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Cablegate: Demarche On Visa Services for Afghan Nationals

VZCZCXYZ0005
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHC #0314 2342144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 212139Z AUG 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 0000
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE 0000
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0000
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0000
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0000
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0000
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0000
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0000
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0000
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0000

UNCLAS STATE 090314

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT CVIS PHUM PK PREL AF
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE ON VISA SERVICES FOR AFGHAN NATIONALS
SEEKING TO TRAVEL TO ISLAMABAD

1. (U) This is an action request - Embassy Islamabad see
paragraph 7.

2. (SBU) Background: On July 17, 2008, the Embassy of
Pakistan in Kabul delivered a diplomatic note to Embassy
Kabul. In that note, the government of Pakistan announced
that henceforth "it will not issue Pakistani visas to Afghan
nationals who wish to go to Islamabad for obtaining visas for
other countries." In addition to Embassy Kabul, the note was
delivered to the embassies of the following nations in Kabul:
the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Italy,
Japan, and South Korea.

3. (SBU) The reason given for this decision was that the
Pakistani Embassy in Kabul has a "deficiency of staff and
allied facilities." The Pakistani Embassy advised Embassy
Kabul, and the other embassies, to shift their visa offices
from Islamabad to Kabul, or to make arrangements in other
capitals for the issuance of visas to Afghan nationals.
Security reasons, or overstays by Afghan nationals in
Pakistan, were not cited as reasons for this change in
Pakistani government policy.

4. (SBU) At the present time, the Consular Section at
Embassy Kabul provides non-immigrant visa (NIV) services only
to officials of the Afghan government who are traveling to
the United States on official business, and their immediate
family members; or to employees of international
organizations traveling to the United States on official
business for their organization, and their immediate family
members. Afghan nationals seeking non-immigrant visas for
travel to the U.S. for other purposes must apply in person at
Embassy Islamabad. Afghan nationals do not receive visas in
Islamabad on the day they submit their application. When
issuance of the visa has been approved, they must make a
second trip to Islamabad to receive the visa, or submit their
passports to the consular section in Embassy Kabul, which
sends the passport to Islamabad by courier for the visa to be
printed in it. Applicants for immigrant visas, including
former USG translators seeking visas under the special
immigrant visa program, must follow a similar course of
action.

5. (SBU) Expanding business, academic, and tourist travel
between the United States and Afghanistan is an important
priority for the USG. The special immigrant visa program
draws high level interest from the press and from Members of
Congress. For these reasons, the Department is committed to
expanding visa operations at Embassy Kabul. Embassy Kabul
is actively readying the facilities and personnel needed to
provide full non-immigrant visa services to Afghan nationals.
Embassy Kabul was designed to facilitate security and access
for embassy services, however, difficult logistical,
security, and staffing challenges must first be overcome.
The current estimate is that the consular section may be
ready to provide full non-immigrant visa services in Fiscal
Year 2009, but there is no specific date.

6. (SBU) Until Embassy Kabul is able to provide full
non-immigrant visa services, Afghan nationals who are not
government or international organization officials must
travel outside of Afghanistan to apply for non-immigrant
visas to the U.S. It is far easier for Afghan nationals to
apply for visas at Embassy Islamabad than for them to travel
to other nearby countries with U.S. embassies. Given the
importance of travel between the U.S. and Afghanistan in our
overall bilateral policy, it is unfortunate that the
Pakistani government has decided to create a roadblock by
blocking travel to those who need to apply for visas at
Embassy Islamabad.

7. (SBU) Action request: Drawing on the background above,
Embassy Islamabad should approach appropriate officials in
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express our strong concern
over the decision to discontinue issuing visas to Afghan
nationals who need to apply for U.S. visas at Embassy
Islamabad, and ask that the Pakistani authorities reverse
their decision immediately. Embassy Islamabad should
approach the embassies of the other nations which received
the visa notification, in order to make a joint demarche to
the Pakistani authorities on this issue.
RICE

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