Cablegate: Initiatives to Facilitate Business Travel in Sri

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Initiatives to facilitate business travel in Sri
Lanka and Maldives


1. SUMMARY: Post has implemented two programs specifically
targeted at facilitating business travelers heading to the
United States, the `Safe and Speedy' and `AMPACT' programs.
Post is also far along in visa reciprocity negotiations with
the GSL, which should result in increasing visa validity
from one year to perhaps as much as five years. END SUMMARY

2. Post's Safe and Speedy program (S&S) was developed in the
summer of 2003 in response to the Sri Lanka business
community's request to reduce waiting periods for NIV
appointments. 20 to 30 expedited appointments were reserved
on Monday and Wednesday afternoons for regular travelers to
the U.S. The program was discontinued during the slow
season, once waiting periods were below two weeks, and
reinstated in May 2004 as waiting periods increased. If an
NIV applicant has traveled to the U.S. in the past three
years and is traveling for business or tourism purposes,
they received an S&S appointment on a first come, first
served basis. A small minority of post's NIV applicants fit
this criterion and most applicants that do are business
travelers. Waiting periods in the summer of 2004 were as
high as 7 weeks during July and August. S&S waiting periods
were never over 2 weeks.

3. The Amcham Partnership for American Commercial Travel
(AMPACT) program was developed by the consular section in
conjunction with the economic/commercial section and the
American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka. The program went
into effect during the summer of 2004 and is specifically
targeted at Amcham members, many of whom do significant
business in the U.S. To qualify for the program, the
sponsoring company must have been a member in good standing
of Amcham for at least the past three years. This avoids
companies joining Amcham specifically to abuse this program.
To sponsor an applicant, the company pays a small processing
fee to Amcham.

4. There are two tiers to the program. The first tier is
targeted at senior executive level, regular travelers to the
U.S. To be a first tier traveler, the applicant must be a
senior manager at the company and have traveled to the U.S.
at least twice previously. First tier travelers are
guaranteed an appointment for an NIV interview within one
week of application, which are due at Amcham by Wednesday of
each week. They are then given slots during S&S times and
those applicants are generally processed first.

5. The second tier is targeted at mid-level executives with,
at most, one previous visit to the U.S. These applicants
are generally mid level managers of larger companies or
senior managers of smaller companies. To qualify for this
program, the applicant must have worked at the company for
at least 6 months, they must have a significant business
reason for travel and a letter from their CEO or Managing
Director attesting to their long term value to the company's
overall strategic or operational plans. Second tier
travelers are also required to submit their documents to
Amcham in person and sign in a logbook, entering their
proposed travel dates. The embassy then coordinates with
Amcham to ensure travelers check in with Amcham upon their
return. Second tier travelers are also guaranteed
appointments within one week.

6. By offering the AMPACT program, post gives corporate
travelers more options to receive expedited appointments and
receive value from their Amcham membership. At the same
time, conoffs have more reliable information regarding cases
that may be difficult to adjudicate. AMPACT applicants are
in no way, implied or otherwise, guaranteed a visa. The
AMPACT application only provides additional information for
the adjudication process.

7. Post is fairly far along in the process of visa
reciprocity negotiations with the GSL. Amcham members and
other parts of the Sri Lankan traveling community are
putting pressure on the GSL to work with the Embassy to
extend visa expirations from one year multiples to
(hopefully) five year multiples. The GSL is actually
creating a new type a visa only for Americans to enable us
to reciprocate. Moving to a five year visa program with Sri
Lanka would hopefully ease the 30% increase in adjudications
in Colombo over 2003 and send a very pro business message to
Sri Lankan companies. Post hopes to have reciprocity
negotiations finalized within the next month.


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