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ResourcesVisa & Immigration LawVisa NewsWill USCIS Bangkok Office Closures Impact US Visas from Thailand?

Will USCIS Bangkok Office Closures Impact US Visas from Thailand?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are going to be discussing USCIS and the recent announcement that they are closing International operations so let's first of all go to the source material on this. From the New York nytimes.com. The title of the article is, Trump Administration Plans to Close Immigration Operations Abroad.  Quoting directly, "The Trump Administration is preparing to shutter any of its Immigration Operations abroad cutting back on a key support system for those applying overseas to relocate to the United States.  The Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna told senior staff members this week that the International Division which has operations in more than 20 countries would close down by the end of the year according to two people with knowledge of the meeting."  Quoting further,”The overseas division provides logistical assistance to American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and refugees seeking to bring their families to the United States, people who have been persecuted and wish to resettle in the United States, Americans who adopt children internationally and members of the military and their families applying for citizenship. It also plays a crucial role in Immigration fraud detection. The international operations division has about 240 employees working at 24 field offices in 21 countries." 

So specific to Thailand how is this new policy shift going to have an impact on US Immigration matters beginning in Thailand? Well pretty substantially, especially for those expats who live in Thailand.  USCIS does have a field office here in Bangkok. That field office does accept petitions for spouses of American citizens to emigrate to the United States and in the past it has been very useful for those who have been living for long periods of time in Thailand to go ahead and get their spouse back to the United States. In fact in many ways it was an expedited process compared to processing inside the United States through the normal channels.  That being said, it was only by dint of the fact that they had a lower case load and they were processing cases that literally just needed to go across the street to the US Embassy side here in Bangkok.  But that being said it was faster and it did offer some benefits to Americans living in Thailand.  There were jurisdictional requirements placed on Americans living in Thailand with respect to this in the sense that you couldn't just be in Thailand for a week or something and try to file at this local office.  You really had to prove up a residential situation for an American citizen here. But that being said it was a real benefit and it was very convenient in many ways for Americans living in Bangkok or living in Thailand, greater Thailand generally. For this reason I think it's going to be a delayed process for Americans looking to bring Thais back to the United States even if they were living abroad.  

Now in the announcements and some of the press releases I have read with respect to this, US Embassies and Consulates are supposed to be picking up the slack when the USCIS offices return to the United States; that remains to be seen.  That being said in the past especially with the enlargement of the scope of USCIS lockbox facilities in the United States with respect to jurisdiction, whereas once generally speaking they only accepted cases for those who were filing inside the United States and then one was sort of compelled to either utilize what was called a Direct Consular Filing through a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad or utilize the facilities of a USCIS field office abroad, for example here in Thailand.  That looks like it's going away. Where the lock box is now taken global jurisdiction it looks like they are trying to funnel all of these cases through one queue if you will; through one process. 

Now certain developments with respect in the National Visa Center, changes with respect to documentation requirements, notably the fact the documents can now be uploaded digitally to NVC directly, I think the thinking is that overall the system has become much more streamlined and for this reason it is no longer, at least with respect to locally filed I-130s abroad I think the thinking is that it's no longer really all that necessary. But that being said that's not the only thing, in fact that was not the primary thing that any of these USCIS field offices ever did. IN fact refugee services, asylum services and the documentation and processing associated therewith as well as things like 407 Surrenders, that is surrender of lawful permanent residence or surrender of a green card abroad,  many of these field offices undertook a great deal of work with respect to those specific functions. Meanwhile as mentioned in that article that I just quoted, US military personnel often times enjoyed benefits from the facilities at USCIS abroad. There were many functions that USCIS’s international division did assist with and it looks as though in the future that's no longer going to be the case and specifically for Bangkok I think if we see the USCIS field office close down, it will probably result in something of a disruption to the normal flow of immigration cases going through at least our office and I think it's going to have an impact on expats living in Thailand for the foreseeable future.