- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

An immigration lawyer has filed suit against the State Department charging that the U.S. Embassy in South Korea routinely denies visas to some would-be visitors to the United States in violation of its own rules.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court by lawyer Jong J. Chun, seeks an injunction that would bar the State Department from applying what he considers a double-standard for persons seeking U.S. visas.
Mr. Chun complained in an interview that embassy officials in Seoul deny a visitors' visa to anyone who has filed a petition seeking to immigrate to the United States. The effect of this action is that such persons must give up their immigration petitions if they wish to visit their families, he said, noting that it takes from five to 15 years for an immigration request to be decided.
"The evidence I have is more than enough to prove there is illegal visa denial," said Mr. Chun.
He argued that by disqualifying visa applicants with immigration petitions, the embassy was ignoring regulations that require it to consider such factors as the stated purpose of the visit and the applicant's ability to finance his return home.
Edward Dickens, a spokesman for the State Department, said the law was being interpreted correctly by the Seoul embassy. A person cannot at the same time be both an immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicant, he said.
"If you have an immigration petition [pending], then there doesn't have to be any other reason" for the denial of a visa, Mr. Dickens said. "The law says you have to show that you're not an immigrant."
Mr. Dickens referred to Section 214b of Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), which provides guideline to consulates for the issuance of visas.
"Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer that he is entitled to non-immigrant status," the manual says.
But Mr. Chun countered that Section 941.31 of FAM requires the officer to review all criteria of the application before approving or denying a visa request, not just whether the applicant has filed an immigration petition.
He added that visas should be issued to applicants who wish to visit their families while waiting for immigration approval, to prevent family separations.
The failure to issue such visas has kept Mr. Chun's own sister from being able to visit him in the United States for 15 years, he said.
In other cases, he added, petitioners have withdrawn their immigration petitions in order to visit their families.
He also said that Korean newspapers and television networks have for years reported that U.S. visas were being unfairly denied.
The lawsuit filed by Mr. Chun joins a list of immigration issues that have gained attention since the September 11th terror attacks on the United States.
In February, President Bush reintroduced a plan offering amnesty to millions of illegal Mexican immigrant workers in the United States that since has met opposition in both the House and the Senate.
Last month, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was widely criticized for approving student visas to two suicide hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, who crashed their planes into the World Trade Center.
A number of plans are in the works by both in the White House and Congress to reform the INS, including a proposal for it to be dismantled.

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