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Posts Tagged ‘AILA’

20th December 2009

In a previous post on this blog this author brought up the fact that the Department of State is raising the fees for non-immigrant visas such as the US Tourist Visa, the Exchange Visitor Visa, and the US Student Visa. However, it was not clear just how this proposed fee increase would effect other types of US visas. The Department of State recently promulgated a press release discussing the impact of the proposed rule change. This author came by this press release thanks to AILA. To quote this press release:

“Under the proposed rule, applicants for all visas that are not petition-based, including B1/B2 tourist and business visitor visas and all student and exchange-visitor visas, would pay a fee of $140.

Applicants for petition-based visas would pay an application fee of $150. These categories include:

H visa for temporary workers and trainees
L visa for intracompany transferees
O visa for aliens with extraordinary ability
P visa for athletes, artists and entertainers
Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors
R visa for religious occupations

The application fee for K visas for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens would be $350. The fee for E visas for treaty-traders and treaty-investors would be $390. The Department will not begin collecting the new proposed fees until it considers
public comments and publishes a final rule.”

This author added the above italics for emphasis because this is a substantial fee increase compared to the current amount that must be paid in connection with K visas. At the time of this writing, the Consular processing fee paid at the US Embassy in Bangkok or the US Consulate in Chiang Mai is $131. The proposed rule would increase this fee to $350. The US State Department has noted that the increase in fees is necessary because the K1 visa and the K3 visa require more diligent adjudication on the part of Consular Officers. This author would generally agree with this statement as it has been his opinion that Consular Officers diligently investigate and judge these petitions in an effort to provide a fair, thorough, and efficient adjudication. That being said, this fee increase will probably have a major impact upon those who have already filed for K1 and K3 visa benefits. Hopefully, these fee increases will come into effect after a grace period whereby those who filed before the fee increase will be able to enjoy the previously lower fee while new applications will have the fee increase phased in. However, the logistics of this proposal may be cost prohibitive as keeping track of previously filed cases could be highly labor intensive.

For more information on this and other US Immigration matters please see: US Visa Thailand.

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15th December 2009

When visa applications are submitted they process through the US Immigration system. The process depends upon the type of visa being sought. In situations in which applicants are seeking a K1 visa, K3 visa, CR1 visa, or IR1 visa the process is often routine, but many get through the entire process to find themselves confronted with a 221(g) refusal. AILA recently distributed an article dealing with this issue as it now has an impact upon those who utilize the Visa Waiver program and ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization) when traveling to the USA. To quote the publication’s section on 221(g) refusals:

“Section 221(g) of the INA provides for a temporary refusal when an otherwise qualified visa applicant is found to be lacking a specific document, or when a consular officer determines that additional security clearance is required. Consular officers beneficially use 221(g) as a way of affording applicants every opportunity to supplement their applications in order to address concerns – such as possible fraud – that arise at the visa interview. Once the deficiency is satisfied, or the concern resolved, 221(g) refusal is “overcome” and the visa may be issued.”

221(g) denials can truly be a boon to both the Consular Officer and the Immigration attorney as it provides a clear indication of what needs to be presented in order to facilitate visa issuance. That being said, Consular Officers can re-issue 221(g) refusals, but this rarely occurs as many officers seem to make a point of ensuring that all other documents are compiled before issuing an initial 221(g).

Many people wish to know information regarding common reasons for 221(g) refusal. AILA provides a brief overview of the common reasons for this type of denial. To further quote the aforementioned publication:

“1. The applicant is asked to provide additional supporting documents, such as proof of local employment;
2. The applicant is employed in a field listed on the Technology Alert List (TAL) and the consular officer requests a Visas Mantis Security Advisory Opinion (“SAO”). (This is one of the most common scenarios in which applicants in India, China and elsewhere are told their applications require “administrative processing.”)
3. The consular officer requests an Advisory Opinion from the Visa Office on the applicability of one of the statutory grounds of inadmissibility.
4. There are no empty visa pages in the applicant’s passport, or the application photograph does not meet quality standards.
5. The applicant’s petition approval is not yet listed in PIMS.”

In many cases, 221(g) refusals are routine and they usually do not have a detrimental impact upon travelers to the USA. However, in recent months it has been announced that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service treats 221g refusals as denials when posing the question “have you ever been denied a visa to the USA” on the ESTA registration form. It would appear that the ESTA system “red flags” those who have been “denied” a prior visa and asks that some of these applicants receive an actual visa (in most cases a US tourist visa) before traveling to the USA which could cause delays to those wishing to enter the country.

Currently, the Kingdom of Thailand does not participate in the American Visa Waiver Program so this issue with CBP will have little impact for Thai nationals traveling to the United States. However, people in Thailand who hold the nationality of a country which participates in the Visa Waiver Program may be effected by this new regulation if they are presented with a 221(G) denial by a Consular Officer at the US Embassy in Bangkok.

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13th November 2009

In a previous post the issue of the G-28 Notice of Attorney Appearance was discussed. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service had changed the form in order to update its contents to more accurately convey information regarding the exact nature of an attorney’s representation of a client before the various agencies under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. Recently, this author has learned through the American Immigration Lawyers Association that USCIS will continue to accept the old form and will not reject an application simply for utilizing the previous form. To quote USCIS through AILA:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that the previous version of the Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative (Form G-28) will be accepted until further notice… On Oct. 1, 2009, USCIS announced the publication of a new Form G-28 and provided a 30-day grace period, until Oct. 30, for accepting previous versions at the USCIS Lockbox facilities or USCIS Service Centers. USCIS encourages attorneys and accredited representatives to use the new Form G-28, however, USCIS will not reject filings of the previous Form G-28 version until further notice. This will allow law students who represent immigrants to use the previous form until changes can be made to the form to accommodate their unique situation.”

As stated previously, the submission of a G-28 puts the United States government (in the form of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cutoms and Border Protection, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) on notice that an attorney has officially entered their appearance in the case.

Also a G-28 is an effective way of determining if one is dealing with an actual attorney or simply working with a “visa company,” “visa agency,” or phony unlicensed “lawyer.” Unless the government is willing to correspond directly with one’s attorney it may be wise to seek representation elsewhere because this is an integral component of the Immigration attorney-client relationship.

Each and every US Embassy or US Consulate is under the jurisdiction of the US Department of State and not the Department of Homland Security. Therefore, a G-28 has no bearing on these organs of government, but the US Embassy will correspond with an attorney in matters pertaining to a visa application if the attorney is licensed to practice in the USA. That being said, generally the Embassies and Consulates will not deal with unlicensed so-called “lawyers,” and as a result, such an individual can be of little assistance in processing US visa applications.

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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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25th August 2009

Apparently, the State of New York has made the decision to crack down on Immigration Consultants and so-called “visa agencies.” Only a licensed attorney or USCIS approved representative is entitled to prepare visa applications and petitions on behalf of clients pursuing United States Immigration benefits. In flagrant transgression of this rule, many companies in the United States of America provide unlicensed immigration advice. The State of New York has opted to take an aggressive position regarding this practice. To quote the a publication by the State of New York, promulgated through the American Immigration Lawyers Association:

“In thousands of cases across New York City and Long Island, these companies unlawfully filed immigration petitions with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of immigrants and their families, jeopardizing efforts to obtain legal status.”

Many people do not recognize how detrimentally these unscrupulous agencies can affect prospective immigrants’ chances of obtaining an American visa. The aforementioned publication quoted the New York Attorney General as saying:

“The consequences of bad legal advice can be absolutely devastating,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Fraudulent legal services can haunt individuals and their families for a lifetime. Companies and individuals that represent someone in a legal proceeding without having the authority to do so must be stopped, and my office will hold them accountable.”

It is good to see that local authorities in the United States are taking a firm stand against these practices. In a way, cracking down on these types of enterprises is of assistance to all immigrants and prospective immigrants because United States Immigration is a field that has been somewhat plagued by “fly by night” operations masquerading as attorneys and law firms in an effort to swindle clients out of their hard earned money.

Many of these organizations advertise “guarantees” and “full refunds” for failure to achieve desired results. In many cases, these too good to be true propositions are simply gimmicks to get unsuspecting immigrants to part with their money. Unfortunately, in Thailand “visa agencies” and those pretending to be lawyers prey upon uninformed foreigners and Thais. This practice is particularly prevalent in Thailand because many applications for visas are filed on behalf of family members who are of Thai extraction. Since Thailand is a sovereign nation independent of American legal jurisdiction, it is difficult for American authorities to apprehend those falsely claiming to be American attorneys. Therefore, the consumer environment in Thailand with regard to legal services is: Buyer Beware. Always ask if the attorney can provide a copy of their license to practice law from at least one jurisdiction in the United States.

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13th August 2009

As mentioned in previous posts on this blog, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service  (USCIS) is the relatively new incarnation of the agency formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Currently USCIS is headed by a director who reports to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Since the election of President Barack Obama there have been many new appointments to the upper echelons of the United States Federal bureaucracy. This week has seen the appointment of  a new Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. Through their website, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is reporting information on the appointment:

“Director Alejandro Mayorkas was confirmed on August 7, 2009, to lead the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A hearing to consider his nomination was held on June 24, 2009. On July 28, 2009, the Judiciary Committee ordered the nomination reported to the Senate for consideration.”

We here at Integrity Legal wish to congratulate Mr. Mayorkas on his recent appointment and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors as Director of USCIS. Many proposed changes are in store for USCIS in the coming months and years and Mr. Mayorkas will oversee what will likely be great change within the agency.

Until reading this report, I was unaware that USCIS Director’s even needed Senatorial approval before taking office. Many United States Federal appointments must be confirmed by the United States Senate before the appointee will be allowed to take office. I was aware that this process was common for high ranking American officials like cabinet appointees or Supreme Court Justices, but I was under the misperception that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service was headed by a career federal civil servant and was not a political appointment. That being said, it makes a certain degree of sense to have the holder of this office politically appointed. USCIS is charged with bringing immigration policies into practice on behalf of the administration and as a result USCIS wields a tremendous amount of power with regard to how federal immigration law is practically implemented. Therefore, to keep USCIS policy in line with that of the administration it makes sense to politically appoint the head of that agency.

There are career civil servants who work for USCIS as the agency must remain functional during periods in which a director has yet to be confirmed by the US Senate. Career officers are appointed largely based upon merit and politics likely does not factor into their advancement within the agency.

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10th August 2009

On August 6, 2009 the American Immigration Lawyers Association is reporting that two people in New York City have been arrested as a result of a fraud investigation targeted at a fraud ring headed by TONG HUI YOU (a/ka KEVIN YOU), 50, and XIAO LING CHEN (a/k/a LINDA CHEN), 36. According to the indictment these two were actively holding themselves out to the public as attorneys even though they had not been licensed as such. Further, the indictment alleges that these defendants were involved in a scheme to defraud by promising immigration benefits that they could not deliver.

Apparently, these two would bring victims to their office and, as AILA’s website reports,

“Once inside, the victim met YOU, who stated in substance that he was a lawyer specializing in express immigration. CHEN also told the victim that YOU was a lawyer. YOU represented to the victim that he had special connections in the U.S. immigration agency and in the U.S. Embassy in China. YOU guaranteed that the victim’s petitions for his family members in China would be approved within six months and that his family members in the U.S. would get green cards through a particular program even though they had not applied and did not qualify.” [Emphasis Added]

I placed sections of the above quote in bold and italics in order to underscore some important points. First, this type of scam is far too prevalent in Thailand. Many so called “lawyers,” “attorneys,” and “visa consultants,” cause all kind of problems for victims in Thailand. As if falsely claiming to be an attorney were not enough, these firms also promise many immigration benefits that the applicant is either ineligible to receive or would be improper to obtain based upon the victim’s situation. Another common claim is the “100% Guarantee.”

A variation on this scenario that is often played out in Thailand also involves the “visa company” creating false documentation in order to cover up facts that could be negatively construed. It is never wise to provide documents that attempt to cover up a fact material to the visa application. This authors has personally seen instances where doing so has lead to findings of inadmissibility that would otherwise have not arisen had it not been for the fact that the “visa agent” encouraged the couple to lie on an application.

The actions taken by the authorities in New York are commendable, but more needs to be done in order to eradicate the “visa agent” phenomenon which has become extremely prevalent in Thailand and on the internet. For those who have been adversely affected by an unscrupulous operator purporting to be an attorney or otherwise claiming to be able to assist with US Immigration matters, please see this link which provides information about where to go to complain about an “Immigration Consultant.”

For information on Getting a USA Visa from Thailand please see:

K1 Visa Thailand or K3 visa Thailand

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9th August 2009

On this blog, we often mention, quote, or write about the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA). Some readers have become curious as to what this organization does and what they represent. Further, some people do not understand what membership means.

In other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, there exist what are known as registered Migration Consultants or OISC registered immigration advisers. In the United Kingdom, the organizations purposes is well articulated on their homepage which states that the OISC, “is responsible for regulating immigration advisers by ensuring they are fit and competent and act in the best interest of their clients.”

In the United States of America an attorney licensed and in good standing with either the United States Supreme Court or the highest court of at least on state is entitled to practice United States Immigration Law. However, unlike other countries with a history of common law, the United States does not have one singular regulatory body designed to monitor the activities of those who primarily act as a US Immigration lawyer.

In a way, the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association has come in to fill the breach regarding some of the duties inherent to a professional organization. The American Immigration Lawyers Association provides advice and mentoring for new attorneys practicing in the field of American Immigration. AILA also acts as a mechanism for advocacy on Capitol Hill. The American Immigration Lawyers Association disseminates information regarding pending legislation and provides resources regarding where interested parties can go to show their support for upcoming legislative initiatives.

One aspect of AILA that is particularly beneficial to the public at large is their campaign to eradicate so-called “notarios” and “Immigration consultants.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association provides information about where disaffected parties can go in order to lodge complaints against unscrupulous operators who prey on helpless victims who unwittingly retain their services believing they are real attorneys. In the United States this phenomenon is particularly common in the Latino communities. Oftentimes people are adversely affected by the activites of the notarios who offer either purposely malicious or incorrect advice.

It should be noted that membership in AILA is not necessarily indicative of one who can practice immigration law. Any attorney who is licensed and in good standing in at least one state can provide immigration advice. However, regular AILA members must have a license to practice law.  Therefore, AILA membership is indicative of an ability to practice before USCIS.

Some “fly by night” operations in Thailand and throughout the world falsely make claims to membership in AILA. In order to verify if an operator is AILA approved, check the website and search for the attorney in question.

For more on US Immigration from Thailand please see:

K1 fiance visa

K3 marriage visa or,

US tourist visa

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4th June 2009

On June 3rd the United States Senate held hearings on the Uniting American Families Act for the first time. This was a historic event because it marked the first time in history that the Senate held hearing regarding Same-Sex Family Immigration matters.

For those unfamiliar with the UAFA, it is a bill that would add the term “Permanent Partner” to the list of those eligible for US Immigration benefits based upon a family relationship. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the Federal government only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. The UAFA creates a new category of family member, namely: Permanent Partners.

A note of importance, the President of AILA , The American Immigration Lawyers Association, submitted a statement to the committee supporting the enactment of the Uniting of American Families Act. An interesting quote from the statement:

“[S]ame sex partners of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are not recognized as family members under current immigration law, no matter how long-term or committed the relationship. This outdated and biased definition forces U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to make unconscionable, life-altering decisions to either relocate to a foreign country or permanently separate from their loved ones.”

The hearing was punctuated by the heart wrenching story of an immigrant partner who was taken away by US Immigration officers and deported in full view of her partner and family members in the USA.  The witness said on the record, “I was put into a van with two men in yellow jump suits and chains and searched like a criminal, in a way I have only seen in movies.”

On a related topic, the American State Department recently changed internal rules in order to allow same-sex partners of State Department employees the same rights as different sex couples. US Secretary of State was quoted as saying such rule changes were the “right thing to do.”

Current Immigration law still does not allow American Immigration benefits for same sex loved ones of American Citizens, but the above changes in guidelines and proposed enactments would greatly equalize immigration law to the benefit of same sex couples. It should be noted that this proposed legislation would have no effect on the Defense of Marriage Act, nor would it have any effect with regard to gay marriage. Instead, it would grant immigration benefits to persons previously not qualified to receive them.

(Nothing contained herein is to be construed as legal advice. No lawyer/client relationship is created by reading this post)

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