Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘visa agency’

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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22nd May 2009

In Thailand there are many so-called “visa agents,” “Immigration Consultants,” and “Immigration Specialists,” who sound legitimate, but who are in fact unlicensed practitioners of law. Only an attorney licensed and in good standing in at least one of the 50 United States, territories, or possessions is entitled to practice United States Immigration law. Internal memos at USCIS have even delineated exactly what constitutes the “practice of law,” for US Immigration purposes. 

According to USCIS, even advising another person about which form should be used to file for a certain type of visa constitutes the practice of law. To advise another in this manner without being duly licensed by at least one US state to practice law would constitute the UNLICENSED, and therefore UNLAWFUL practice of law. 

In the United States there is a prevalence of so-called “notarios,” these are operators who prey upon unsuspecting immigrants in both the United States and Mexico. In Thailand, these people use names such as: visa consultant, visa agent, visa specialist, immigration consultant, immigration agent, immigration specialist, legal consultant, or simply legal advisor. A problem in Thailand is the fact that the government has no mechanism for regulating us visa lawyers in Thailand. This is especially confusing for the layman because only a licensed American attorney is authorized to represent a client before USCIS. Therefore utilizing a Thai attorney or Thai law firm to prepare an immigration petition is not proper procedure per USCIS regulations if the attorney filing the petition is not licensed in the USA. 

Even worse than mere visa agents, there are those who falsely claim to be attorenys from the United States. Again, the lack of foreign attorney registration in Thailand contributes to a proliferation of this type of character.

The real problem with these outfits and unscrupulous operators is the fact that often they have no real grasp of US Immigration Law. Immigration law is one of the most complex areas of American jurisprudence and because it is entirely statute driven it can change very quickly and for a non-lawyer who does not keep abreast of new legislation the ignorance can be damaging to a client’s case. 

In cases of great complexity (601 waivers, IMBRA issues regarding fiancee visas, forum issues for K3 visas, etc.) a visa agent or anyone else without a great deal of experience and education in immigration can detrimentally affect a prospective immigrant’s chances of entry into the USA, possibly for life.

There are certain non-profit organizations that are allowed to represent immigrants before USCIS. Generally these groups deal with refugees, but in certain instances they deal with other issues. That being said, the operative term is NON-PROFIT meaing that this type of representative generally will not charge a fee, and if they do, then the fee is usually nominal.

That being said, when contacting an attorney or anyone regarding American Immigration, always ask which state the attorney is licensed in and inquire about his or her bar number.  

For more please see:

US Immigration Lawyer Thailand

K1 Visa Thailand

K3 Visa Thailand

(The information in this piece is intended for educational and informational use only and should not be used in place of an attorney consultation. For legal advice please consult a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. No attorney client relationship is formed between the reader and author of this post).

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