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Is it Really Possible That The Royal Formerly Known as Prince Harry is an “Illegal” Immigrant?
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Matthew L. Kolken
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Multiple sources report that His Royal Highness Prince Harry
Mountbatten-Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, and his wife Meghan Markle boarded
a private jet to flee a remote private island in Vancouver to avoid the
very public COVID-19 pandemic. Their escape plan: to permanently relocate
to a <em>slightly </em>more tax favorable southern California, a
Coronavirus epicenter that is subject to a Statewide lockdown. The reports
of their hasty departure appear confirmed by President Trump who on Sunday
Tweeted in response to an allegation that the royal couple were seeking
taxpayer funded United States Secret Service protection.
Meghan and Harry left Canada in the nick of time before the shared border
was shuttered to all nonessential travel. I suspect however, that the
couple fleeing Canada had more to do with Harry losing his status on March
31, 2020 as an official member of the Royal Family, which may directly
impact his access to the United States, than it did the Coronavirus. I say
this because I presume Harry traveled on a diplomatic passport and visa as
a “member” of the Royal family for the reasons that follow.
There is a misconception that if you marry a United States citizen you are
automatically entitled to enter the country. Far from it. I conservatively
estimate that Harry and Meghan would have had to start the immigration
process in 2018 if he were admitted to the country under a spousal based
immigrant visa petition, but mind you they couldn’t have started it until
after they were married in May of that year. The first step requires your
spouse to file a petition to sponsor you, followed by an immigrant visa
application that allows you to permanently move to the United States. This
can take anywhere from 8 to 21 months depending on which immigration
service center is assigned to adjudicate the petition. Once you hurdle that
obstacle, a pre-processing of the visa application occurs, which can take
between 3 and 4 months at the National Visa Center (NVC). After the NVC
completes their review, the Consulate where you lawfully reside then
schedules an interview to issue a visa that allows you to board a plane and
fly to the United States. All told, from beginning to end, and under normal
circumstances, it can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years to get your immigrant
But circumstances are far from normal. In response to the pandemic, the
U.S. Consulates and Embassy in Canada and the United Kingdom are operating
in a limited capacity for emergency services to United States citizens <em>only</em>. All routine Consular services, including visa services, have
been suspended. Hence my suspicion that Harry gained admission to the
country under his previously issued diplomatic passport, and not with a
freshly issued immigrant visa.
And there’s more.
Unlike the unwashed masses who generally fly to the United States
commercial, the pilot flying the private plane carrying the Duke and
Duchess was required to file an Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)
manifest information electronically to Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
for each individual traveling aboard the aircraft. APIS regulations also
require that electronic notices of arrival and departure and electronic
manifests relative to travelers be submitted to CBP within specific
timeframes. If my assumptions are correct and Harry was traveling on his
diplomatic passport seeking admission to the United States as a diplomat,
it presumably would require an implied assertion that he was traveling to
the United States on behalf of the United Kingdom to engage solely in
official activities for that government as a member of the Royal Family.
Unfortunately for Harry, his grandmother, The Queen, made it abundantly
clear that those duties expire on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Point being, if
Harry entered the United States under anything other than an immigrant
visa, or some type of a temporary nonimmigrant visa with a dual intent
component that allowed him to maintain the present intention to seek
permanent residence in the United States it is very likely that he
committed a fraud upon admission that could subject him to the institution
of removal proceedings (deportation). There are waivers that are available
that would allow him to remain in the country, but they would require a
showing that it would cause Meghan an extreme hardship if her spouse were
deported forcing her to return to the United Kingdom and live with her
fabulously wealthy husband in an <em>actual </em>castle. Hope they have a
good immigration lawyer.
There are alternative but less likely explanations of how Harry entered. He
could have just used a U.K. passport under a program that allows citizens
of the United Kingdom to enter the country without a visa for 90 days, but
he would be required to depart the country or risk becoming subject to an
administrative order of removal that would bar him from returning to the
country. There is also the possibility that their pilot didn’t notify CBP
of the passengers onboard, and Harry simply walked off the plane without
inspection, which would make him an “illegal” immigrant.
I suspect, however, that this analysis is nothing more than an exercise in
frivolity as the likelihood of Harry ever being deported for entering the
United States unlawfully is about as great as me being crowned King of
England. The law provides a seldom used exception that waives documentary
requirements in CBP’s discretion “on the basis of unforeseen emergency in
individual cases.” There’s no definition of “unforeseen emergency” in the
immigration regulations, which affords inspecting officers broad
discretionary decision-making powers.
In sum, and paraphrasing Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I, it’s good
to be the formerly 6th in-line to be King.
Welcome to America Harry!
About The Author<br/>
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<b>Matthew L. Kolken</b> has served as an elected Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Board of Governors. He has appeared nationally on FOX News, MSNBC and CNN, and his legal analysis has been solicited by the Washington Post’s Fact Check of the immigration statements of Secretary Hillary Clinton, Presidential candidate Donald Trump, and the immigration status of First Lady Melania Trump’s parents. His opinions on immigration issues have been published in Forbes Magazine, Bloomberg, Business Insider, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and FOX News among others. He is the author of the Deportation and Removal Blog on ILW.com, where he is a member of the advisory board of the Immigration Daily. You may follow him at @mkolken.
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