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Posts Tagged ‘USA Visa Thailand’

19th September 2018

In what may be one of the most significant developments in immigration practice in quite some time, it recently came to this blogger’s attention via a policy memorandum from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that the USCIS is radically changing their policies with respect to Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs). For those unaware, an RFE is issued in a case where the adjudicating officer of an immigration petition is not fully satisfied that the beneficiary and/or the petitioner meet the legal requirements. An NOID is similar and may allow the petitioner to rectify a petition notwithstanding prior inadequacy.

That being stated, the procedures regarding issuance of RFEs and NOIDs have been fundamentally altered pursuant to policy memorandum PM-602-0163 dated July 13, 2018 entitled “Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDs; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM)Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b)” The provisions of this memo dictate new guidelines for adjudicators of immigration petitions. To quote directly from the USCIS website:

The 2013 PM addressed policies for the issuance of RFEs and NOIDs when the evidence submitted at the time of filing did not establish eligibility. In practice, the 2013 PM limited denials without RFEs or NOIDs to statutory denials by providing that RFEs should be issued unless there was “no possibility” of approval. This “no possibility” policy limited the application of an adjudicator’s discretion.

The policy implemented in this guidance restores to the adjudicator full discretion to deny applications, petitions, and requests without first issuing an RFE or a NOID, when appropriate.

Although the ramifications may not be immediately apparent, especially to those who do not deal with the immigration apparatus on a regular basis, this change in policy is rather profound. The prior doctrine which required that an adjudicator denying a petition without first issuing an RFE or NOID show that there was “no possibility” that a case could receive approval provided a great deal of limitation upon an adjudicator’s ability to unilaterally deny an immigration petition. The removal of this policy encumbrance allows future adjudicators a great deal more discretion in issuing immediate petition denials. The sources noted above go on to note that the primary reason for the change in policy stems from the desire to discourage so-called “placeholder” or “frivolous” filings (which under certain circumstances is laudable as such cases can unnecessarily clog up the immigration processing channels), but there could be significant ramifications for cases which would not necessarily fit those descriptions.

For example, in K-1 visa petitions it is now more likely that more denials will be issued in the future in such cases where it has not been incontrovertibly proven that the couple has in fact met in person within 2 years of filing for the benefit (the so-called Meeting Requirement). Furthermore, in cases involving petitioning for a fiance visa it seems logical to infer that future adjudications may result in a  denial where the petitioner has failed to demonstrate that both parties maintain the requisite intention to marry in the USA.

It is difficult to speculate at this time exactly how this change in policy will be implemented and the full consequences associated therewith. However, two things are clear: 1) visa petitions are likely to be more susceptible to denial moving forward and 2) those thinking of undertaking a do-it-yourself approach to petitioning for a fiancee or marriage visa are well advised to seriously consider the negative aspects of failing to seek professional legal assistance in immigration matters as failure to fully delineate a case clearly and concisely in the initial petition for immigration benefits could result in a denial and thereby a loss of time and resources.

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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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26th June 2015

In a historic decision the United States Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriage across the United States of America. The decision coming approximately 2 years after the important decision which provided Federal recognition to same sex marriages performed in States where  such unions were legal; the Supreme Court has ruled that same sex couples have a right to marry in any State throughout the country. As noted in a recent article in the Washington Post, Justice Kennedy pointed out the blatant inequality of the legal situation prior to this ruling:

“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest,” he wrote. “With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”

This ruling is certainly a major victory for the LGBT community. For those who live overseas or who have a same sex partner abroad the ruling smooths out some of the rough edges of the United States Immigration process for same sex couples. In the past, a same sex couple could obtain a K1 Visa (for a fiance) in much the same way that a different sex couple could. However, if the couple intended to reside in a State that did not recognize same sex unions, then the couple might then be required to travel to a State which recognized such unions. With this recent ruling, that issue is effectively resolved. As has been previously noted on this blog, the US visa process for same sex couples has become essentially the same as the process for different sex couples. A Thai-American same sex couple may now opt to seek a fiance visa based upon an intention to marry in any US jurisdicition, or if already legally married the couple may choose to seek either and IR-1 or CR-1 immigrant visa based upon legal marriage to an American citizen.

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1st January 2011

For those who read this blog with any frequency it has no doubt been noted that the administration often attempts to post the holiday closing schedules of the various US Embassies and Missions outside of the United States of America as a convenience to travelers who may be in need of services abroad. Below is the is the holiday closing schedule for the United States Embassy in the Kingdom of Thailand as quoted from the official website of the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand:

MONTH DATE DAY OCCASION
January 17 Monday Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
February 21 Monday Presidents’ Day
April 6 Wednesday King Rama I Memorial
and Chakri Day
April 13 Wednesday Songkran Day
April 14 Thursday Songkran Day
April 15 Friday Songkran Day
May 5 Thursday Coronation Day
May 17 Tuesday Visakha Bucha Day
May 30 Monday Memorial Day
July 4 Monday Independence Day
August 12 Friday Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday
September 5 Monday Labor Day
October 10 Monday Columbus Day
October 24 Monday Substitute for
Chulalongkorn Day
November 11 Friday Veterans Day
November 24 Thursday Thanksgiving Day
December 5 Monday His Majesty the King’s Birthday
December 12 Monday Substitute for Constitution Day
December 26 Monday Substitute for Christmas Day

Those interested in receiving Consular services such as notary services and/or issuance of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, US Passport, or additional visa pages are well advised to contact an American Citizen Services Section of the nearest US Mission with Consular jurisdiction over the area in which one is located.

Those wishing to find the US Embassy in Bangkok’s official website homepage please click Here.

Each year, many Thai-American couples opt to seek US immigration benefits in the form of travel documents such as the K-1 visa or the CR-1 Visa. Meanwhile, many multi-national companies or individual immigrant investors seek investment or business based visas such as the L-1 visa for intra-company transferees, the E-2 visa for Treaty Investors traveling to the USA, or the EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors making a minimum $500,000 investment in an eligible program in the United States. In most cases, Thai applicants for the visas noted above will be required to process their visa application with the Immigrant Visa Unit or Business Travel Unit of the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

Those Thai nationals seeking Non-immigrant visas such as the J-1 visa (Exchange Visitor Visa), F-1 visa (Student Visa), B-2 visa (Tourist Visa), or the B-1 Visa (Business Visa) must process their application through the Non-immigrant Visa Unit in Bangkok if the Thai applicant resides within the Consular jurisdiction of the US Embassy in Bangkok as opposed to the Consular jurisdiction of the US Consulate-General in Chiang Mai Thailand.

Those interested in learning further information about the process of obtaining a United States visa from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Immigration.

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7th November 2010

Although this blog rarely discusses economic issues. When economics has an impact upon legal issues or matters pertaining to United States Immigration, then discussion of economic matters may be warranted. In recent months, the United States dollar has depreciated against many of the currencies of Asia, but there has yet to be significant movement in the Chinese Yuan which does not really “float” on the market as other currencies. As a result, economic tensions have increased between the United States of America, the Peoples’ Republic of China, the Kingdom of Thailand, and other Asian nations. Meanwhile, some of the member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have seen their currencies rise significantly against the dollar. In a recent editorial posted on ThaiVisa.com, this issue was discussed in detail:

In any event, the dollar can only go south. The greenback slid to its lowest level in almost five months versus the euro. Gold, which represents a hedge against inflationary expectation, has also climbed to a record high on market anticipation that the Fed will flood the financial system with further liquidity to prop up the US economy.

This monetary easing will result in further weakening of the dollar. And as the US government continues to run a massive deficit, the Fed will be obliged to come to the rescue by purchasing the Treasuries that finance the deficit, which is not likely to come down in the foreseeable future due to economic weakness, falling tax revenue and spending obligations that have dramatically increased.

With the US weakness, a sovereign debt crisis in Europe and deflation in Japan, how will Thailand cope with the policy challenge? The first thing that comes to mind is that the baht will continue its upward trend. This is inevitable. The baht could go back to the pre-1997 crisis level of Bt25 to the dollar…

For those unaware, the United States Federal Reserve Bank recently announced that $600 billion in liquidity would be injected into the United States economy over the course of the coming months. As can be gathered from the above quotation, this “quantitative easing” policy is resulting in a depreciation of the dollar compared to Asian currencies (and other global currencies, but the focus of this post will remain on Asia, specifically Thailand). In an article written in The Nation Newspaper and distributed by ThaiVisa.com this issue was discussed in further detail:

When massive capital outflows from the US head towards Asia, much of it is unable to enter China so it floods other emerging markets, especially Asean countries, Korn [Chatikavanij, Finance Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand] said.

“We would like the two economic giants to settle their differences on the exchange-rate issue. I think they understand our predicament,” said Korn…
On the one hand, the US dollar has continued to depreciate, while on the other, China has not allowed the yuan to appreciate. Given the latest US announcement of quantitative easing aimed at stimulating the domestic US economy, several Asian currencies have significantly appreciated against the US dollar, raising concerns about the region’s export competitiveness…

The twin economic giants of China and America have yet to fully reach equilibrium in matters related to currency and trade, but an immediate issue for many Thai Nationals is the relative appreciation of the Thai Baht. There are many who feel that a strong Baht is not in their interests and depending upon circumstances they may be correct.  However, the recent currency fluctuations could prove to be a benefit to those Thai nationals interested in seeking American Immigrant Investor visa benefits.

The United States EB-5 visa (Immigrant Investor category) was designed to provide a travel document and lawful permanent residence to otherwise qualified foreign nationals who wish to make a substantial investment in legally eligible investment programs the United States of America. As the Thai baht has appreciated against the United States dollar it has become relatively “cheaper’ (in Baht terms) to meet some of the investment criteria in the United States. Therefore, as the dollar becomes weaker versus the Thai Baht it becomes less expensive, from a Baht standpoint, to invest in the USA. For those wishing to immigrate to the USA, the current Baht/Dollar exchange rate is something of a windfall.

This could be a boon to the United States economy as well since investment in the United States leads to the creation of new jobs. Furthermore, lawful immigration is one of the central components that drives the American economy. As more Thai nationals invest in the United States economy, the stronger that economy becomes thereby naturally fueling a recover in the overall American economy. As the American economy continues to recover, there may be ancillary benefits that accrue to individuals and businesses in the USA and around the globe. Hopefully this scenario will play out over the coming months and help to spur a recovery in the United States economy.

For related information please see: EB-5 Visa Thailand or US Visa Thailand.

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14th November 2009

In a previous post on this blog we discussed how the Center for Disease Control, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), is in the process of taking HIV off of the list of diseases that will bar entry into the USA. Recently, it has come to this author’s attention that the vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) will no longer be a requirement for those seeking to immigrate to the United States of America. Under the current regulations, it is required that all applicants seeking an Immigrant visa, or a non-immigrant dual intent visa such as a K1 visa or K3 visa, are required to be vaccinated against HPV if they are under the age of 26 at the time of application. This requirement can lead to considerable expense for those wishing to obtain United States Immigration benefits.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), recently released information from the Final Notice on Criteria for Vaccination Requirements, the follow are excerpts from that notice:

“On April 8, 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a notice in the Federal Register (74 FR 15986) seeking public comment on proposed criteria that CDC intends to use to determine which vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the general U.S. population should be required for immigrants seeking admission into the United States or seeking adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. This final notice describes the criteria that CDC has adopted.”

The notice goes on to discuss the criteria that the CDC and US Immigration officials use to determine whether or not intending immigrants should be required to get a vaccination. After a detailed analysis of the guidelines, policy, and regulations the report concludes:

“Therefore, because HPV does not meet the adopted criteria, it will not be a required vaccine for immigrant and adjustment of status to permanent residence applicants.”

The proposed rule will likely be effective early in 2010. However, it should be noted that until the rule is finalized the current rules and regulations still stand. Therefore, those intending immigrant being interviewed at the time of this writing must still get the required HPV vaccination if they are under the prescribed age. Currently, this is not a requirement for tourist visas, student visas, and exchange visitor visas as such travel documents are classified as non-immigrant. Even though the K1 fiance visa and K3 marriage visa are technically non-immigrant visas they are treated as immigrant visas for the purposes of the aforementioned rule because these visas allow for dual non-immigrant and immigrant intent.

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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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18th July 2009

For those seeking to obtain a USA Visa from Thailand, it is almost inevitable that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will be involved in the process. That being said, depending upon the visa being sought, USCIS may play less of a direct role in the initial process.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has had an interesting recent history. Currently, the office is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS former acronym was INS which stood for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In the aftermath of  September 11, 2001 it was decided that the services provided by INS could be better facilitated under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security and INS was folded into that agency. For a time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service was known simply as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), but the acronym and name was officially changed to the current form on October 13, 2004.

For Immigrant visas that confer either conditional or unconditional lawful permanent residence (Greencard) to an alien upon entry, USCIS will play a major role in adjudicating the I-130 visa application. In certain instances where the United States Citizen has been living in the Kingdom of Thailand for a specified period of time, it may be possible to locally file an I-130 application at the USCIS office in Bangkok. This procedure is sometimes mistakenly called “Direct Consular Filing,” but, in point of fact, this appellation is misapplied. A direct consular filing can only occur at a consular section when a United States consular officer at a US Embassy or Consulate General accepts a visa application that has not first been adjudicated by USCIS either in the United States or at an office abroad. In Thailand, it is very rare for a consular officer at the US Embassy in Bangkok or the Consulate General in Chiang Mai to accept a visa application directly because there is a large local USCIS office in Bangkok.

For those making a K-1 visa application, it will be necessary to file the application at a USCIS service Center in the United States. The United States Citizen petitioner’s residence will determine what service center should be used when submitting the initial application.  For those unfamiliar with the K-1 visa, it is a fiance visa designed to allow an American’s foreign fiance to come to the USA for the purpose of marriage.

For those making a K-3 visa application, the I-129f application must be sent to a USCIS service center and not the Chicago Lockbox. The K-3 visa was designed as an expedited marriage visa for spouses of American Citizens.

F-1 visa applications and J-1 visa applications are generally submitted directly to the United States Embassy with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence. US Tourist Visa applications are also submitted directly to the US Embassy.

(This is intended for educational purposes only, it is not legal advice. For Legal advice about Immigration law, contact a visa lawyer. No attorney client relationship is created between the author and any reader of this piece.)

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14th June 2009

A question on the lips of any Thai-American couple when first making the decision to immigrate to the United States is: “how long is this process going to take?” This is a question that can have many different answers depending upon the couple’s situation, visa category, and the processing center that will adjudicate the petition.

Visa Processing Times By Visa Category

The category of visa can have a crucial bearing upon how long it will take to process the visa application. This would seem to be due to the fact that more people tend to apply for certain visa categories, while others are requested less often.

A case in point, far more Immigrant visa applications are submitted than K-3 visa applications. This may be due to the fact that the immigrant visas confer a Green Card or because a K-3 visa application  requires a second petition. Some visa categories may take longer to process because there is heightened scrutiny of the visa application during its adjudication.

This author believes that Immigrant visas, also known as CR-1 or IR-1 visas, which confer permanent residence are scrutinized more carefully because of the privileges attached to the visa. An IR-1 visa beneficiary enters the USA with unconditional lawful permanent residence, the IR-1 beneficiary may remain in the USA indefinitely, provided he or she does not commit some sort of act that results in deportation.  Compare this scenario with a K-1 visa application where the visa ultimately obtained will only entitle the beneficiary to 90 days in the USA and require a further adjustment of status application and one can begin to understand why the applications for the K-1 visa seem to process faster.

The following are processing times for US Family based visas (K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4, and Immigrant Visas) submitted to the Vermont Service Center :

I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 6 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-3/K-4 – Already married – spouse and/or dependent child 6 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 6 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 July 02, 2006
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 June 04, 2006
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister February 25, 2001
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 January 18, 2006
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 June 04, 2006
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months

For more processing times garnered from the source of these estimates please click here

The following are processing times for US Family based visas (K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4, and Immigrant Visas) being processed at the California  Service Center:

I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-1/K-2 – Not yet married – fiance and/or dependent child 6 Months
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) K-3/K-4 – Already married – spouse and/or dependent child 6 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a spouse, parent, or child under 21 6 Months
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 September 22, 2003
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a married son or daughter over 21 September 08, 2001
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative U.S. citizen filing for a brother or sister June 08, 1999
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for a spouse or child under 21 October 08, 2005
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative Permanent resident filling for an unmarried son or daughter over 21 November 15, 2001
I-131 Application for Travel Document All other applicants for advance parole 3 Months

For more processing times garnered from the source of this information please click here

All of the above processing estimates are an accurate, but approximate, depiction of USCIS processing times at the time of this writing. As a practical matter, USCIS seems to take more time for adjudication of some of the categories mentioned above than for others. Further it should be noted that the US Embassy in Thailand and the National Visa Center can add time to these estimates if they are processing large caseloads. For more specific information regarding visa cases filed at a USCIS service center and being processed at the American Embassy in Thailand please contact info@integrity-legal.com.

Expatriates living in Thailand may be able to file a visa petition at the USCIS office in Bangkok. By doing so, the processing time estimates are different in comparison to filing in the USA. Generally, when one petitions for an immigrant visa locally, they can expect to obtain that visa in much less time than those compelled to file in the USA.

(Please be advised: Nothing in this post should be construed as mean for any other purpose than providing educational information. Therefore, this post is no substitute for one-on-one legal advice from a licensed attorney. No lawyer-client fiduciary relationship is created between the author and any reader of this post.)

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