Integrity Legal

11th Apr 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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