be paid by those wishing to enter the United States on the visa waiver program (not to be confused with an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility):

“A $10 fee charged to visitors from countries included in the Visa Waiver Program will partially fund the public-private organization. These visitors will pay the fee every two years when they register online using the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization…”

As readers may recall, The Electronic System For Travel Authorization (ESTA) is used by those who wish to seek entry into the USA on a visa waiver. This system pre-screens foreign entrants for security purposes. As mentioned previously, tourism around the world is declining, but this program may provide stimulus to this sector of the US economy:

“Despite strong global growth in long-haul international travel between 2000 and 2008, the U.S. welcomed 633,000 fewer overseas visitors in 2008 than it did in 2000, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Oxford Economics, an economic consulting and forecasting company, estimates a well-executed promotional program would draw 1.6 million new international visitors annually and generate $4 billion in new visitor spending.”

It remains to be seen how this program will work, but certainly encouragement of tourism is necessary. However, some have questioned how requiring a new fee for travel to the United States will encourage tourism. This is certainly a valid point as increased restrictions on travel for so-called “visa waiver countries” may be one of the reasons behind decreased tourism. There are those who have called ESTA a new type of visa and now that there is a charge for the service it is beginning to become a sort of online visa. That being said, balancing security and economic concerns is difficult.

This new law will likely have very little impact for those from Thailand as Thai nationals do not enjoy “visa waiver” privileges. For this reason Thai nationals must apply for a US tourist visa if they wish to enter the US for recreational purposes. Further, Thais wishing to travel to the US to be with a fiance or spouse must apply for either a K1 visa or a US marriage visa before they will be able to be lawfully admitted.

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9th February 2010

The method of making an appointment at the US Embassy in Bangkok depends upon the reason for the appointment. For example, the appointment process for obtaining a Consular Report of Birth Abroad is different than the process for obtaining an appointment for a non-immigrant visa interview.

Many expatriates in Thailand seek such services as: Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (a document akin to a birth certificate) , notarization, visa page replacement, and new passport issuance. Virtually all of the issues surrounding these services can be dealt with at the American Citizen Services Section of the United States Embassy in Bangkok.  For those interested in making an appointment with the American Citizen Services Section of the US Embassy in Bangkok, it may be wise to click on this link.

For those who need a non-immigrant visa to the United States a visa interview appointment will likely be required. For those unfamiliar with the US visa process, a non-immigrant visa is granted to an individual who does not have the intention of remaining in the USA. Popular non-immigrant visa categories are the J1 visa, the F1 visa, the B1 visa, and the B2 visa (also known as a Tourist visa). The aforementioned visa categories are not the only non-immigrant visas, but they are currently the most popular among those interviewing at the US Embassy in Bangkok. For those interested in more information about non-immigrant visas please click here.

Another common reason for needing an appointment at the US Embassy in Bangkok is the need to finish the American Immigration process. For those who wish to immigrate to the United States, in order for a US visa to be issued, the applicant must undergo a visa interview. In Thailand, the popular immigrant visas are category CR-1 and IR-1 for Thai spouses. Although not immigrant visas in the strict sense of the word, the K1 visa and the K3 visa are treated as immigrant visas because they are dual intent travel documents. A dual intent visa (travel document) is designed for a foreign national to enter the United States in non-immigrant status with the option of adjusting status to that of an Immigrant at a later date. For many, the Immigrant visa process is time consuming and the final phase of the process can cause anxiety in many applicants. However, for the applicant who tells the truth and is forthright in their application, there is usually no reason to be anxious as the visa interview is nothing more than an exercise of due diligence on the part of the Consular officers. For more on immigrant visas please click here.

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7th January 2010

For those interested in finding out detailed information regarding United States business visas from Thailand please see our main page at: B1 visa Thailand. For further general information about American Immigration from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

The B-1 Visa in 2010

In this writer’s opinion, the US Business Visa Process will probably remain relatively unchanged in 2010. That being said, it does provide an opportunity to re-explore this American travel document.

The B-1 Business visa is a non-immigrant visa intended for those who wish to travel to the United States for short term business purposes. It is not a dual intent visa meaning that one who applies for a B-1 visa must have bona fide non-immigrant intent. Those who have an undisclosed intention to immigrate to the United States of America at the time of application should disclose this fact in the application form and/or the visa interview. Failure to disclose immigrant intent could be construed as fraud and/or misrepresentation of a material fact. A finding of fraud and misrepresentation of material fact could lead to the applicant being found inadmissible to enter the United States. This inadmissibility would likely then only be remedied by an approved I-601 waiver application. Due to the drastic consequences that can befall a non-immigrant visa applicant, it is always wise to be completely candid on a visa application and explain all of one’s reasons for traveling to the United States of America.

The B1 visa is often issued in tandem with a US tourist visa, also known as a B2 visa. This visa category is utilized by those traveling to the United States for recreational purposes. Consular Officers will often issue combined B1/B2 visas because the applicant is planning a trip which combines elements of both business and pleasure. For example, a Thai doctor may travel to the United States to attend a medical seminar and visit family and friends after the seminar ends. In this case, a B1/B2 visa would be optimal because it encompasses all of the activities that the applicant will be undertaking in the United States.

As with many types of non-immigrant single intent visas, the applicant must overcome the statutory presumption of immigrant intent under section 214b of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. The applicant must essentially show that they have such strong ties to Thailand (or any other country outside of the USA) that they will not remain in America past the expiration of their visa.

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6th January 2010

For those who are interested in learning about the details of tourist visas from Thailand please see our main page at: US tourist visa Thailand. For those who would like to see information about all aspects of American Immigration from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

The United States B-2 Tourist Visa in 2010

In 2010, it is this author’s opinion that the B2 visa process will remain largely the same as it was in 2009. However, a brief comparison of the current B2 visa process with that of  the year 2000 could be revealing. In 2000, it was still possible to obtain a United States tourist visa through the mail. At that time, interviews were not required in certain situations if the applicant met some pre-conditions. There is anecdotal evidence which suggests that the US tourist visa application approval rate was higher prior to the introduction of the rule that there must be visa interviews for all non-immigrant visa applicants.

At the present time, an American tourist visa applicant can apply for a US Visitor Visa at either the US Embassy in Bangkok or the US Consulate-General in Chiang Mai provided the applicant resides in the Consular District. Unfortunately, this category is often sought by those who probably should not be seeking a tourist visa. This is particularly the case when it comes to Thai fiancees or girlfriends. In many cases, American citizens encourage their Thai fiancees and/or girlfriends to apply for a US tourist visa because it is a less time consuming process when compared to the application process for a K1 fiance visa. That being said, it is not an appropriate visa for those who intend to apply for adjustment of status in the United States. This is due to the fact that the US tourist visa is not a dual intent travel document meaning that the applicant must have true non-immigrant intent when he or she submits a tourist visa application. Lying about one’s intentions on a Department of State application form could lead to serious civil and criminal penalties as such activity could be construed as visa fraud. Further, one who has been found to be presenting a fraudulent visa application could be found inadmissible to the United States and barred from entering for a statutorily prescribed period of time. For those who wish to bring their loved one to the US, it may be wise to look into a K1, K3, or CR1 visa.

Even those with bona fide non-immigrant intent must still overcome the presumption of immigrant intent under section 214b of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. One must prove that they have strong ties to Thailand (or any other country besides the US) and weak ties to the USA before a Consular Officer will approve a B2 visa application.

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27th December 2009

An occasional issue in United States Immigration matters is the termination of one’s lawful permanent residence in the USA (meaning the cancellation of one’s CR1 or IR1 visa). There are some who go to the US with the initial intention of remaining indefinitely, but these peoples’ intentions change and some opt to relinquish their lawful permanent residence. Surrender of one’s lawful permanent residence is facilitated by filing a form called an I-407 (Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status). Relinquishing one’s lawful permanent residence can be somewhat time consuming and the procedure is somewhat confusing. That being said the website of the American Embassy in the United Kingdom quickly sums up the process.

To quote directly from the website of the US Embassy in the UK:

“Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office receives your completed Form I-407 and your Permanent Resident Card, the appropriate documentation stamps will be placed on the form along with the USCIS officer’s signature. A copy of this form will be returned to you in the stamped, self-address envelope you provide. This copy of the completed I-407 is your receipt and it validates the return of your Permanent Resident Card. You should keep a copy of the completed I-407 with your passport when you travel to the United States.”

This quote begs the question: “In what circumstances would a former permanent resident be allowed to visit the United States after formally renouncing their US Permanent Residence?” There are many cases where a former permanent resident wishes to visit the USA in order to see family, friends, or business associates. In many cases, former permanent resident’s opt to apply for a US tourist visa.

Under normal circumstances a tourist visa would be difficult to obtain if the applicant has family and friends in US because under section 214b of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, Consular Officers at the US Embassy or US Consulate are required to make the presumption that an applicant for a non-immigrant visa such as a tourist visa is an undisclosed immigrant to the USA. This presumption is more easily overcome for those who have relinquished their permanent residence as the act is strong evidence contradicting the presumption of immigrant intent since the applicant has already immigrated once and opted to forfeit his or her immigration benefits.

Generally, US Consular Officers are more prone to issue tourist visas to former permanent residents due to the above analysis. However, this does not mean that the applicant for a tourist visa should not prepare and submit a well founded petition as adjudication of tourist visa applications is highly discretionary.

For more information please see: US Visa Thailand

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19th December 2009

The United States Department of State wishes to amend the current rule regarding the fees to be charged to applicants for non-immigrant visas overseas. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has recently released information regarding the proposed rule change. Below is a direct quote from this announcement:

“This rule amends the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services (Schedule) for nonimmigrant visa application and border crossing card processing fees. The rule raises from $131 to $140 the fee charged for the processing of an application for most non-petition-based nonimmigrant visas…The Department of State is adjusting the fees to ensure that sufficient resources are available to meet the costs of providing consular services in light of an independent cost of service study’s findings that the U.S. Government is not fully covering its costs for the processing of these visas under the current cost structure.”

Although it is fairly self evident that this proposed rule change will affect non-immigrant visa categories such as the J1 visa, the F1 visa, the B1 visa, and the B2 visa (commonly referred to as the US Tourist Visa) there is some question as to whether or not this rule change will have an impact upon those seeking a K1 visa or a K3 visa. As can be read in the above quotation, the rule should only impact “non-petition based non-immigrant visas…” As K1 visa applications and K3 visa applications are both based upon an underlying visa petition made to USCIS this proposed rule begs the question: how will it impact K visa applicants?

The K1 visa and the K3 visa are non-immigrant dual intent visas. They are non-immigrant in that they do not allow the visa holder to remain in the United States indefinitely upon entry, but they allow for the bearer to apply for adjustment of status at a later date (provided certain prerequisites are met; in the case of the K1, marriage to the original petitioner).

This author believes that is is likely that the final rule will include a provisions raising the fees for the K visas as well as the other non-immigrant visa categories. Immigrant visa fees are in a separate category and for those filing a petition in the USA, these fess are paid directly to the National Visa Center (NVC). Many people are under the mistaken impression that in family visa cases the fees paid initially to USCIS are all-inclusive. This is not the case as the US Embassies and US Consulates are under the jurisdiction of DOS while USCIS is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) therefore, processing fees must be made to each agency at different stages.

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