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Posts Tagged ‘us visa lawyer thailand’

5th February 2010

In cases where a US visa application is denied it may be possible to remedy the visa denial by applying for a waiver if the denial was based upon a legal grounds of inadmissibility. This type of waiver is called an I-601 waiver. At one time, if a United States visa applicant was infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), then they would be denied a visa visa based upon this factor alone, if no other issues existed that called for a denial. However, recently the United States Immigration authorities have changed this rule. To quote a document promulgated by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

“[I]nfection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is no longer a ground of inadmissibility. If you have the HIV infection, you are no longer inadmissible to the United States, and are no longer required to file Form I-601 because of your HIV infection. As part of the revisions to Form I-601, any reference to HIV infection in the form and the instructions were removed.”

This is not the only rule change that has been recently promulgated as the filing instructions themselves have recently changed in order to more accurately reflect the proper filing locations as well as other regulatory modifications.

“In addition, USCIS… announced that there are revised filing instructions and addresses for applicants filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility. The change of filing location is part of an overall effort to transition the intake of benefit forms from USCIS local offices and Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. By centralizing form and fee intake to a Lockbox environment, USCIS can provide customers with more efficient and effective initial processing of applications and fees.”

The “lockbox” method is currently employed when processing immigrant visa applications such as the IR-1 visa and the CR-1 visa. This allows USCIS to streamline the application process as all applications are submitted to one location. K1 visa applications as well as K3 marriage visa applications are submitted directly to the USCIS Service Center with appropriate jurisdiction.

In situations where an I-601 waiver application is submitted overseas, the application is usually submitted at the US Embassy or US Consulate where the visa is denied. This allows the Consular Officer to make a recommendation regarding the waiver application. Those interested in US visa waivers should note that only licensed United States attorneys or accredited representatives are allowed to represent clients before both the United States Embassy and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). That being said, only an attorney is entitled to charge fees for such services as accredited representatives are usually not-for-profit agencies who only charge a nominal fee (if anything) when assisting immigrants. Those who are not licensed to represent clients is US Immigration matters cannot charge a fee to represent clients in Immigration proceedings pursuant to US law.  For more information please click here.

For more information about American visas and the remedies available upon application denial please see: US Visa Denial.

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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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25th September 2009

On this blog we often try to point out the difference between retaining the services of a licensed American Immigration lawyer and using a “fly by night” operator posing as a lawyer or calling himself an “Immigration Consultant.” In recent years, the United States government and various state governments have taken a firm stand by increasing their diligence in stamping out the activities of these scam artists. In a recent development a person in Virginia was arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced for fraud based upon the fact that they stole 1 million US dollars while claiming to be a competent specialist in the field of immigration.

The scam artist in question, “was sentenced last week to 41 months in prison for defrauding vulnerable immigrant applicants of approximately $1 million from June 2000 through December 2005.”

The above linked article further noted what is seen by some as something of a new attitude in the Federal law enforcement community with regard to Immigration fraud:

“Immigration fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] uproots the infrastructure of illegal immigration by detecting and deterring immigration fraud.”

This situation further highlights the need to conduct due diligence in order to make certain that a person claiming to be an Immigration specialist is truly certified to handle United States Immigration cases. Many confused Americans often ask, “How can I ensure that my Thai fiancee and I are dealing with a reputable attorney who is licensed to practice American Immigration law?”

Even in cases where an individual claims that they are an attorney, it is always wise to ask to see a license to practice law from at least one US state or US territory. Seeing this document will provide evidence that the person one deals with is, in fact, a lawyer. Further, it might be beneficial to further inquire as to the “lawyer’s” educational background. Make certain that they not only graduated from an ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law school, but that they passed the bar in at least one state, territory, or district in the USA. Any licensed attorney should also be registered in their state’s Supreme Court database or with their state bar association.

An unfortunate fact regarding the hiring of an unlicensed “lawyer” or “consultant” is that those type of operators are not bound by any type of ethical code. Licensed attorneys must comport their behavior to an ethical standard and are therefore obligated to do no harm to their clients. This code of conduct is not imposed upon those with no license to practice law.

Unfortunately the internet has played a role in the proliferation of so-called “visa companies,” and unlicensed lawyers. With that in mind, the prospective applicants should insist upon seeing a license in order to ensure they are dealing with a reputable operator.

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6th July 2009

US Immigration and Thai Immigration have a great deal in common and also many differences. I decided to write a quick blog post exploring the differences between the two systems in order to provide more clarity for those seeking to immigrate to either Thailand or the United States.

With regard to ease of visa obtainment, overall it is generally more difficult to obtain a USA visa than a Thai Visa. That being said, there are certain aspects of US Immigration that are far more generous than Thailand’s system. For example Thai Permanent Residence is very difficult to obtain from a practical standpoint and almost no one enters the country with Permanent Residence, especially if they have never been to Thailand before. In contrast, the United States confers lawful permanent residence upon entry to the USA for those married to a United States Citizen for longer than 2 years at the time of visa application.  For those married less than 2 years at the time of application, conditional permanent residence is immediately granted upon entry and the conditionality must be lifted later.

A Thai Business Visa is somewhat similar to an American Business Visa in that both allow for travel to the USA or Thailand for business purposes. However, neither visa actually confers the right to work in either country. This is where the similarities end because in order to obtain lawful employment in the USA the immigrant would need to get a visa that has work authorization. In Thailand, the immigrant would need to obtain a Thai work permit. Getting work authorization for Thailand is somewhat easier in Thailand than in the United States.

The Thai Tourist Visa and the American Tourist Visa are quite similar. They both are non-immigrant visas designed for recreational purposes. Currently, the Thai Tourist visa is being offered free of charge to those wishing to visit the Kingdom of Thailand. This is not the case for the American tourist visa as a non-immigrant application fee and pin number fee are required for those applying for a tourist visa.

One of the most significant differences between United States Immigration and Immigration to Thailand is the fact that Thailand does not have any provisions in its Immigration law for a Fiance visa. The Fiancee Visa in the United States is commonly know by its visa category classification: K-1 visa. No matter what it is known as, it is designed to allow a Fiancee of an American Citizen entry into the United States for the purpose of marriage and permanent residence in the USA. Thailand has nothing remotely resembling this type of visa. Further, it does not appear that Thailand will be creating anything like the K1 Visa anytime soon.

Overall, Thai Immigration is dissimilar to American Immigration because US Immigration is far more substantially funded and has more agents operating under the aegis of USCIS and the US State Department.

(Nothing contained in this blog post should be used as legal advce. No Attorney/client relationship shall be created between author and reader.)

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20th June 2009

A question sometimes posed with regard to US Immigration from Thailand involves the possibility of a Thai fiancee or spouse eventually acquiring United States Citizenship by naturalization. Even in a case in which the couple in question is seeking a K-1 visa or a K-3 Visa (which are both non-immigrant visas) there still seems to be an underlying belief that eventually the immigrant fiancee or spouse will one day wish to acquire United States citizenship.

Many people wonder about the time and residency requirements for naturalization. In many cases the ability to read, speak, and write in the English language is a requirement and a general knowledge of the history and government of the United States is also mandatory.

As to the residency requirement, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) stipulates that one must have been lawfully admitted to permanent residence in the United States in order to subsequently apply for citizenship. The USCIS website goes further and states:

“Lawfully admitted for permanent residence means having been legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Individuals who have been lawfully admitted as permanent residents will be asked to produce an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card, as proof of their status.”

To quote further from the USCIS website, in order to Naturalize as a United States Citizen one must meet the following eligibility requirements set forth under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Basically, the applicant must:

  1. have resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year;
  2. have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (absences of more than six months but less than one year shall disrupt the applicant’s continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that he or she did not abandon his or her residence during such period)
  3. have resided within a state or district for at least three months

Beyond these requirements the applicant must also show that they are of good character. Which is best indicated by an absence of criminal record. In cases where a child of an American Citizen is not eligible to acquire US citizenship at birth, naturalization technically occurs automatically upon the child’s entry into the United States on an Immigrant Visa.

Please note: that where the applicant for naturalization gained lawful permanent residence due to marriage to a United States Citizen, the time requirement for naturalization is 3 years of permanent residence and 18 months physical presence in the United States.

(This post is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be used as substantive legal advice. For more information please contact a licensed attorney. This post does not create a lawyer-client relationship between the person writing this post and those later reading it.)

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18th June 2009

Hiring an Immigration attorney is a decision that each couple makes based upon their unique set of circumstances and that decision should be made after careful review and research. That being said, when the decision is made that a US visa lawyer is necessary,  sometimes couples are unwittingly duped into hiring a non-licensed “immigration consultant” or “visa agent.” In even worse situations, the couple believes that they are actually retaining the services of a licensed lawyer when in fact they are dealing with someone who has never completed formal legal training or been licensed to practice law.

Form G-28 is a required form that must be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) when the initial visa application is sent to the USCIS Service Center. Basically, the G-28 puts the United States government officers working at USCIS on notice that an attorney will be representing the petitioner, beneficiary, or (more common in family base cases) both parties. Further, the US Embassy in Bangkok will currently allow attorney’s to present 221g follow up documentation provided a G-28 form has been signed by the Beneficiary and the attorney can produce credentials showing that they are in fact licensed to practice law in at least one United States jurisdiction.

One of the convenient aspects of hiring an attorney from the point of view of the United States Citizen petitioner and the Thai fiancee Beneficiary is the fact that once the attorney enters his or her appearance, then most, if not all correspondence, will be sent to the attorney’s office.

Also, the G-28 acts as a litmus test to determine if the person or organization one is dealing with is an actual attorney or law firm. USCIS has made regulations which stipulate that only attorneys and non-profit organizations are allowed to represent clients in United States Immigration matters. With regard to non-profit organization, these types of institutions are defined as those like the Red Cross or other non-governmental refugee organizations. In circumstances where a “representative” is used who is not a licensed attorney, USCIS has stated that the representative must take little or nothing with regard toa fee. This provision seems truly to have been designed with organizations assisting indigent refugees in mind.

On the G-28 form, the attorney, petitioner, and beneficiary will need to affix their signatures. The attorney will also place his or her state of licensure on the form. In the case of the K-1 visa application, the attorney will also place his or her G-28 number on the form I-129f.

For further information please see:

K1 Visa

K3 Visa

(Please be on Notice: this piece is not intended to be regarded as a substitute for legal advice. Please seek legal advice from a licensed attorney. This post creates no lawyer-client relationship between the parties writing or reading it.)

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8th April 2009

US Visa Lawyer Thailand

Posted by : admin

Finding an American Immigration attorney in Thailand can be somewhat difficult due to the fact that there are quite a few “con-men” claiming to be visa experts in the Kingdom of Thailand. They range from people outright lying about being US Visa Lawyers to “visa agents” who claim they can assist in preparing Immigration forms for submission to USCIS or the US Embassy. In reality only a licensed American Attorney is allowed to represent clients before USCIS (Immigration).  Perhaps it is best to quote the USCIS website:

“Notarios, notary publics and immigration consultants may NOT represent you before USCIS. They may not give you legal advice on what immigration benefit you may apply for or what to say in an immigration interview. These individuals may NOT hold themselves out as qualified in legal matters or in immigration and naturalization procedure and may only charge nominal (inexpensive) fees as regulated by state law. In many other countries, the word “notario” means that the individual is an attorney, but that is not true in the United States. Individuals seeking help with immigration questions should be very careful before paying money to non-attorneys.”

Former Commissioner of the INS (now USCIS)  Doris Meissner at one point released a memo stating, “Only attorneys and accredited representatives may engage in the practice of law before the Service.” There are exceptions to this rule, but Meissner continued, “These exceptions are available only if the person receives no payment for the appearance.” She also wrote that the “practice of law includes advising individuals concerning the selection, completion, and filing of Service forms (such as petitions or applications), in addition to actually appearing before the Service officer… Even advice limited to something as simple’ as selecting and completing the proper Service forms constitutes the practice of law, since this depends on a legal conclusion that the client is eligible for the particular benefit.” For more on this memo and its effect on immigration consultants in the USA please click here.

Only an attorney licensed to practice law in at least one US state, territory, commonwealth, or the District of Columbia may represent clients in Immigration matters before USCIS. Therefore, any “visa agent” or “immigration consultant” that is claiming that they are a US Visa Lawyer and have the right to represent people before USCIS is lying.

The day before writing this post I personally went to the US Embassy in Bangkok in order to respond to a 221g refusal in the process of providing the information I spoke with a consular officer who probed me about my credentials. I showed him my state and federal bar cards and he very politely informed me that he apologized for any inconvenience, but he just wanted to ensure that I was duly licensed. This would similarly occur at USCIS if I had been representing a client there. Had I not been a licensed attorney, I do not know what would have happened. Although I have an idea because the consular officer explained that security had already been called. Had I not been able to produce the proper credentials I think I would have been escorted out.

For more Information about retaining the services of a licensed American Immigration Attorney in Thailand please see US Visa Lawyer Thailand

Note: None of the above information should be used as a substitute for advice from a competent US Immigration Attorney

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