Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Visa Waiver’

17th January 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that law enforcement authorities are set to shortly begin implementation of electronic monitoring of suspected criminals who have been released on bail. In a recent article in The Nation it was noted that the initiative has begun in an effort to create a more equitable system for accused defendants who seem to fall in a sort of middle category between those accused of minor offenses and those accused of more serious violations of the law. Those who are unable to make bail and looking at trial for offenses carrying less than a 5 year sentence are eligible to be released provided that such defendants are tracked using an ankle monitoring device similar to those used in the USA, UK, and other western countries.

Thailand has had issues with prison overcrowding in recent years and this initiative seems to be aimed at reducing prison populations while also providing a degree of leniency for those who cannot afford to pay bail. It should be noted that the use of these devices in limited release scenarios is entirely at the discretion of the judiciary. In most cases involving foreign nationals facing trial in Thailand it appears that bail may be the best option of ensuring release as it seems this particular initiative is intended to provide assistance to indigent Thais accused of relatively minor offenses. For more information on criminal law pertaining to foreign nationals in Thailand please see: Thailand Criminal Lawyer.

Meanwhile, in other news it appears the Thai passport has declined somewhat in the global ranking of passports based upon visa-free and visa-on-arrival numbers. Thailand fell behind some other countries as the Thai passport’s relative options for visa free travel to other countries decreased. However, Thailand’s passport remains one of the most flexible travel documents among the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. It should be noted that as of the time of this writing Thailand is not on the list of countries that the United States of America allows to utilize the visa waiver program. As a result, all Thai nationals wishing to travel to the USA must obtain a US visa before traveling. For some, this requirement can be rather cumbersome especially in light of the more stringent application of section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. This section in conjunction with doctrines such as the doctrine of Consular Absolutism makes getting into the USA on a non-immigrant visa very difficult for some Thai passport holders.

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16th September 2012

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that leaders from the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (sometimes colloquially referred to as Burma) are set to travel to the United States of America. In fact, popular pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi appears poised to make a sojourn to the US, her first in some time. To quote directly from the official website of Voice of America, voanews.com:

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is set to embark on a visit to the United States, highlighted by awards and meetings with senior U.S. government leaders and the Burmese community… In her first trip to the United States in two decades, Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be given awards for her long struggle for political reform in Burma and will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama…

Readers are encouraged to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full.

For those unfamiliar with the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi it should be noted that notwithstanding overwhelming adversity she has remained a staunch supporter of democracy for citizens of Myanmar and was recently elected to that nation’s lower house of parliament. However, she is not the only official from Myanmar who appears set to make a notable trip to the United States. It would appear that the current President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, is also slated to make a US voyage. In order to provide further elucidation regarding these events it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Jakarta Globe, TheJakartaGlobe.com:

Naypyidaw, Myanmar. Myanmar leader Thein Sein is to visit the United States for the first time as president of the fast-reforming nation, officials said Wednesday, after Washington waived visa restrictions…“The president will visit the UN and US for three days,” a Myanmar official told AFP, adding that the Myanmar leader is set to leave for the US on September 24. US President Barack Obama last month ordered an exception to a visa ban on Myanmar’s leaders to let Thein Sein travel freely during the UN summit…

The administration of this web log asks that readers click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail.

Those unfamiliar with current US-Myanmar relations should note that there are a number of restrictions placed upon Burmese leaders when it comes to US travel. Some could speculate that the exception granted to the President of Myanmar in the form of a visa waiver could be a sign of an increased desire to normalize relations between the somewhat reclusive member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the USA. That said, the future status of relations between the US and Myanmar remains to be seen.

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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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12th December 2009

After the tragedy of 9/11 many changes were made with regard to Homeland Security. Specifically, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created and many tasks previously undertaken by other agencies were brought under the jurisdiction of DHS. One example is the United States Customs Service which was reincorporated into the Department of Homeland Security as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service. This agency is responsible for patrolling the borders and ports of entry to the United States of America. They are also responsible for screening those who enter the United States of America either on a US passport, US visa, or US visa waiver. CBP plays an integral part in the US Immigration process.

Prior to this publication, there has been a rumor circulating that those who wish to enter the United States of America must fist obtain a vaccination for the H1N1 influenza vaccination. As a matter of fact, this is not true. Apparently this rumor is unfounded. AILA has provided a quote from a statement from the Customs and Border Protection Service:

“[United States] Customs and Border Protection would like to address rumors regarding U.S. entry requirements and the H1N1 virus: Travelers do NOT need to present proof that they received the H1N1 flu vaccine in order to enter the United States. No such vaccination requirement exists. Travelers are encouraged to visit the Department of Health and Human Services Flu Web site for current information on seasonal flu prevention, and the “Know Before You Go” section under the Travel tab of the CBP Web site for helpful traveler tips.”

For those seeking entry to the United States a flu vaccination is not required at this time.

In recent years CBP has been granted more and more authority to deal with real time situations. This leads many to wonder just how much authority CBP has. This is an interesting question as they are given major discretionary powers with regard to those seeking entry to the United States. For example, CBP is authorized to place foreign nationals into expedited removal (deportation) proceedings if they deem it necessary. One who has been removed through expedited removal could be barred from reentering the USA for as long as five years. That being said, this only seems to come up in the context of US Family Immigration when the loved one of a US Citizen is improperly using a US tourist visa for undisclosed immigration purposes. In situations such as this, CBP may feel it necessary to use expedited removal to send the subject back to their home country. Therefore it is usually wise to process things correctly and utilize the proper visa for a loved one traveling to the United States.

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6th November 2009

The United States visa waiver program, not to be confused with an I-601 waiver, allows citizens from certain countries to enter the United States of American without obtaining a visa prior to arrival. In recent years the United States government has implemented ESTA, also known as: the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA requires that travelers wishing to enter the country on a visa waiver inform the US Immigration authorities prior to arrival so that a pre-screening can be conducted. The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service is tasked with monitoring those seeking travel clearances using the ESTA system. Recently it has been reported by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that 221g denials must be reported in the ESTA form, to quote AILA directly:

“CBP recently informed AILA that it, after consultation with the Department of State (DOS), is classifying all §221(g) actions on visa applications as visa “denials.” Thus, Visa Waiver Program (VWP) applicants, who are subject to INA §221(g) refusals, should answer affirmatively in their ESTA applications that they have been denied a visa. This suggestion applies even if the reason for the refusal is due to consular administrative processing. If VWP travelers do not disclose such a “denial” on their ESTA applications or provide an update regarding such “denials,” they may have their ESTA registration rejected or be sent to secondary inspection and potentially refused entry when they apply for admission to the United States.”

This is important to note for those originating from a country participating in the US visa waiver program. For example, if the foreign fiancee of a US Citizen has been issued a 221g with regard to a K1 visa application, then that 221g must be disclosed as a denial on the ESTA form if said fiancee intends to visit the US and the foreign fiancee’s home country participates in this program.

As AILA’s article went on to point out, the Department of State does not even consider 221(g)’s to be outright denials,

Technically, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) classifies a §221(g) action as a visa “refusal,” but DOS explicitly retains authority to “reactivate” the visa application upon receipt of required documents or completion of a government mandated administrative clearance. See 9 FAM 41.121 N2.4.

This situation is a classic example of two different government agencies taking a differing view of the same situation. The Department of State seems to view 221g refusals as administrative refusals to issue a visa without further documentation while the Department of Homeland Security seems to view such refusals as US visa denials that could be viewed as grounds for denying a person’s subsequent entry into the USA.

This issue will likely not be particularly problematic in the Kingdom of Thailand as Thailand is not a country participating in the visa waiver program, but for others around the world this issue could lead to problems entering the USA.

For those in this situation, it is always advisable to be honest, but it may be possible to explain the situation by answering “yes” to the question: Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry? After answering in the affirmative there should be space to explain. Therefore, the applicant probably should note that the denial was: a 221(g), at the Embassy or Consulate (example: US Embassy Bangkok, US Consulate Chiang Mia, US Embassy Burma, etc.),  and the reason for the “denial” (example: Embassy conducted administrative processing, Consulate requested further documentation, etc).

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30th June 2009

There are some countries whose nationals have the right to travel to the United States of America without first obtaining a visa. The US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was designed to allow certain foreign nationals visa-free travel to the United States. The visa waiver program should not be confused with an I-601 waiver of the grounds of inadmissibility.

Since September 11, 2001 the the Department of Homeland Security, United States Customs Department, United State Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS), the Transportation Safety Authority, and other United States Federal agencies have been formulating ways to better maintain security with regard to international travel. It was determined that the Visa Waiver program might be used by possibly hostile parties as a method for entering the United States in order to conduct harmful activity. As a result of this policy decision, the US authorities have attempted to implement a precreening process for thse entering the United States via the Waiver Program. This process is known by its acronym: ESTA.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) was made operational under Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by Section 711 of the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007,” Pub. L. No. 110-53. The Act compelled the Department of Homeland Security to institute a systematic method to verify the fitness of travelers to the USA and make sure such travelers pose no imminent threat to American safety.

The ESTA is a no-cost, fully computerized program used to ascertain the qualifications of those traveling to the United States of America through the use of the American Visa Waiver Program. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization gathers similar information as that required on Form I-94W. An ESTA application can be tendered at any point before traveling to the United States of America. That being said, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security advise that travelers submit an ESTA application when they begin setting a travel itinerary.

As of January 12, 2009, those who are citizens of any country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program must obtain travel approval from ESTA before they will be allowed to enter the USA under VWP.

Some people are under the misconception that ESTA is a visa.  An ESTA approval is not a visa. Instead it is a prescreening for entry into the United States visa free.

For those who have trouble with the English language, the website has been translated into Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.

(Please note: this is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney/client relationship is created between author and reader).

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29th June 2009

Visa Waivers are often accorded to nationals from countries that have a long standing relationship with the USA. Currently, the Kingdom of Thailand is not a participant in the US Visa Waiver Program, therefore, anyone wishing to travel to the USA on a Thai passport must obtain some sort of American Visa.

The US Visa waiver program should not be confused with a waiver of excludability which is usually necessity after a US visa denial based upon a legal ground of inadmissibility. The US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was created to allow certain foreign nationals entry into the United States visa-free.

In the mid-1980′s, the US Immigration Reform and Control Act integrated the Visa Waiver Pilot Program into the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The Visa waiver initiative remained a pilot program until October 30, 2000. At that time, the Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act made the program a permanent fixture of immigration law. The Visa Waiver Program’s legal foundation is stipulated in section 217 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. In 2007, the addition of section 711 of the INA created measures to strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program.

The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State, may assign a nation as a participant in the Visa Waiver program if:

  1. The nation grants similar travel rights to Americans;
  2. The nation has attested that it dispenses electronic passports that contain data storage chips;
  3. The nation started issuing such Passports to its citizens on or before October 26, 2006.
  4. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State prepare a report calculating the effect the country’s VWP authorization upon US security; and
  5. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State decide that the nation’s inclusion in the program will not damage American security interest, this includes issues involved in the enforcement of US Immigration law.

Who can enjoy the Visa Waiver Program?

The nationals of the following countries are eligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (With regard to United Kingdom Passports, Only UK passports denoted as “British Citizens” and/or “with unrestricted right of abode in the United Kingdom” are eligible for entrance to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program. Those holding passports designating that the bearer is a “British Subject,”  “British Dependent Territories Citizen,” “British Overseas Citizen,” or “British National [Overseas],” cannot enter the United States through the Visa waiver program.)

In order to enter the USA visa-free on the Visa Waiver Program an entrant must first use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

(Please note: Nothing contained herein should be used as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this piece.)

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12th May 2009

For general information about problems with a Us visa application please see: US Visa Denial Thailand.

The process of obtaining a visa for a loved one to the United States can be long and complicated.  At the end of the process, the last thing a prospective applicant wants to receive is a rejection and denial of the visa application. However, this can occur and in situations in which it does occur there are remedies. In other posts on this blog, the topic of waivers of inadmissibility has been discussed. This post will briefly recap the topic and add some new information about where a waiver application can filed and clear up confusion about what types of waivers exist under current legislation.

IMBRA Waiver with USCIS

One point of confusion that I have heard from prospective visa petitioners involves the IMBRA (International Marriage Broker Regulation Act). Pursuant to the IMBRA,  one must obtain a waiver in order to file multiple K1 petitions within a two year period. Although this provision denotes a waiver requirement for a multiple filer of K1 visas, this type of waiver is contemporaneously with the I-129f application for Fiance Visa. (It would be prudent to consult with an Immigration attorney if you believe you may be subject to multiple filer restrictions under IMBRA).

US Waivers of Visa Denial at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand

Should the visa be denied at the US Embassy in Bangkok, then one must first decipher the type of denial. Technically a 221 g refusal is a visa denial, but from a practical standpoint it is merely a visa denial pending further documentation or information. Therefore, it is possible to cure whatever deficiencies exist and ultimately obtain the visa.

Sham Relationship or Marriage

If the consular officer makes a decision that a marriage of fiance relationship is not genuine, then the visa could be denied and that decision is not subject to waiver or appeal. This is why proving up the legitimacy of a relationship or marriage at the US Embassy in Bangkok is so important.

Consular Finding of Legal Inadmissibility

If the consular officer finds that the applicant for a visa is legally inadmissible then the visa will be denied, but the finding of inadmissibility may be remedied through the approval of a waiver of inadmissibility (most likely an I-601 waiver application).

Where is the Waiver Application Filed

It is possible to file a waiver application with the consular officer at the US Embassy. However, this method may be inefficient as the Embassy will send the I-601 waiver application to USCIS for adjudication. It may be faster to simply file an I-601 application with USCIS directly.

On another related note USCIS Bangkok has administrative jurisdiction over USCIS filed offices in  New Delhi, India; Seoul, Republic of Korea; Beijing and Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China; Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China; Manila, Philippines; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In its capacity as Bangkok’s District Office it has jurisdiction over Australia, Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos PDR, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and New Zealand. Therefore an I-601 waiver application for a US visa to be obtained from an Embassy in any of these countries can be filed at USCIS Bangkok.

Thanks for reading and for more on US Immigration from Thailand please see:

K1 visa application

Fiance visa application

US Visa Thailand

(Please note: this writing should not be used in lieu of legal advice from a licensed attorney with experience in US Immigration matters. No relationship (attorney-client or otherwise) should be implied from reading this article.)

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