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Posts Tagged ‘Visa Interview’

2nd May 2020

The past 6 weeks have been very eventful in terms of the response to the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) lock down in Thailand. This crisis has also had a significant impact upon the American visa process. By way of an update, the Thai government has recently announced an easing of restrictions associated with the lock down of business and social interaction in Thailand. It now appears that as of May 3rd, small eateries, parks, hair salons, stores selling certain retail as well as electronic goods, and pet shops will be allowed to reopen. Thai government officials have announced that further phased reopening measures will be implemented in coming weeks should circumstances permit. Concurrently, it was initially announced that the ban on the sale of alcohol in Thailand would be extended throughout the month of May. There was some speculation that a “grace period” would be permitted on Mat 1st and 2nd to allow the public time to “stock up” on alcohol products in anticipation of further restrictions over the forthcoming month.

Shortly after these predictions and the announcement that the ban on alcohol sales would continue, it was announced that retail alcohol sales could recommence beginning May 3rd. Further, it appears that those eateries which maintain an alcohol license and usually sell alcohol in the course of their day-to-day business will be permitted to sell alcohol on a “take-away” basis. Therefore, for the forthcoming days small restaurants and other venues will be reopened to the public and life in Thailand appears to be normalizing somewhat. Notwithstanding these measures, restrictions on pubs and entertainment establishments remain.

While all of this is unfolding in Thailand, in the USA the US immigration system appears to be preparing for further delays associated with the processing of visa cases. The following announcement from USCIS recently came to this blogger’s attention:

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS plans to begin reopening our offices on or after June 4, unless the public closures are extended further.

In prior announcements it had been noted that May 4th would be the presumptive date of reopening. It now appears that there will be at least another month delay for in-person services with USCIS. At the same time, the new Immigration Ban remains in effect although it is unlikely to have any impact upon those seeking a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, or K-1 visa from Thailand as the ban specifically excludes spouse visas and only pertains to immigrant visas. Therefore, as a fiance visa is not, by definition, an immigrant visa, the provisions this new ban do not apply to fiances of American citizens. However, notwithstanding the fact that the immigration ban does no directly impact most family based visas from Thailand it is effectively a moot point for the immediately foreseeable future due to the fact that the Immigrant Visa Unit and the Non-Immigrant Visa Unit at the US Embassy in Bangkok are not currently holding visa interviews nor are the issuance immigrant and non-immigrant visa as they remain closed due to the coronavirus. We, in this office, are currently looking at the USCIS presumed reopening date as the best indication of when it seems prudent to presume that the Embassy will reopen for interviews. That stated, the ultimate date of reopening remains to be seen, but we will try to keep you up to date on this blog.

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23rd January 2010

The United States Consulate at the American Embassy in Bangkok conducts most, if not all, of the immigrant and non-immigrant family based visa application interviews submitted by those resident in the Kingdom of Thailand. The Immigrant Visa Unit is a division of the United States Consulate which has been given the specific task of adjudicating Immigrant visa applications for travel documents such as the IR1 and the CR1 visa as well as the non-immigrant dual intent travel documents such as the K1 visa and the K3 visa.

The visa interview itself is viewed by many applicants with apprehension and fear as they are worried that it will be used in an attempt to undermine the applicant’s visa application. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In cases where the applicant has been candid, told the truth on the application forms,  and provided proper documentation the interview is simply an exercise on the part of the Consular Officers to determine that the applicant is who they say they are and that they meet the legal and factual requirements for visa issuance. The interview is not conducted in an effort to somehow humiliate or degrade the applicant, it is truly an investigation into the facts of the case. This being said, those that lie on an application or falsify documentation will likely have an unpleasant experience at the US Embassy as an Administrative Processing interview with the Fraud Prevention Unit can be a less-than-pleasant undertaking. Although courteous, the Consular Officers will often conduct their due diligence zealously in order to uncover the truth regarding the facts of the application.

Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to US Immigration matters. Unfortunately, some so-called “visa agents” in Thailand encourage applicants to lie in order to cover up some perceived problem with the application.  Not only is this practice unethical, but in the case of visa interviews it is almost cruel to send a non-native English speaker into the Embassy to be interrogated by officers trained and experienced in conducting these kinds of due diligence.

After the visa interview, should the application be approved, the Consular Officer will usually take the applicant’s passport and provide them with a “Red Card.” Many who research US Immigration are quite familiar with the so-called “Green Card,” which is the Resident Alien Card provided to aliens in the US as proof of lawful permanent residence in America. A “Red Card,” is the appellation that some Immigration attorneys in Thailand as well as Thai visa applicants have applied to the the small index card that the US Embassy in Bangkok provides the applicant should their passport be taken for visa issuance. The reason that this card is referred to it as a “Red Card” is due to the fact that the stamp on the card, which denotes (in Thai and English) the date and time that an applicant can pick up the passport and visa, is red.

Red Cards are not necessarily a guarantee of visa issuance as in rare cases necessary documentation is overlooked and must still be presented by the applicant. However, in the vast majority of cases when a Red Card it issued it means that the visa will more than likely be issued and can be picked up a few days after the conclusion of the interview.

Please note that each US Embassy or US Consulate has different administrative procedures and rules. Therefore, the information regarding “Red Card” issuance at the US Embassy in Bangkok may be completely irrelevant when it comes to other posts such as the US Embassy in Myanmar or the US Consulate in HCMC. Therefore it is advisable to refer to each Embassy’s individual website for specific information about processing a visa application through that particular post.

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4th January 2010

For a more detailed look at the CR1 visa please see our main CR1 visa page at: CR1 visa Thailand. For information about US Immigration generally please see: US Visa Thailand.

The CR-1 Visa in 2010

As the new year begins this author would like to take this opportunity to look at the current method of processing a United States CR1 visa and also look at the future of the visa process in order to provide some insight to those thinking about submitting a visa application or petition in the future.

Currently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) estimates that it takes approximately 5 months months to come to a final decision regarding the disposition of an Immigrant CR-1 visa petition. This estimate measures the amount of time it generally takes from application submission until final decision. In the case of an approval, this estimate measures the amount of time it usually takes from the receipt date noted on Notice of Action 1 until the approval noted on Notice of Action 2. The prospective immigrant or the US petitioner should figure in more time for documentation compilation and delays due to the time the application will spend in transit.

Assuming petition approval, after the petition is adjudicated by USCIS it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Unlike the K1 and K3 visa applications, the CR1 visa application will stay at the National Visa Center for an extended period of time due to the fact that NVC compiles a great deal of pertinent documentation which it then forwards on to the US Embassy. Many couples find this to be the most exasperating part of the US visa process because the National Visa Center can be a place where the application gets delayed.

After the National Visa Center forwards the case file to the United States Embassy, they will inform the applicant that it is time to prepare for the visa interview. The visa interview can inspire feelings of anxiety in the mind of the visa applicant as many are afraid that this phase of the process will be difficult. Many are under the mistaken impression that Consular Officers and Consulate Staff will try to undermine an applicant. In reality, the staff of the US Consulate is simply making an effort to conduct due diligence in an effort to ascertain whether or not the applicant has a genuine and bona fide intention to marry their American counterpart. Usually, the visa interview is a routine inquiry regarding the couple’s history.

Should the Consular Officer wish to review more documentation, they may issue a 221g refusal. This is simply a refusal to issue the visa without further documentation.

Should the visa application be approved, the applicant will be issued their visa shortly after the interview. The visa holder will then need to enter the Unted States within 6 months. Upon entry, the visa holder will be stamped into the US as a Lawful Permanent Resident. For those holding a CR-1 visa, their status will be Conditional Lawful Permanent resident util such time as an application for a lift of conditions is submitted and approved. After a lift of conditions is approved, the alien will be an unconditional lawful permanent resident in the USA.

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31st December 2009

For those with relatives overseas the immigration process can at times seem interminable. In most cases, the visa process involves multiple US government agencies and can be somewhat confusing as Immigration is an area in which different regulations overlap.

Currently, there is a Bill in Congress that would reform the United States Immigration system. Many practitioners of Immigration law as well as immigrants feel as though the time has come to reform the American Immigration system. On the American Immigration Lawyers Association Leadership blog there has been a recent posting about the current state of the Immigration system, ways it can be fixed, and how all of these issues impact Americans as well immigrants. To quote directly from the blog posting:

“The crises in family and employment immigration are chronic and pressing. The backlog in family and employment waiting lines is gravely dispiriting and undermines the long-held principle of family reunification. Immigrant Visa Numbers Hopelessly Encased In Amber. The situation is deteriorating every day with more detentions, more denials, more delays, more deportations and more defective decisions. ICE has now reported 105 deaths in civil immigration custody since 2003. More Immigrant Deaths in US Detention Now is the time to turn the tide of the culture of “No” pervading our immigration system. We need to unite families and we need to keep industry vibrant and competitive.”

At present, the K1 visa process for Thai fiancees takes approximately 6-7 months from K1 visa application submission until final decision at the US Embassy in Bangkok.

The K3 visa process generally takes approximately 8 months from initial I-130 submission until the the visa interview.

It now takes about 11-12 months to process a CR-1 or IR-1 visa if the petition is filed in the United States of America.

There are some who would argue that it takes too long to obtain a US visa for an immediate relative. Others find it rather odd that a fiancee visa takes less time to process than a marriage visa. This could be attributed to the fact the K1 visa does not provide the bearer with long term lawful presence in the United States of America, but instead only provides the visa holder with 90 days status in the USA and the opportunity to adjust status to permanent residence subsequent to marriage.

The upcoming Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill will be an interesting thing to watch as it will likely have a dramatic impact upon future immigrants to the United States as well as some of those currently processing through the Immigration system.

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6th April 2009

In an earlier post Packet 3 was briefly discussed and explained. This, to a certain degree, begged the question: what is packet 4? Packet 4 is the packet that includes the: pertinent medical exam requirements, interview appointment and information regarding the visa interview at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. It should be noted that this phase of the US visa process occurs after the petition has been approved by USCIS and the National Visa Center and is pending final approval from the consular officer at the Embassy.

Packet 4 is probably the most important, albeit least discussed, piece of correspondence from the US Embassy because it contains the visa appointment information.

The Visa interview is one of the most daunting aspects of the American Immigration process. One of the reasons for this is the fact that Thai prospective immigrant are sometimes nervous because they lack fluency in English. There is some consolation in knowing that the staff at the American Embassy Bangkok does employ native Thai speakers and the Embassy officials do try to assist non-native speakers of English. That being said, they still are required to perform their job which is, in a way, that of performing due diligence and making certain that the applicant should be granted a visa.

In the case of US Family Visas (the K1 Fiance Visa and/or the US Marriage Visa), the “due diligence,” consists of ascertaining that the underlying relationship is in fact bona fide and making certain that the applicant is not inadmissible for any reason. Preparation for the visa interview often consists of going over possible questions with the applicant so that the best presentation of the underlying bona fide relationship is put forward.

There are certain Grounds of Inadmissibility and if the Thai applicant is inadmissible then the applicant will be denied a visa one must file a waiver application at Bangkok USCIS. The I-601 Waiver of Inadmissibility is discussed elsewhere, but it is mentioned here to explain the possible outcomes of the visa interview.  A finding of inadmissibility is not a common thing in the context of US family Immigration, but it should be noted that it does come up. If worried that one’s record may be grounds for a finding of inadmissibility, one should seek legal counsel. However, one should never lie to the Consular Officers at the US Embassy.  The problem with lying about a ground of inadmissibility is the fact that if one is caught lying (which is highly likely) then they will probably be found inadmissible for both the issue they were trying to cover up as well as lying to the consular officer and if a waiver is sought, then the lie has placed their credibility at issue which could diminish the chance of waiver application approval.

Note: Nothing contained in this post should be used in lieu of legal advice from a competent licensed attorney

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