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By Chaninat & Leeds
US Tourist visa for a Thai Girlfriend?
Beware the Possibility of ‘Expedited Removal’
FACT: INCREASED IMMIGRATION BORDER CONTROL
The state of Arizona’s new law targeting supposed illegal aliens based on what some say amounts to racial profiling is not the only US immigration control law that could be considered unduly harsh, or even outright unconstitutional.
Love-struck single guys bringing Thai girlfriends to the US on a tourist visa, with well-intentioned plans of marriage, may face similar heavy-handed measures – in the unwelcome form of ‘expedited removal’ of his girlfriend or fiancée at the US port-of-entry. For those couples with true intent to marry, a US K1 visa Thailand is a safer alternative than a tourist visa for a Thai girlfriend.
Although less reported and less-sensationalized compared to the situation in Arizona, these occurrences are a real and emerging trend facing inter-cultural lovebirds while attempting to enter the US – not by crossing a river under cover of dark or crawling through an underground tunnel – but at an international airport while holding expensive, non-refundable airline tickets.
WHAT IS EXPEDITED REMOVAL?
The ‘Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act’ of 1996 grants broad, while at same time unspecific, authority to Customs and Border Protection Officers (employed within the Immigration and Naturalization Service – or INS) to expeditiously deport those foreign nationals deemed ‘inadmissible’ to the US.
This inadmissibility is based on presumption of intentional attempt to enter the US with ‘fraudulent or improper documents’ and applies to aliens willfully misrepresenting personal facts when applying for an admission-visa into the US.
GUITLY BEFORE PRESUMED INNOCENT
This authority held by INS border inspectors may result in a Thai girlfriend or fiancée of a US citizen being promptly sent back to Thailand, without even making it into the airport lobby.
Prior to passage of this Act foreign nationals arriving at US port-of-entries under suspicion of visa-fraud were guaranteed a hearing by an Immigration Judge, who retained sole authority to make a reasoned determination based on consideration of complex facts and legal judgments.
Now this sensitive decision process is also allowed to be performed by most often less judicially-educated Customs and Border Protection Officers with the INS. Furthermore, whereas decisions made by Immigration Judges have always been reviewable by the Board of Immigration Appeals (under the Executive Office for Immigration Review and completely separate from the INS). Expedited deportation orders by INS agents, on the other hand, are strictly final and not reviewable by any independent authority.
Thus in many cases ‘due process’ is essentially eliminated. The foreign national is not allowed the right to a professional attorney; and the INS interrogation is performed behind closed-doors, with no opportunity for family members or US citizen fiancées to assist in clarifying the situation. The foreign national under scrutiny may also be subjected to increased security measures, such as body and luggage searches, and uncomfortable duration of detainment.
An expedited removal decision made by INS at port-of-entry results in the foreign national swiftly (and non-voluntarily) being deported back to the country of origin, visa-termination, and a subsequent 5-year entry-ban into the US.
Statistics show this unchecked authority granted to INS has resulted in an increase of tens-of-thousands of expedited removal orders per year compared to the number of decisions made by Immigration Judges prior and subsequent to passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
LOVE IN THE FAST LANE (AVOIDING ARIZONA)
Many expedited deportation cases involve a Thai girlfriend or fiancée of a US citizen attempting to enter the country with a tourist visa. The presumption of guilt by INS Border Patrol may be a misrepresented intention by this Thai female to ultimately gain permanent US citizen status (holder of the prized ‘green card’) via a ‘sham marriage.’
A K1 visa is issued to the Thai fiancée of a US citizen in order to legally (and hassle-free) enter the United States at any port-of-entry. A Thailand US K1 visa is classified as having dual intent: to be temporarily (and legally) present in the United States, but with legitimate plans for marriage between the couple.
After the K1 visa is obtained and the Thai fiancée and American male eventually married, the Thai woman may file a petition to adjust legal status--US Adjustment of Status Thailand-- to become a naturalized citizen; thus a legally permanent resident of the US.
For Thai-American couples with plans to marry in the US it is best to utilize services of a competent US immigration lawyer in Thailand in order to avoid making honest mistakes or small discrepancies in the visa-application process; thus more easily obtain a K1 fiancée visa from Thailand.
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