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Cablegate: Prague Consular Roundup, August-December 2007

VZCZCXRO7970
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHPG #1323/01 3551439
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211439Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9924
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRAGUE 001323

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/NCE AND CA/VO

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS CMGT PREL EZ

SUBJECT: PRAGUE CONSULAR ROUNDUP, AUGUST-DECEMBER 2007

SUMMARY
-------

1. Visa waiver continues to be a significant bilateral issue. The
Czechs have begun to engage in HSPD-6 negotiations, while the NIV
refusal rates and overstays continue to decline. Visa fraud is also
low, making a fake bank document a significant catch. Post
successfully implemented 10-fingerprint capture for visa applicants
and increased its outreach to college students and Internet users.
Post identified several cases of child support arrears and is
increasing outreach efforts to absentee voters. End Summary.

CZECHS AND VISA WAIVER
----------------------

2. Outgoing DHS DAS for Policy Nathan Sales and DHS International
Enforcement Director Dan Sullivan visited Prague in September to
preview with senior Czech officials the changes made by the visa
waiver reform legislation. This issue continues to be of paramount
importance for the Czechs. Despite Embassy efforts to address visa
waiver as a discrete issue, the Czechs continually draw links
between it and their support for our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan
(where they will be setting up a Provincial Reconstruction Team),
missile defense, and counterterrorism cooperation generally. The
Czechs can also be expected to point to their December 21 joining of
the Schengen zone (septel). They have a strong desire to be a visa
waiver country by the time they take up the presidency of the
European Union in January 2009, which we believe will be a strong
motivation for them to move quickly on any required agreements.

CZECHS AND HSPD-6
-----------------

3. Post hosted representatives of the Terrorist Screening Center and
the Policy and Legal offices of the State Department on November 1
and 2 to discuss the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6
(HSPD-6) terrorist watchlist initiative with representatives of the
Czech Interior Ministry. An agreement on HSPD-6 cooperation would
help the Czechs satisfy a required security enhancement of the visa
waiver reform legislation. First Deputy Interior Minister Salivar
declared that even without the carrot of visa waiver, cooperation
with the Terrorist Screening Center is a worthy goal in and of
itself. The Czechs are eager to move forward with this, but
presently are awaiting the outcome of an initiative to reform their
national security agencies. Post hopes to have more information
about the progress of this initiative after the New Year.

CONSULAR SECTION GETS SECURITY TOUR OF AIRPORT
-------- ------- ---- -------- ---- -- -------

4. Czech Airlines hosted the consular officers and FSNs for a review
of its document and security screening procedures from check-in
through boarding. Consular staff members watched CSA screeners
review passports and visas, and went on a tour of the baggage
screening area, the secondary screening area at the gate for
U.S.-bound passengers, as well as the tarmac. The screening
procedures were impressive and thorough throughout.


REFUSAL RATES AND OVERSTAYS
------- ----- --- ---------

5. The official B-visa refusal rate for Czechs in FY-2007 is 6.7%,
down from 9.2% in FY-2006 and well within the rate required by VWP
reform. Post also completed a validation study of 1,000 B-1/B-2
visa applicants, which indicates that the confirmed visa overstay
rate is also quite low. A detailed review of the validation study
will be provided in septel.

FPU IDENTIFIES FRAUDULENT BANK DOCUMENTS
--- ---------- ---------- ---- ---------

6. FPU identified a pattern of suspicious bank documents in October.
While many applicants were simply refused visas, two applicants who
appeared bona fide were found ineligible for misrepresentation, and
eventually admitted that they purchased the documents from a vendor
who advertised on the Internet. FPU obtained fraud detection points
from several major Czech banks to help identify any future
fraudulent documents.

POST DEVELOPS VIDEO TO ASSIST WITH 10-PRINT ROLLOUT
---- -------- ----- -- ------ ---- -------- -------

7. Post successfully implemented ten-fingerprint capture for all
applicants on September 27. Consular staff prepared a multimedia
presentation in Czech playing on a large TV in the NIV waiting room
that helps applicants organize their documents and explains the
fingerprint capture process in detail. The presentation has
increased efficiency at the intake windows and helped reduce
confusion during fingerprint capture. In November the section

PRAGUE 00001323 002 OF 002


trained local staff and changed scanners to support "FSN fingerprint
capture" with FSO verification. This capture transition was
successful, but Post has learned that the verification process for
elderly applicants is often unsuccessful due to the poor quality of
prints. For these cases, one workstation is set aside for FSO
capture to minimize delays in workflow.

INCREASED EMBASSY WEB SITE VISIBILITY
--------- ------- --- ---- ----------

8. Post continues to see applicants who have paid a Web site $25 to
provide Internet appointments. Post discovered that googling the
word visa using the most popular Czech search engine brought up the
private web site before the Embassy web site. Post's Webmaster
modified the embassy web pages to increase their visibility on this
search engine. In addition, The Public Affairs Office provided a
press release to alert the public that appointment scheduling and
visa application services are provided by the Department at no cost.
Consular management also spoke to the owner of the Web site, who
has made some changes to the wording of his site but continues to
operate. Although travel agencies and other companies will continue
to offer fee-based visa appointment services, Post believes that
these Web changes will lead more applicants to the Embassy's
official content.

OUTREACH FOR SUMMER WORK AND TRAVEL
-------- --- ------ ---- --- ------

9. Junior officers and locally employed staff visited a total of
seven large universities in six cities during the months of October
and November to discuss J-1 summer work and travel visas. The
speeches also give junior officers and locally employed staff public
diplomacy opportunities and a chance to see economic conditions in
different parts of the country. The presentations emphasized the
cultural and economic opportunities that the work and travel program
provides. Attendance at the events varied from 5 to 60 people, and
Post continues to develop "best practices" to reach the greatest
number of students, such as piggybacking on previously arranged
events or speaking to English classes. Post is collecting
testimonials and pictures from previous participants for publication
on the Embassy Web site and to add content to the existing Czech
language J-1 brochure for students.

PASSPORT APPLICATIONS INCREASE CHILD SUPPORT COLLECTIONS
-------- ------------ -------- ----- ------- -----------

10. ACS identified five cases of child support arrears in excess of
$2500 in October and November 2007 during applications for CRBAS,
new passports, and passport extra pages. All applicants were
informed that they were eligible for no-fee passports for direct
return to the United States. Three cases were resolved when the ACS
client made the outstanding payments, and Post can confirm that one
case was for arrears in excess of $6500. One case for a passport
renewal was abandoned, and another remains in suspense pending the
end of a 90-day suspense period for resolution or final revocation.

ABSENTEE VOTING AND REGISTRATION OF AMERICANS
-------- ------ --- ------------ -- ---------

11. Post is making a concerted effort in inform local Americans
about the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and
how they can participate in the upcoming primaries and elections.
Post arranged for the local English-language newspaper to publish
some information and congen has spoken to a couple of local American
groups. In an effort to give us the ability to reach even more
Americans we are making a concerted effort to increase our
registrations and expand our e-mail distribution list.


THOMPSON-JONES

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