Search

 

Cablegate: Prague Consular Roundup - Jan/May 2008

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPG #0321/01 1481339
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD98B9A1 MSI4217-695)
R 271339Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0340
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHFSI/DIR FSINFATC WASHDC

UNCLAS PRAGUE 000321

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION
STATE FOR EUR/NCE AND CA

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

SUBJECT: PRAGUE CONSULAR ROUNDUP - JAN/MAY 2008

SUMMARY
-------

1. Visa waiver negotiations culminated in the signing of a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Washington, and initial
objections from the European Commission have abated. DHS visited to
conduct a country review and to discuss implementing arrangements.
The Department is leading the negotiation on HSPD-6, and
negotiations on sharing of information on dangerous criminals should
begin soon. Meanwhile, demand for visa interviews year-to-year has
increased significantly. IAFIS and other fraud prevention tools are
identifying cases of mala fide applicants and individuals with
questionable travel histories in the US. Czech accession to the
Schengen zone in December 2007 had unintended consequences of
concern to Americans residing in the Czech Republic. Consular
section held two large outreach events to provide information on
absentee voting and other services, and to give the Ministry of the
Interior an opportunity to explain visa policy and residency
procedures. Post continues to provide training opportunities for
officers and Locally Engaged Staff. Post hosted the 2008 EUR CLDC,
and a visit by AA/S Jacobs. End Summary.

VISA WAIVER PROGRESS
--------------------

2. Czech Prime Minister Topolanek and DHS Secretary Chertoff signed
a Visa Waiver MOU on February 28. Some tense moments followed as EU
officials insisted that visa policy should be negotiated
collectively so as not to undermine areas of EU competence. But the
Czechs were only the first of a number of member states for whom
visa waiver was more important than EU solidarity, and five other
states had soon also signed MOUs. DHS and the EC subsequently
agreed on a "two track" approach, in effect giving the visa waiver
aspirant countries the latitude they need to negotiate agreements
for visa waiver. The MOU signing was followed by a DHS on-site
country review, and a visit to discuss possible MOU "implementing
arrangements." The outstanding tasks for the Czechs now are the
conclusion of an HSPD-6 agreement, the text of which is under
negotiation, and an agreement on information sharing with respect to
dangerous criminals. DHS Secretary Chertoff announced during the
MOU signing that he expects Czechs to travel without visas by
October or November of 2008. Post hopes to learn the technical
details of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA),
which will be part of the enhanced Visa Waiver Program. The extent
of ESTA integration with the CLASS lookout and visa refusal database
will help Post predict the nature of the applicant pool when VWP
takes effect.

TOURIST VISA DEMAND UP, SWT APPLICATIONS DOWN
----------------------- ---------------------

3. Non-immigrant visa intake at the beginning of the fiscal year
was comparable to past years, but demand in January and February of
2008 was the highest month-to-month since 2004, 25% higher than the
same months in 2007. The majority of applicants continue to apply
for tourist visas, and common purposes of travel are medical
conferences, trade shows, training, and package tours, including
more Caribbean cruises departing from US ports. Intake in March
declined due to an officer staffing shortage, but the growth in wait
time indicates that demand for tourist visas remains high, despite
public knowledge of visa waiver negotiations. One possible reason
for the growth in demand is the 20% year-to-year decline in the
dollar against the Czech koruna. This decline may also explain the
significant drop in J-1 Summer Work and Travel applicants. Post
noticed much smaller audiences during Fall university outreach, and
agencies that promote this program report a 50% decrease in business
from last year. With high economic growth and greater freedom to
travel and work in the Schengen zone, Australia, and Canada, the
Summer Work and Travel program, which requires significant document
preparation, appears to be losing its appeal to Czech students.

IAFIS, LEXIS-NEXIS, AND CCD ENHANCE FRAUD PREVENTION
------------------- --------------------------------

4. (SBU) NIV software integration with the IAFIS database has
identified several cases of visa ineligibilities. In one case, Post
determined unlawful presence for a visa applicant who stated
multiple times that he had never received a U.S. visa, yet had
fingerprint arrest records in three separate years in North
Carolina. A second case involved an applicant who provided an alias
to police during an arrest in Florida. IAFIS arrest data often
allows more in-depth queries against the CCD or LexisNexis to
identify other possible ineligibilities. In cases where there is
insufficient evidence for a "hard" ineligibility finding,
interviewing officers are writing detailed refusal notes for future
adjudications. E-mail watch list alerts for all consular officers
also notify staff whenever a case with previously identified fraud
indicators is received. Post finds the DHS Arrival and Departure
Information System (ADIS) to be of significant help in confirming
the length of US visits for applicants.

EMBASSY EXPLAINS NEW CZECH VISA RULES TO AMERICAN EXPATS
-------------------------- -----------------------------

5. Czech accession to the Schengen zone in December 2007 created a
large community of American citizens who must apply for visas or
risk accumulating illegal presence in the zone. ACS is aware of
several cases of Americans who lived for years in the Czech Republic
without visas, traveling to Austria or Germany every 3 months in
order to resume a visa-free stay in the Czech Republic. A couple of
hundred Amcits attended an ACS open house on February 12 to receive
voting and federal benefits information and to ask visa questions of
a Czech Ministry of the Interior official. The number of questions
was so great that the section organized a second "Schengen visa
workshop" at a larger venue on March 3, advertised through warden
e-mails and placement in English-language newspapers and Web sites.
During this meeting, attended by 300 Amcits, the Ministry of the
Interior (MoI) announced a "grace period," at the urging of the
Embassy, to allow Americans who applied for long-term visas by March
31 to remain in the Czech Republic in excess of ninety days without
risk of fines or expulsion.

6. During the workshop the MoI pointed out several problems with
existing Czech visa policy. A Czech long-term "D" visa is a
territorially restricted visa that allows the holder to reside in
the Czech Republic. Unlike a longterm residency visa, however, the
holder accumulates time against the "90 days during 180" visa-free
travel period for the Schengen states. This means that after 90
days of living in the Czech Republic the "D" visa holder cannot
travel in the rest of the Schengen zone (except for Germany). The
consular section is pressuring the MoI to address this restriction
by granting permanent residence visas in place of D visas, which
allow travel throughout the Schengen zone, but this will require new
Czech legislation. In the meantime, Czech officials suggested
Americans should apply for their permanent residence four months
before the expiration of their long-term "D" visas and advised
Americans to apply for visas to travel to other European countries.
In a Catch-22 twist, most other European countries refuse to grant
short term visas to American "D" visa holders because America is on
the so-called visa free "white list". Post will continue to update
Americans through the Embassy Web site and media outlets.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR CONSULAR STAFF
------------------ ------------------

7. All Locally Engaged Staff who had not previously taken the
distance learning course PC-102, "Immigration Law and Visa
Operations" successfully completed the course in mid-January, and
training is now in progress on PC-103, "Nationality Law and Consular
Procedures." One officer was able to attend the Warsaw Regional
Consular Workshop, and provided an update to all consular officers,
along with some fraud prevention procedures described during the
conference.

POST HOSTS CLDC AND VISIT OF A/S JACOBS
------------------- -------------------

8. Post welcomed consular officers from about 25 European posts,
experts from Washington, and Acting Assistant Secretary Jacobs to
Prague for the 2008 EUR Consular Leadership Development Conference
May 5-8. In addition to addressing the conference, Ambassador
Jacobs met with the Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for consular
affairs and the new director of the Czech central authority for
Hague abduction and adoption cases. All consular staff - FSOs, LES,
EFM - were able to participate in at least part of the conference,
and were thrilled to meet the Bureau leadership.

GRABER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC