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US Visa Thailand: Consular Processing Explained

Transcript of the above video:

This video is going to briefly discuss the issue or, I guess the topic of Consular Processing in the Kingdom of, not specifically in Thailand, but as we operate here, we primarily deal with the US Embassy here in Bangkok, Thailand.

But Consular processing sort of generally, what it is? What are we talking about? I am going to take this from the perspective of basically family based cases, so marriage, and fiancées but it does operate for things like O visas, E-2 visas, you are going to have a consular processing component for those kinds of visas, the EB-5 which we have a video on this channel about the EB-5 visa. The issues associated with consular processing, or just sort of an overview. What is it? What we are talking about is basically the US Immigration process in a way can be looked at as sort of multi – phasing. You can basically look at it from the standpoint of Department of Homeland Security and specifically the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, then most cases are going to be routed through what's called the National Visa Center who technically speaking are under auspices of the Department of State but because they're located Stateside and in a lot of ways they operate much the same manner as the Department of Homeland Security. Finally the case is going to be sent over to an Embassy or Consulate General in the country abroad, either where the foreign fiance or spouse lives, or where they're currently residing. So you may have, you see it a lot in Southeast Asia especially most say Philippine Nationals, they may be living in Malaysia or Singapore or here in Thailand and may want to process the case at the Embassy that's closest to them in physical proximity rather than having to travel back to their home country and process the case through that way. Basically what happens is, let's look at it from the standpoint of the spouse visa. The final phase of the process, you can look at it like this, is basically it's gone through USCIS processing, received USCIS approval, National Visa Center has dealt with it in their means, in their manner depending on the kind of case and routed it into the US Embassy here. The US Embassy here or the US Embassy abroad, is then going to do their own sort of due diligence. Many US Embassies including the one in Bangkok has what's called a Fraud Prevention Unit. The Fraud Prevention Unit is essentially designed to weed out and prevent, exactly what their name says, fraud. So they are looking for, in cases involving family based cases, they may be looking for sham marriages, they may be trying to ascertain whether or not somebody is subject to a legal ground of inadmissibility, various things with respect to the FPU. Also the Consulate is basically tasked with undertaking sort of a final due diligence with respect to the applicant.  To be very clear, the first part of this process, the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, that part of the process really pertains to the American involved, the lawful permanent resident who's in the United States. That agency is going to ascertain, let’s say it's a fiancée visa case, only American citizens can petition for fiancée visas. USCIS is going to want to ascertain whether or not the person petitioning is in fact a United States citizen. So they are going to look at things like passport records, birth certificate records, these types of things to ascertain the nationality of that individual. The Department of State and the Consular processing phase is not focused in the same direction as the Department of Homeland Security was.  Yes, they are going to take a look at the foreign national in questions. Yes they have a sort of anti, they have many different mandates notably things like anti-terror, they are going to get checked against the anti-terrorist watch list, this kind of thing.  But it's not specifically focused on the details of that applicant. That's where Department of State comes in, that's what happens during Consular processing.  Determining why this person wants to go to the United States, scrutinizing one's relationship, things like the fiancée visa, it may prove to be an issue. Strictly speaking it statutorily said that a couple must have physically met, been in each other's physical presence, at least one time within the two-year period prior to filing for the fiancée visa benefits in order to be eligible for that benefit. Simply meeting once is enough to meet the statutory threshold, but again like I said with Fraud Prevention Units and things like this and Consulates abroad, having only met once and maybe only for a brief period of time, that may be an issue that those folks are going to want to sort of delve into and due their due diligence and ascertain the way in which the couple met, how they're keeping in touch with one another. It's not to say that any of this is a deal-killer. What I am simply saying is, you know, they're going to follow up and they are going to want to see evidence of the relationship in the context of those kinds of cases. What they do in general is process these cases, deal with a level of due diligence, in certain cases you're going to have Fraud Prevention Unit issues, they're going to make determinations as to legal grounds of inadmissibility; things like crimes involving moral turpitude, prior drug arrest, prior criminal activity, all of this stuff is going to be scrutinized by various officers at US Embassies and Consulates abroad. So one should be sort of prepared for these issues going into the Consular processing phase. A common misconception that I have sort of found just in practice is the notion is that the interview is the end of the line and in my experience, this is not necessarily the case.  You may have a fully documented case that goes into the Consulate and one case may just sort of move through after interview and another case, you’ll have an officer that will look at that and say, “you know.  I want to see some more documentation on the petitioners ability to financially support this person in the United States” or they may say “look, you know I want some more evidence of having met each other or having spent more time together, how they know each other?” A major issue in certain cases involving local filings is an issue of domicile. “Does this American citizen truly intend to return and live in the United States and reside in the United States with that foreign National Spouse?” All of these issues are going to come up and various consulates have various unique issues in their Consular Jurisdiction that they're sort of going to be more focused on dealing with. So what I'm trying to say is, there is going to be a radical difference in the processing of a case say here in Thailand compared to somewhere, countries that have significant hostilities, not necessarily with the United States but that are engaged in a war or something like that. That's going to be taken into consideration when these matters are scrutinized. Or just for example, I'm sure between Thailand and a country like Brazil for example. There is going to be little differences from an administrative processing standpoint that are just going to be different from post to post based on the local conditions of the country in which that Consulate or Embassy is located. They're going to have to sort of work with what they have to work with under those conditions. So each Consular processing post is going to have its own sort of unique subset of issues and difficulties to overcome and ultimately getting visas issued. But that being said, there is an overall general framework, things like the Foreign Affairs manual are very helpful in sort of providing some guidance as to how, just in a general sense how these cases are going to process, but you should be aware, or one should be aware of the fact that, you know each country, each Consulate in each country is going to have its own variations on how these things work. And on top of that every country, seemingly every country, has a different way of providing identity documents on their citizenry so what may be fairly easy to prove up in one country, things like eligibility to marry for example, which eligibility to marry can be fairly easily documented here in Thailand especially with the Civil registrar system, in another country that might be extremely   difficult to document.  So Consular processing, it's a term, it almost a loaded term because it’s one term that really covers an entire spectrum of legal work and legal activity that may vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so it should be kept in mind to sort of boil this back down, US Immigration matters tend to progress in sort of a triple phase progression, dealing with Department of Homeland Security, dealing with National Visa Center, dealing with Consular processing at an embassy or Consulate abroad. Finally as I said, many people view the interview as the final phase of the process; it’s over after the interview and that is something of a misnomer because Consular Officers can issue denials based on factual findings, most notably, they may find that a marriage in question or a fiancé relationship, a betrothed relationship is a sham, they feel that on a factual level these people are simply engaging in what's called and MOC, or marriage of convenience just to get a visa to the United States. Moreover they can deny based on legal grounds of inadmissibility and the only way to overcome that legal ground of inadmissibility is by filing what's called an I-601 waiver. Again there is another video on this channel pertaining to I-601 waivers. Finally there may just be some documentation requirements that may have changed in the cost of the process, which as I said in another video on over all these are processing, this process does evolve over time and in my opinion, or in my experience, generally doesn’t get less complex, it tends to add complexity as the years roll on.  But what I'm trying to get at is at the end of the interview the Consular officer may say, “look I'm going issue what's called a 221-g denial, or 221-g refusal, there’s another video specifically about 221-gs on this channel. That 221-g is going to be issued pending further documentation being provided. So they may say "look your passport doesn't have 6 months of validity left and you need to have more time on your passport for us to issue the Visa. Here is a 221-g refusal. We are not going to allow you to have this visa today, we're not going to approve it today but send us back a new passport and we'll go ahead and issue the visa in the new passport”. Things like this happen fairly routinely and so for those going through the process for the first time, it's best not to view the interview as the end of the line, there is a possibility of a further 221-g refusal and some more time to go ahead and follow up, deal with that refusal and get the visa issued.