Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Immigration Law’

6th September 2009

Being denied for a visa to the United States of America is certainly not something that people researching the immigration process wish to think about. However, visa denials do occur and by understanding the reasons for denial it may allow prospective immigrants to make more informed decisions regarding their immigration strategy.

When it comes to American Family Immigration a common miscalculation involves applying for a US Tourist Visa on behalf of a foreign loved one. For example, if an American Citizen has a Thai fiancee and he attempts to assist in obtaining a US Tourist Visa for her, it will very likely result in a denial of the visa application. This is not due to some sort of malevolent feeling on the part of the United States Consular Officers, but it is rooted in American Immigration law.

It is probably best to simple quote the US Department of State website:

“Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

‘Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…’

To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.”

Overcoming the presumption of immigrant intent has always been a somewhat major obstacle, but visa denials under this section of the law became more prevalent after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. After 9/11, there were some changes made in the way that non-immigrant visas were processed. A particularly critical change was the requirement that the applicant for a United States tourist visa be interviewed in person. This requirement, combined with increased scrutiny and heightened security concerns lead to more Tourist visa denials. In many cases, the denials were based upon section 214 (b) because the applicants failed to show that they were going to return to their home country, or, at the very least, leave the USA.

Where the foreign applicant is a loved one of a US Citizen, particularly where the Citizen primarily resides in the USA, it is unlikely that the tourist visa application will be approved unless that applicant can show sufficiently “strong ties,” to their home country. However, to forestall needlessly wasting of time and resources, it may be wise for a couple to look into the prospect of submitting a K1 visa application or seek to obtain a K3 visa. The K1 visa is a travel document which allows a temporary stay in the United States, but leaves room under the Doctrine of Dual Intent to allow for the visa holder to adjust status to US permanent residence.

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6th September 2009

For those entering the United States of America on a non-immigrant visa, there is generally a requirement that the entrant have non-immigrant intent. This means that the person entering the country must intend to simply remain on a temporary basis and not have the intention to reside in the United States permanently. United States Visas that require non-immigrant intent include the US Tourist Visa, the F1 Student Visa, and the J1 Exchange Visitor Visa. For each of these categories, the prospective entrant could be denied access to the United States either by visa denial or entry denial at the United States Embassy in Bangkok or the port of entry in the USA. Due to the risk of visa denial or entry denial, it is always recommended to apply for a visa that comports to the applicant’s true intentions.

Conversely, it may be unwise to apply for an immigrant visa if the parties true intentions do not actually involve residing in the United States. In this situation, the issue of intent is somewhat more fluid, but it is still advisable that the parties have a bona fide intention to reside in the USA.

With both of these issues in mind, there is something of a “middle path,” with regard to United States Immigration. This middle path is the doctrine of dual intent. This doctrine is a legal concept that deals with the fact that there are some cases where a US Visa must permit foreign nationals to be present temporarily in the United States of America in legal status and still have immigrant intent. The doctrine was promulgated due to practical necessity as there are situations in which aliens come to live and work in the USA on temporary visas, but they themselves wish to eventually obtain lawful permanent residence. United States Immigration authorities and experts have come to recognize that there are certain situations where this seemingly paradoxical situation must be accepted and, to a certain extent, encouraged.

An example of a commonly sought visa category in Thailand, is the K1 fiance visa. The K1 is a non-immigrant visa, but the alien entering the US on this visa is generally doing so in order to: reunite with their fiance(e), marry, and adjust status to permanent residence.  Therefore, the K1 visa is essentially a dual intent visa as it only allows for a 30 day temporary stay, but provides the opportunity to acquire US permanent residence.

To some extent, the K3 visa is a dual intent travel document as it is technically a non-immigrant visa, but once in the United States, the visa holder must eventually adjust status as the K3 does not confer lawful permanent residence. Usage of the K3 has declined in recent years as visa processing times have decreased for immigrant visas and increased slightly for K3 visas.

L1 visas as well as H1-B work visas are further examples of temporary visas which allow for dual intent. Although, these categories are employment based visas.

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24th August 2009

Last week, United States President Barack Obama stated that reform of the US Immigration system is an important issue and one that will not be placed on the “backburner.” In the United States Congress and Senate, the Immigration debate is coming to the forefront with two proposed bills being brought to the floor in the next session. One proposed bill would stiffen enforcement and security measures with regard to illegal immigrants while creating more opportunities for immigrants to enter the United States legally.

The publication Businessweek reports that another proposed bill would, “limit the granting of H-1Bs, visas that are especially popular among U.S. tech companies like Microsoft as well as Indian IT services outsourcers like Infosys and Wipro.”

This same article makes note of the major contributions that many immigrant groups have made to the economy of the United States of America. There is a pervasive belief that only immigrant groups in the distant past have made a substantial positive impact upon the United States economy. As Businessweek points out, the Technology sector of the American economy has been greatly enhanced by immigrants to the United States as companies such as Google, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Motorola, and Berkshire Hathaway were either founded by, or currently managed by members of the American immigrant community.

An interesting aspect of the current immigration debate is the fact that it will occur at a time of decreased immigration to the USA. To further quote Businessweek:

“Ironically, the latest immigration fight will take place at a time when the U.S. has become a less attractive destination for many immigrants. Because of the recession, there’s less demand for low-cost labor. But the U.S. is also turning out to be less attractive for highly educated workers, too.”

As the People’s Republic of China and Asia generally becomes a more important region of the global economy, it stands to reason that more immigrants will be drawn to that continent in order to seek business opportunities. Hopefully, this fact will be taken into account when legislation regarding comprehensive immigration reform is drafted because in order to remain on the cutting edge of innovation the United States must continue to be viewed as the “land of opportunity,” by talented and ambitious prospective immigrants. Ideally, the proposed legislation to reform the American Immigration system will contain provisions that will make it easier for highly educated and highly skilled foreign labor to enter the United States.

For related information please see:

K1 visa

K3 visa

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23rd August 2009

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is a very large bureaucracy that handles the processing of many petitions for US Immigration benefits. The Service can take a great deal of time to process visa applications and simple delay is not considered out of the ordinary. That being said, there are certain situations in which a delay by USCIS is unwarranted.

If it becomes necessary to compel a government agency to fulfill their statutorily mandated obligations, then a Writ of Mandamus can be filed to compel the agency or officer to perform their duty. A Mandamus action is a civil action and is promulgated by a court of competent jurisdiction. It specifically compels a government officer to carry out their duties in the manner prescribed by law. A piece of legislation known as the Mandamus Act, can be found at 28 U.S.C.: 1361. This provision specifically states that Mandamus is an, “Action to compel an officer of the United States to perform his duty.”

With regard to USCIS, a mandamus action will likely be brought before a Federal District Judge in a United States District Court. If granted, the court’s order will be binding upon the USCIS officer who allegedly failed to adequately fulfill his duties.

The writ of Mandamus exists for a very good reason as it was designed to create a check on the unfettered powers of government officers. That being said, those thinking of filing for a writ of mandamus should give the decision a great deal of thought because the ultimate result could turn out to be detrimental in certain cases. For example, should a case get caught up in the system making it necessary to file a Mandamus action, because the Mandamus order only compels the officer to take action, and does not compel the officer as to what decision should be made, it could turn out that the officer simply denies the application and the case comes to an end, albeit more quickly than it likely would have had the Mandamus order not been granted.

With this in mind, the Mandamus action should be utilized judiciously as not every case calls for it. In those cases where a Mandamus action would be appropriate, the seeker of such a writ should weigh all of his or her options in order to make a full determination as to whether the Mandamus action is appropriate in light of the unique facts in that particular case.

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17th August 2009

There appears to be growing frustration among many groups who supported President Barack Obama when he was campaigning for the White House. During his bid for the Presidency, Mr. Obama was quite vocal about the need to reform the current immigration system in the United States of America. However, as Mr. Obama’s Presidency has begun as a very busy administration, Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) has seemed to have been shunted to the “back burner.”

In a recent web posting entitled, “Obama Pushes Immigration Reform to 2010, Jokes About Being Called ‘an Illegal Immigrant’” the author, Diego Graglia,wrote:

“Obama added he can’t get immigration reform passed on his own. “It’s important that people realize that things don’t happen because the President snaps his fingers. I can’t do all this by myself,” he said. He asked that grassroots groups continue to organize and mobilize for reform and that members of Congress face the political risks involved.”

Although it is correct that the President cannot solve all political problems by snapping his fingers, this comment does beg the question: then what can he do? Certainly it takes more than simply snapping one’s fingers, but at the same time the President wields a great deal of hard, soft, indirect legislative, and overt executive power. Certainly, he of all people could at least attempt to bring about some sort of compromise measure that would not require as much political capital.

At the same time, there are those who argue that Obama has too many current problems to deal with and Immigration reform is an issue that should be dealt with when the President has enough time to devote his full attention to this incredibly important issue. With the economy only beginning to show signs of recovery and foreign commitments to sort out, the President has many urgent and pressing problems to deal with. However, many have argued that Immigration reforms are more important as Immigration problems have an impact upon both the domestic economy and foreign policy.

An issue that is increasingly becoming entangled with Comprehensive Immigration Reform is that of US Immigration benefits for same sex couples. There are some who believe that United States Immigration benefits for same sex bi-national couples will likely be dealt with in provisions of CIR legislation. It is too soon to tell, but it seems logical that if Comprehensive Immigration Reform is considered to be a secondary issue, then Immigration benefits for same-sex couples may get short shrift as well, at least for now.

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16th May 2009

Conflict of Laws and the Uniting of American Families Act

A controversial and important issue with regard to US Immigration law and policy is the Uniting of American Families Act which would confer family immigration benefits upon same-sex couples. However, a question that many people ask me is: can I get a fiance or marriage visa for a same sex partner if we plan to marry, or have already executed a marriage, in a state that allows same sex marriage, domestic partnerships, or civil unions? At the time of this writing, the short answer to this question is: under current law, NO.

State recognized same-sex marriages and civil unions represents one of the biggest conflict of laws issue in America today. With regard to same-sex marriage issues within the USA, the issue has been raised as to whether a state that does not allow same sex marriage or does not recognize same sex marriage can grant a divorce of a same sex couple. This issue has not been fully explored and no policy or legal principle has been set in stone.

In the realm of US Immigration, the issue is more clear cut, but no less confusing for the layman. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the US Congress made the following laws:

  1. No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
  2. The United States federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.

This means that even though a same-sex marriage is properly executed in a state and recognized by a state government, it will not be recognized as such by the US government. American Immigration law is a body of jurisprudence that is wholly federal law, so even though a marriage is properly conducted and recognized by a state, the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act precludes the Federal government, in the form of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), from conferring immigration benefits if based upon the underlying marriage, or intention to marry (however legally binding same sex marriage at the state level may be).

The Uniting of American Families Act is a rather clever piece of legislation because it circumvents the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by creating a whole new visa category under the US Immigration and Nationality Act. In its current form, the UAFA would allow “permanent partners,” the right to US Immigration benefits. This means that an alien permanent partner would be entitled to a visa like a CR-1 or IR-1 in which permanent residence in the USA could ultimately be secured.

It is the authors opinion that proving up the bona fides of the relationship when applying for a “permanent partner” visa will be more difficult than in different-sex relationship cases, because both USCIS and the consular post will be more heavily scrutizing these applications because they coule be used to defraud the government for US Immigration benefits. In a way, the permanent partner visa would be something akin to a hybrid visa like a K1 fiance visa. That being said, if and when the UAFA passes, it will be a major step toward equal rights of same sex bi-national couples.

(This information is intended for academic purposes only and should not be used to make legal deciions without consulting a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. No attorney client privilege, express or implied, is created between the author and reader of this content.)

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30th April 2009

Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been a major issue in Washington throughout this current congressional term. However, another issue that has been gaining support in both Houses of Congress is the Uniting American Families Act, which would amend current US Immigration law to allow same sex couples US Immigration benefits.

Although there is a great deal of controversy surrounding Comprehensive Immigration reform, the UAFA is gaining momentum and may be passed sooner rather than later.

Currently the following anglophone nations allow same sex immigration based upon family relationships: Australia, Canada,  New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.  By passing the Uniting American Families Act, the US Congress would bring America into this community of nations with a similar legal tradition who have opted not to discriminate against same-sex families for immigration purposes.

A major obstacle with regard to US Immigration for same sex couples is the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as a union between a man and woman. The UAFA makes no claim to change the definition of marriage, nor does it attempt to legalize the couple’s relationship in some sort of quasi marriage or civil union. Instead, the UAFA only creates new right and entitlements with regard to US Immigration. The UAFA’s language is somewhat sublime in that it bypasses a conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act by creating the term “permanent partner,” therefore not placing the two laws at odds with one another. By simply creating a new definition a conflict of laws is avoided and, in turn, a great deal less political controversy results.

The Uniting American Families Act (S. 1328/H.R. 2221) would alter the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize visas for same sex partners of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens. The act would regularize immigration status for same sex couples by adopting and placing the phrase “permanent partners” in the statutory definition of those entitled to US Family Immigration benefits.

As stated previously on this blog, we at Integrity Legal feel that this bill would bring US Immigration Law and policy into the 21st century by making US Immigration options open to US families of all types. The law would also create a many criminal and civil penalties for those who would use this legislation as a means of fraudulently obtaining US Visas.

Current President, Barack Obama has in the past described US Immigration rights for gay couples as being, “a moral imperative” this phrase succinctly sums up this issue.

For more on US Immigration generally please see:

K-1 Visa

US Visa Thailand

k3 Visa

(Note: Nothing contained herein should be construed as legal advice or as forming an attorney-client relationship, all legal advice should be obtained from a competent licensed attorney.)

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