Integrity Legal

30th November 2009

There is some misunderstanding as to an attorney’s role at the Consular processing phase of the US visa process. The Consular processing phase is usually the final visa processing phase as it usually culminates in the issuance of a US visa. In cases involving legal grounds of inadmissibility this may not be the case (as such cases require the extra step of obtaining an I601 waiver), but in a routine family visa application, such as an application for a CR1, K3, or K1 visa, the visa is generally issued soon after the Embassy interview.

Many are under the mistaken impression that an attorney can be present at the visa interview. Although this may be true at some posts, the US Embassy in Bangkok does not permit this practice. Under the provisions of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), US Embassies and Consulates are entitled to set policy regarding attorney representation at the post:

“Each post has the discretion to establish its own policies regarding the extent to which attorneys and other representatives may have physical access to the Consulate or attend visa interviews, taking into consideration such factors as a particular consulate’s physical layout and any space limitations or special security concerns. Whatever policies are set must be consistent and applied equally to all.” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.4]

Although a post has wide discretion with regard to presence therein, the post is required to notify the attorney of record regarding the ultimate status of the application:

“The post must send a notification of the action taken at the time of the final immigrant visa appointment to the applicant’s attorney of record on a locally reproduced nonstandard form letter… If the immigrant visa is refused, you must hand a copy of the refusal letter, and a copy of Form OF-194, The Foreign Service of the United States of America Refusal Worksheet, attached to the form letter to the alien (making sure that the refusal worksheet is retained in the applicant’s visa file).” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.2]

The Foreign Affairs manual goes further by permitting direct correspondence between attorneys and Consular Officers:

“You may correspond directly with the applicant’s representative of record, even in cases where the applicant is physically present in the United States, unless the applicant requests otherwise.” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.1]

Importantly, the Foreign Affairs Manual requires that an attorney licensed in the US, but practicing abroad, be accorded those same courtesies granted to attorneys practicing in the USA:

“You must extend to a U.S. attorney who has been practicing abroad and is a member of a State bar association or to a local attorney-at-law, the same courtesies in correspondence that are extended to an attorney practicing in the United States…” [9 FAM 40.4 N12.3]

In this author’s experience, the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand diligently adheres to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual while exercising reasonable discretion in order to efficiently process a very large caseload. Although not permitted to be present at the visa interview, a US visa lawyer in Thailand can provide a great deal of insight into the final phases of the US visa process.

For more information on the Foreign Affairs Manual please see the US Department of State Website by clicking here.


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