Cablegate: Brunei Fraud Conditions Summary - Fy2008
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBD #0136/01 1270738
ZNR UUUUU ZZ
R 060738Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4193
RUEHPNH/NVC PRTSMOUTH 0033
INFO UCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIE
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NE DELHI 0071
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 0167
RUEHH/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0215
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJIN 0397
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0006
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0011
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0001
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0001
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0046
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0148
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0055
RUEAORC/USCBP WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 000136
DEPARTMENT FOR CA/FPP AND INL/HSTC
DEPARTMENT PASS TO KCC
POSTS FOR FRAUD PREVENTION MANAGER
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC BX
SUBJECT: Brunei Fraud Conditions Summary - FY2008
REF: 07 Bandar Seri Begawan 330
BANDAR SER 00000136 001.2 OF 005
1. (U) Brunei is a low-fraud environment for consular services and
historically has had low rates of fraud and low non-return rates.
Brunei has been a member of the Visa Waiver Program since its
inception. On May 5, the Government of Brunei announced that it
would begin issuing ICAO compliant biometric passports. We remain
alert to the potential for abuse of Bruneian travel documents by
mala fide travelers, though are aware of few actual instances of
such abuse. A significant guest-worker population gives rise to
some potential vulnerabilities to visa fraud and accounts for the
majority of our visa refusals. We have not detected any patterns
of visa fraud. Our key concern related to consular services is the
potential for fraud by individual visa applicants, including
possible visa shoppers from the region. The Fraud Prevention Unit
and Embassy Manila provide support to Embassy BSB for fraud
prevention and security analysis purposes. We are also concerned
about the exploitation of some of Brunei's porous borders and the
potential use of Brunei as a transit point by alien smugglers and/or
human traffickers. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) Brunei has been a member of the Visa Waiver Program since its
inception. Brunei has only just begun issuing biometric passports.
Citizens who wish to travel to the United States whose passports
were issued on or after October 26, 2006 must obtain a visa to
travel. Annual visa workload for FY 07 was 599 applications with an
adjusted refusal rate of 6 percent. Workload has shown a steady
increase in the current fiscal year, primarily due to the gap in
issuing biometric passports that would allow visa waiver travel and
also to an increase in commercial, business, and government linkages
with the United States. Trade with the United States has increased
at a steady rate for the past several years, but almost tripled in
2007 due to a major sale of aircraft to the main oil and gas
producing company. Students in the U.S. have surpassed pre-9/11
levels from a low of only 12 students just two years ago to a
current 30 students actively studying in the U.S. according to SEVIS
data. We expect continued growth in Brunei citizens studying in the
U.S. with the opening of government scholarships for undergraduate
study and the renewal of programs for government-funded, mid-career
masters-level study which had fallen off in the late 1990s.
3. (U) Brunei depends on large numbers of foreign guest workers from
its neighbors, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia, and the
Philippines. There are two very distinct categories of foreign
workers: low skilled manual laborers, domestics or low skilled
office and shop workers - mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Bangladesh, and Thailand; and management and highly
skilled technical workers in every industry but with the largest
concentrations in the IT and oil and gas industries. There is also
a sizable population of third country national engineers and other
professionals from oil-rich countries such as Nigeria and Venezuela.
Many of the latter apply for visas either to conduct business or
training in the United States or to transit on their way to
Venezuela and other destinations.
4. (SBU) Brunei prohibits permanent immigration for manual and
low-skilled workers, many of whom live in Brunei for decades on work
permits. Even more highly-skilled individuals find it difficult to
meet Brunei's tough standards to qualify for permanent residence - a
minimum of 15 years residency and strong Malay language skills.
Citizenship is even more tightly controlled, requiring an additional
BANDAR SER 00000136 002.2 OF 005
15 years residency after obtaining permanent resident status.
General ideological and cultural preferences for ethnic Malays and
adherents to Islam means in practice that non-Muslims may have a
more difficult time obtaining either permanent residency or
citizenship. Generations of long-term residents, particularly
ethnic Chinese, have made Brunei their home without access to the
rights of citizenship. In many cases, these individuals give birth
to children in Brunei but are unable to meet transmission
requirements to pass any citizenship to their children. Brunei thus
has a very large community of "stateless" permanent residents who do
not have access to any country's citizenship either through their
parents or through their birth in Brunei. Brunei issues these
individuals "Certificate of Identity" and accords them permanent
residen status. Post routinely issues NIVs to this categry of
de-facto Bruneians who, despite their lackof citizenship, have
strong family and economic tes to Brunei.
5. (U) The range of nationalitiesand skills sets in Brunei is
reflected in post'snon-immigrant visa applicant pool. In FY 2007,
0 percent of our NIV applicants were third countrynationals (TCNs)
holding citizenship in 32 countries. Bruneian applicants accounted
for approximately one third, with Malaysia at seventeen percent and
the Philippines at fifteen. Philippine applicants accounted for
nearly all visas refused.
6. (U) Visa applications from TCNs are likely to increase at a
modest rate, due to a growing multinational corporate presence;
successes in the Embassy's outreach program to increase
international academic, research, and cultural exchanges; a steady
stream of third country national residents; and robust annual growth
in trade with the United States.
7. (U) While in general Brunei is a low-fraud environment, the range
of nationalities as well as the small volume of applications
presents a challenge for post to remain vigilant against fraudsters
and visa shoppers from the region and to remain current on the
ever-morphing methods of fraud that develop world-wide.
8. (U) Our greatest vulnerability to fraud is at the individual case
level, not on an organized basis. The most likely candidates to
engage in individual fraud are work pass holders from the
Philippines who are working in low-level office jobs and being paid
a low wage (albeit higher than they would receive in the
Philippines). Our 214(b) refusal rate tends to be high for this
category of applicant and, thus, we are vigilant for the possibility
of fraud. That said, the most common problem among these applicants
is not outright fraud but occasional "inflation" of credentials
through the use of loaned funds to bolster bank accounts,
exaggerated claims of employment status or responsibility, or the
provision of incomplete information about family members in the
United States. This type of credential inflation is conducted at
the individual case level; we have not detected any patterns to
suggest that any organized third party provision of false
9. (U) Another potential fraud area is for applicants in categories
known to be high-fraud and that do not require applicants to meet
residence abroad requirements, such as H-1Bs, to apply for visas in
Brunei where our familiarity with world-wide fraud trends may be
less extensive. We are aware of the potential for such applicants
to target post as an "easy mark" and work closely with posts in the
region and posts in the applicants' country of nationality to ensure
that visa shoppers do not subvert the integrity of the visa process.
All NIV issuances are reviewed by the Manila Fraud Prevention Unit,
in part to help address this potential vulnerability to fraud.
BANDAR SER 00000136 003.2 OF 005
10. (U) Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan does not process immigrant
visas, but does provide information and accept I-130 petitions from
resident Americans for forwarding to Embassy Singapore or Kuala
Lumpur for adjudication and processing of the immigrant visa.
Usually petitioners are long-term residents of Brunei known to post
and relationships appear to be genuine.
11. (U) Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan does not process diversity
visas. We occasionally provide basic information on the diversity
visa but are unaware of any DV-related fraud in Brunei or by
ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD
12. (U) We have detected no fraud in applications for U.S. passports
and other ACS services. In one instance last year, one American
citizen provided insufficient evidence to allow for single-parent
signature on a passport application of a minor child in a possible
attempt to mislead the consular officer about his custodial rights.
There was no outright fraud involved.
13. (U) To the best of our knowledge there has never been an
adoption of a Bruneian child by a foreign citizen.
USE OF DNA TESTING
14. (U) Post has referred only one case for DNA testing to verify
blood relationship in support of a citizenship claim. The DNA
result was positive and there was no fraud uncovered.
ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD
15. (U) Post has had no applications for asylum and has received no
inquiries/requests from U.S. legal permanent residents or other
applications for DHS benefits.
ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST TRAVEL
16. (U) We have received occasional reports of mala fide travelers
interdicted around the world attempting to use altered Bruneian
passports for VWP travel to the United States. We are unaware of
any significant trends or high numbers of misuse of the Bruneian
passport, though we have continued to press Brunei to move forward
with its biometric passport program in order to combat this
17. (SBU) Three known cases last year highlighted that alien
smugglers and/or human traffickers have exploited some of Brunei's
BANDAR SER 00000136 004.2 OF 005
more vulnerable land border checkpoints and used Brunei as a transit
point. (Reftel) None of the cases involved trafficking to the
United States, but two did involve the apparent trafficking of young
women (to Australia and to London) and two American Citizens who
traveled on the same routes were identified as potential
facilitators. Evidence suggests that these were not the first cases
and this may have been a now-disrupted but established route. There
is no indication that there was any nexus to terrorism.
DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS
18. (U) There have been no DS criminal fraud investigations in
Brunei involving consular matters.
HOST COUNTRY DOCUMENTS
19. (U) All residents carry an identification card of some sort.
Citizens carry a national identification card (yellow), issued
starting at age 12; permanent resident cards are pink and work
permit cards are green. All i.d. cards are of high quality and
include machine readable zones, digitized photos, and some security
features such as holograms. National identification cards also
contain an encrypted chip which, in the future, will serve as a
public key for bearers to gain access to banking and other services.
We have not detected any apparent fraud in identification cards,
but would approach the host country to confirm a document if a
suspicion arose. We understand that the GOB collects two thumb
prints from all identity document applicants and stores the prints
in a national database.
20. (U) Passports: On May 5, the GoB announced that it would
commence production and issuance of fully ICAO compliant biometric
passports. Post will forward exemplars as soon as we receive our
copies. Prior to this announcement, the GoB had been issuing
regular passports (red cover) to Brunei citizens and issues official
and diplomatic passports (black cover) to government officials to
support official travel. These previous passports are high quality
and contain a digitized photo, machine readable zone and a security
laminate on the data page.
COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES
21. (U) The Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Forensics
Documents Lab, in coordination with the Joint Interagency Task Force
(JIATF) West, provided document screening training last year for
officers from Brunei's immigration, police, and customs
organizations. The training was well-received and Brunei has
expressed interest in additional training. Post is working with ICE
for further training should funding become available. Note: Royal
Brunei Airlines staff, but not Immigration officials, detected
malafide travelers with fraudulent Malaysian passports in a possible
person-smuggling ring that appeared to have exploited a weakness at
a remote land border crossing point to facilitate travel to third
22. (SBU) Brunei is considering signing an agreement with the United
States to exchange unclassified information on known and suspected
terrorists under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6. Brunei
shares lost and stolen passport information with Interpol but does
not share this data directly with the United States.
23. (SBU) Law enforcement cooperation with the United States is
good, but typically incident-based and not proactive. Brunei's law
BANDAR SER 00000136 005.2 OF 005
enforcement capabilities are professionally sound, but uneven, and
tend to be deployed only after a crime is detected. However, the
Internal Security Department and religious authorities maintain a
close watch on religious groups and Brunei's very limited political
activity to head off any potential challenges to the authority of
the royal family or the government. The Immigration Department
vigorously and proactively enforces immigration law, frequently
screening the foreign worker population for over-stayers and persons
working without a work-permit. Post's RSO has worked closely with
non-resident USG law enforcement attaches (FBI, DEA, DHS) to build
stronger relationships with host country law enforcement.
24. (U) Post would like to thank Singapore CONS Chief Julie Kavanagh
for her substantial and significant contribution to this report.
Thanks, Julie - we could not have completed this without you.
Manila FPU has cleared on this report.