Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘USCIS Thailand’

20th April 2010

In previous posts this author has discussed the I-130 petition for an immediate relative for a visa to the United States of America. For those present in countries that do not have an office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it may be possible to file such a petition directly with the Consulate by utilizing a method known as Direct Consular Filing. However, in a country where an overseas office of USCIS is located it is incumbent upon to petitioner to file at the local USCIS office, provided he or she meets the residence requirements for the office to take jurisdiction. That being said, many are under the mistaken impression that only the petitioner and beneficiary, together, can submit an application. This is not necessarily the case.

8 CFR 292.1 states:

(a) A person entitled to representation [before USCIS] may be represented by any of the following:

(1) Attorneys in the United States. Any attorney as defined in §1.1(f) of this chapter.

Section 1.1(f), referenced above states:

“The term attorney means any person who is a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any State, possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia, and is not under any order of any court suspending, enjoining, restraining, disbarring, or otherwise restricting him in the practice of law.”

In practical terms, this means that a licensed attorney in the United States is entitled to represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. There is no geographical restriction placed upon this right. Therefore, those wishing to file an I-130 to travel to the United States are entitled, as a matter of law, to attorney representation.

This can provide a real boon to those who do not wish to deal with the petition submission process. Since an attorney in entitled to act on behalf of clients in matters involving petitions for the IR1 visa and the CR1 visa in Thailand, the Petitioner and Beneficiary need simply provide required documents to their attorney and the attorney can file the petition on their behalf. In some limited cases, USCIS officers require that a Petitioner or Beneficiary appear in person regarding a pending case. Should this situation arise, the Petitioner or Beneficiary is entitled to have their attorney present for such a meeting with USCIS officers.

Unfortunately, in Thailand there are many agencies and “fly by night” operations claiming to have the right and expertise to assist in visa matters. However, many of these so-called “lawyers” are not licensed to practice law in the United States, nor in any other jurisdiction. Therefore, they cannot present an I-130 submission on behalf of another. In a way, an I-130 local filing is a “litmus test” of whether or not an individual is really an American attorney. If a so-called “attorney” requires the Petitioner and/or Beneficiary to file the I-130 personally and the so-called “attorney” is unwilling to appear personally, then this may be a sign that they are an unlicensed operator and should be avoided.

For further information please see US Visa Thailand. For further information regarding USCIS local jurisdiction please see: USCIS Bangkok.

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23rd October 2009

Recently the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that a revised form has been issued for those who wish to file for an I-601 Waiver. An I-601 waiver is a waiver of legal grounds of inadmissibility under the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. An alien is found inadmissible if they meet the elements of inadmissibility under the act. Common grounds of inadmissibility among applicants in Thailand are overstay, prostitution, Crimes involving moral turpitude, and health related grounds. If a finding that one of these grounds exists is made by the Consular or Immigration officers, then the applicant must seek an I-601 waiver before they will be entitled to enter the United State lawfully.

In recent days, USCIS has been revising some of the forms that they will accept in connection with certain immigration matters. For example, USCIS recently announced that they will only be accepting an updated version of the G28 Notice of Attorney Appearance. Those who have already filed applications for Immigration benefits before this update comes into effect will not need to submit any new forms as the service will continue to recognize the old forms in an effort to seamlessly transition from the old forms to the new. These efforts seem to be an attempt to streamline the, somewhat complicated, administrative aspects of the US Immigration application process. To quote directly from the USCIS press release:

USCIS has revised Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Revision Date 04/06/09 N, OMB Expiration Date 04/30/11) to make it easier for applicants to complete. Applicants may now select from a list of grounds of inadmissibility on the form itself and mark all which apply to them in order to request a waiver. In addition to the list, the form includes a section where applicants can describe, in their own words, why they believe they are inadmissible. In the previous edition of Form I-601, information about grounds of inadmissibility could only be found of the form’s instructions.

We applaud the efforts on the part of the Service to make this process less complicated and more straightforward. For those interested in submitting a successful I-601 waiver application, it should be remembered that in most cases involving an I-601 waiver, the applicant(s) must show that to deny the waiver would result in an “extreme hardship” to a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. This can be a difficult legal obstacle to overcome which is why it may be wise to retain an immigration lawyer to assist with the preparation and submission of such a petition.

Unlike the United States Embassy in Bangkok, which only has jurisdiction ovr the Kingdom of Thailand. The local USCIS office in Bangkok has administrative jurisdiction over most of Asia. Therefore, I-601 waiver applications filed in connection with a K1 visa, K3 visa, or CR1 visa sought from Asia could be submitted at USCIS Bangkok.

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11th April 2009

People often wonder about the role of the USCIS offices overseas. USCIS’s role in the United States is generally the adjudication of visa petitions. After the petition is adjudicated it is forwarded to the National Visa Center and then on to the US Embassy where the visa interview will take place. Outside of the United States, there are various USCIS District Offices. This post takes a look at the USCIS District office in Thailand and its functions with regard to US Immigration.

USCIS Bangkok District Office Jurisdiction and Functions

To quote the US Embassy website regarding USCIS:

“The District Director and Deputy District Director of USCIS Bangkok District Office oversee the Bangkok District office as well as USCIS sub-offices in Beijing, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Manila, New Delhi, and Seoul.  The USCIS Bangkok District has jurisdiction over Hong Kong, B.C.C., and the adjacent islands, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand; all of continental Asia lying to the east of the western border of Afghanistan and eastern borders of Pakistan and India; Japan, Korea, Okinawa, and all other countries in the Pacific area.

The USCIS Bangkok Office itself, however, only reviews petitions from Australia, Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand.”

As can be seen the USCIS office in Bangkok is responsible for a large area of the world. The office’s main functions include adjudicating I-601 waivers, immigrant visa petitions, naturalization, parole, abandonment of lawful permanent resident status (Green Card), refugee services, and adoptions.

Filing a US Visa Application at the USCIS Office in Bangkok Thailand

One of the major functions of particular interests to Americans with Thai spouses is whether they can submit a visa petition to the USCIS office in Bangkok. The reason for submitting a petition in Bangkok rather than the United States stems from the fact that the processing time at the district office in Bangkok is much faster than the service center in the United States. The obvious reason for the speed differential is the fact that far fewer immigrant petitions are received at the Office in Bangkok compared to the USA.

An issue arises when someone wishing to submit a visa petition in Bangkok is barred from doing so because he or she does not meet the 1 year residence requirement of USCIS. According to USCIS District office policy, only residents in Thailand who have been living in Thailand for at least one year on a 1 year Thai visa are allowed to petition at the District office. Further, only a “resident” non-immigrant Thai visa holder will be allowed to submit a US visa application in Bangkok (non-immigrant visas categories include the Thai ED Visa, Thai Business Visa, and the Thai O Visa). Therefore, those present in Thailand long term on a Thai tourist visa are ineligible to submit a petition at USCIS Bangkok. USCIS defines those present in Thailand on a tourist visa as “non-residents.”

Direct Consular Filing

The difference between filing an immigration visa petition at a Service Center in the United States using a local USCIS office overseas and Direct Consular Filing is somewhat difficult for people to understand and this goes for laymen as well as attorneys.

In a previous article I wrote about Direct Consular Filing, I used the term somewhat loosely when discussing the ability to use the District Office of USCIS when filing for immigrant visas for Thai spouses. Strictly speaking a direct consular filing occurs only when a US visa petition is submitted directly to the consulate or the consular section of the US Embassy abroad. In Thailand, since there is a USCIS district office  in the Kingdom, the American Embassy Thailand rarely, if ever takes direct consular filings. However, as mentioned above, petitioning USCIS in Bangkok for an immigrant visa is a major component of the District Office’s mandate.

For more information about Bangkok USCIS at its role in American Immigration please see US Visa Thailand.

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