US Lawyer Faces Complaint on Visa Service

The Cambodian Bar Asso­ciation filed a complaint in Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week against a US lawyer who assists Cambodians applying for US visas, a process that Cam­bodia considers practicing law, but the US does not, Cambodian Bar Association President Ky Tech said Wednesday.

The Bar Association’s rules “do not allow foreign lawyers to run any law firm,” Ky Tech said. “They are allowed to cooperate with Cambodian lawyers and have a duty to only assist and advise Cambodian lawyers.”

Nolan Stringfield, of the legal consulting firm Stringfield and Associates, is licensed to practice law in the US, but not Cambodia.

As a service, his firm provides free assistance to Cambodians trying to navigate the lengthy US visa application form, while answering clients’ logistical questions about the application process, said a legal source who asked not to be identified.

The legal source said there are many parts of the form in which simple cultural misunderstandings could result in a rejected application by increasingly picky US officials.

For example, a Cam­bodian who states on the form that he wants to visit someone in the US who according to Khmer tra­dition is his uncle but is not actually a brother of one of his parents could be accused of willful deception.

Ky Tech said this sort of assistance with visa forms violated Article 4 of the Bar Association law, which states: “Besides members of the Bar Association, no one can do business for benefit in the field of law, consultation or drafting legal letters/documents.”

The US does not consider String­field’s work a legal service. In Cambodia, “any travel agent can process a visa,” the legal source said.

Stringfield has an office within the US Embassy compound. US Embassy representatives could not be reached for comment.

The association’s complaint seeks to put a stop to Stringfield’s practice and is asking the court to impose a fine, Ky Tech said.

 

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