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Cablegate: Corrected Copy - Czech Republic: Fy2006 B Visa Validation

VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPG #0334/01 1561536
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041536Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0356
INFO RUEHXQ/ALL EUROPEAN POST COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PRAGUE 000334

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR CA/VO/F/P AND CA/FPP
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DS/CR/VF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS KFRD ASEC EZ
SUBJECT: CORRECTED COPY - CZECH REPUBLIC: FY2006 B VISA VALIDATION
STUDY RESULTS

REFTEL: A) 07 Prague 001324; B) 06 Prague 00001454

SUMMARY
-------

1. According to our latest B1/B2 validation study, 0.6 percent of
Czechs issued B1/B2 visas between October 1, 2005 and September 30,
2006 were confirmed as remaining in the United States illegally as
of November 2007. An additional 0.7 percent were currently in the
United States legally on a long-term basis using another visa class,
and a final 0.6 percent were unaccounted for. An additional 9.2
percent did not travel, and 88.9 percent said they returned. With
Czech accession to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) a possibility in
the next 18 months, post also found that only 1.5 percent of
travelers in our sample would have required a visa under WVP due to
a stay of greater than 90 days. End Summary

DATA COLLECTION AND METHODOLOGY
---- ---------- --- -----------

2. From August to October 2007, post's Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU)
conducted a validation study of 1000 of the 25,085 Czech nationals
issued B1/B2 visas in Prague in FY-06, using the MS Excel
random-number generator methodology provided by Consular
Affairs/Fraud Prevention Program (CA/FPP). (NOTE: With Prague's
accession to the VWP a possibility after the passage and signing of
visa waiver reform legislation known as the "9/11 Bill" on August
3,
2007, post decided to align the study with the fiscal year so that
comparisons could be made between official fiscal-year refusal rates
and overstay rates to help with the analysis of the Czech Republic's
ability to join VWP. End note.) FPU then attempted to contact the
selected applicants by telephone to verify their return. Post also
contacted employers or family members when the applicant could not
be reached directly. Post compiled a list of 100 "unreachable"
applicants, and CA/FPP used Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
travel data to provide change of status and entry/exit records for
these applicants.

3. Post classified as "overstays" those individuals who were
confirmed through phone calls or DHS travel data to be in the United
States longer than 6 months or whose numerous combined shorter stays
indicated they were actually living in the United States. Post
classified as "other" those for whom we could not confirm a return
status, such as Czechs for whom DHS records were inconclusive or
those whose family said they had left the United States but had not
returned to the Czech Republic (e.g., living in Canada or
Singapore). A handful of others who appeared to be in the United
States legally on L1, J1, or B1 domestic servant visas, or who were
just currently using their B1/B2s, were classified as "in USA." The
other categories were "did not travel" and "returned." Finally, post
queried travelers on their the length of stay in hopes of
discovering approximately how many Czechs would still require a visa
even under the VWP (i.e., had stays longer than 90 days).

RESULTS: 2% DID NOT RETURN, 1% STILL IN USA LEGALLY
-------- -- --- --- ------- -- ----- -- --- -------

4. Study results show that 92 of 1000 applicants did not travel
(similar to 94 of 1000 from our study in FY-05 applicants, see
reftel B). Of the 908 who did travel, 19 are still in the United
States. Six of those are confirmed overstays of between six months
and 1.5 years for an official overstay rate of 0.6 percent. An
additional six, classified as "other," were unreachable or did not
return to the Czech Republic, but information was not definitive
enough to label them overstayers. The last seven are currently in
the United States: three on L1 visas, one on a J1, one on a B1 as a
domestic servant, and the final two as tourists with stays in excess
of 2-3 months. Therefore, of the two percent of applicants who did
not return (19 total), about half (1 percent of the total) are
possible overstays.

Average lengths of stay
------- ------- -- ----

5. Comparison with validation studies for FY-04 and FY-05 is
difficult. While those studies showed overstay rates of 2.4 and 2.2
percent respectively, the total numbers of people who did not return
are similar -- about 20 each year. The difference this year is that
some who did not return are not necessarily considered confirmed
overstays. While it can be argued that a confirmed overstay rate of
half of the previous year's rate is significant, post believes the
study's methodology is not ideal. In an age of international cell
phones and some negative public perceptions of the visa process in
the Czech Republic, it's impossible to say with certainty that those
who answered "yes" to whether they returned and how long they stayed
were being truthful. In addition, mere data entry error is four

percent, which would tend to suppress the true number of overstayers
more than inflate it, as the overstayers were a small population and
more effort went into confirming them.

6. As to the question of average length of stay, post was surprised
to find that only 1.5 percent of travelers reported staying longer
than three months and would therefore have required a visa even
under the VWP. Nearly 81 percent of those queried reported staying
less than one month. Nearly 18 percent stayed 1-3 months. Consular
officers note that anecdotal evidence contradicts these statistics.
A relatively high number of visa applicants indicate on their
applications or during the interview that they intend to stay more
than a month. It also is common for retired Czechs go to visit their
relatives in the United States and stay 3-6 months. One particular
case from early December proves the point: A young non-immigrant
visa applicant, who was gainfully employed and "looked good on
paper," indicated on her DS-156 that she had been to the United
States one time several years ago for two weeks. The consular
officer was about to issue when he saw a CLASS hit indicating the
applicant was an eight-year overstay and just returned to the Czech
Republic this past year after self-deportation. On our validation
study, she would have been classified as a "return" with a stay of
two weeks.

STRONGEST INDICATORS: REGION, AGE, GENDER
--------- ----------- ------- ---- ------

7. Post grouped and evaluated validation study results by gender,
age, region of residence, and occupation. Of the six confirmed
overstays, four were from the economically depressed area of
Northern Moravia, four were between 26 and 35, and five were male.
This (save for gender) fits the profile of applicants who demand
stronger scrutiny during interviews: those who have little higher
education, live where there is high unemployment, and are relatively
young. While the Czech Republic's economy is strong and its currency
is gaining on both the dollar and the euro, a Prague newspaper
report from November 2007 notes that Northern Moravia has an average
unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, in sharp contrast to Prague's 2.4
percent and a nationwide average of 6.2. In addition, wages are
still lower in the country compared to the United States and the
rest of the EU. But the gap is narrowing. As wages increase, as
unemployment in places like Prague decreases significantly, and as
the currency strengthens (from 25 Czech crowns per dollar at the
beginning of FY-06 to 18 today), illegal work in the United States
looks less attractive to young people.

COMMENT:
--------

8. The overstay rate of 0.6 percent, though lower than expected, is
well within the general positive trend of the last few years (2.4
percent in 2004, and 2.2 in 2005). This assessment also tracks well
with the decline of the official B-visa refusal rate 11.7 percent in
FY-04 to 6.7 percent in FY-07. The main take-away point of the
validation study is that Czechs have a continuously improving low
overstay rate that puts them well within the new guidelines for the
VWP.

Graber

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