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Cablegate: Angolan Immigration Service Delays in Processing Work Visa

VZCZCXRO8289
RR RUEHJO
DE RUEHLU #0652/01 1791236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281236Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY LUANDA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4118
INFO RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 0468

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LUANDA 000652

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/OCS/ACS - STEVE DONLON AND AF/S
FOR CA/EX PAUL CANTRELL
JOHANNESBURG FOR RCO - MICHAEL VEASY

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: CASC MGT AFSN APER CMGT PGOV EPET AO
SUBJECT: ANGOLAN IMMIGRATION SERVICE DELAYS IN PROCESSING WORK VISA
RENEWALS LEAVE HUNDREDS OF AMCITS STRANDED


1. SUMMARY: AS MANY AS 200 AMERICAN CITIZENS IN ANGOLA HAVE NOW BEEN
WITHOUT THEIR PASSPORTS FOR AT LEAST FOUR WEEKS AND MANY FOR AS LONG
AS EIGHT WEEKS AS THEY AWAIT WORK VISA RENEWAL PROCESSING BY THE
ANGOLAN IMMIGRATION SERVICES. THESE DELAYS ARE CAUSING HAVOC WITH
28-DAY WORK ROTATIONS USED BY MANY OIL COMPANIES OPERATING OFF-SHORE
OIL RIGS IN ANGOLA, AS WELL AS DERAILING OTHER TRAVEL PLANS OF
AMERICAN CITIZENS. IN ADDITION, POST IS PROCESSING A SURGE IN
REQUESTS FOR SECOND AND EMERGENCY PASSPORTS IN RESPONSE TO THIS
PROBLEM, STRAINING AN ALREADY UNDERSTAFFED CONSULAR SECTION. POST'S
REQUESTS TO HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES FOR MEETINGS WITH
IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS THIS PROBLEM HAVE SO FAR GONE
UNHEEDED. AS A RESULT, POST REQUESTS THAT THE REVISED CONSULAR
INFORMATION SHEET HIGHLIGHTING THIS PROBLEM AND SUGGESTING THOSE
PLANNING TO WORK IN ANGOLA OBTAIN A SECOND PASSPORT BE PUBLISHED AS
SOON AS POSSIBLE. END SUMMARY.

2. IN LATE 2005/EARLY 2006, THE ANGOLAN GOVERNMENT BEGAN
INVESTIGATING OFFICIALS OF THE NATIONAL IMMIGRATION SERVICE, SME
(SERVICO DE MIGRACAO E ESTRANGEIRO) FOR CORRUPTION. THE END RESULT
WAS A SERIES OF HIGH-LEVEL FIRINGS, INLCUDING THE HEAD OF
IMMIGRATION IN THE SPRING OF 2006. ADDITIONAL ROUNDS OF FIRINGS AND
ROTATIONS OF STAFF HAVE OCCURRED PERIODICALLY SINCE THEN AS THE
GOVERNMENT OF ANGOLA ATTEMPTS TO ROOT OUT CORRUPTION IN ITS
IMMIGRATION SERVICES. WHILE CRACKING DOWN ON CORRUPTION IS LAUDABLE,
THE RESULT HAS BEEN MASS CHAOS IN THE PROCESSING OF WORK-VISA
RENEWALS BY FOREIGN NATIONALS WHILE THEY ARE IN-COUNTRY, A SITUATION
THAT HAS WORSENED IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS.

3. AMERICANS AND OTHER FOREIGN NATIONALS WORKING IN ANGOLA RECEIVE
ONE-YEAR WORK VISAS (NOTE: WE CURRENTLY ISSUE WORK-RELATED NIV'S FOR
TWO YEARS. END NOTE) THE FIRST TIME ONE APPLIES FOR A WORK VISA, THE
APPLICATION IS PROCESSED BY THE ANGOLAN EMBASSY IN THE APPLICANT'S
HOME COUNTRY, BUT RENEWALS MAY BE PROCESSED BY SME IN ANGOLA. AS A
RESULT OF INFORMAL DISCUSSIONS WITH MAJOR AMERICAN OIL COMPANIES
OPERATING IN ANGOLA, POST ESTIMATES THAT UP TO 200 AMERICAN CITIZENS
ARE CURRENTLY WITHOUT THEIR PASSPORTS BECAUSE OF HAVING SUBMITTED
THEM FOR WORK VISA RENEWALS. DELAYS OF FOUR TO EIGHT WEEKS HAVE
BECOME STANDARD IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, WHEREAS IN PRIOR MONTHS
DELAYS OF TWO TO FOUR WEEKS WERE STANDARD. POST HAS ALSO RECEIVED
TWO REPORTS OF SME LOSING U.S. PASSPORTS DURING VISA PROCESSING.

4. MANY OIL COMPANIES OPERATING IN ANGOLA HAVE WORKERS WHO COME FOR
28-DAY ROTATIONAL SHIFTS ON OFF-SHORE OIL RIGS. DUE TO THE
WORK-VISA PROCESSING DELAYS, MANY OF THESE WORKERS HAVE BEEN UNABLE
TO RETURN HOME FOR THEIR 28 DAYS OFF IN THE US. THE SITUATION IS
HURTING MORALE AND SOME OIL COMPANIES ARE REPORTING THAT IT HAS
BECOME DIFFICULT TO RECRUIT WORKERS TO WORK IN ANGOLA BECAUSE OF
THIS PROBLEM, AND THAT SOME CURRENT WORKERS ARE QUITTING. ON OIL
COMPANY OFFICIAL LAMENTED THE FACT THAT THE COMPANY IS LOSING
HIGHLY-SKILLED WORKERS WHO CAN EASILY FIND WORK IN OTHER
OIL-PRODUCING COUNTRIES THAT DO NOT "TRAP" THEM IN-COUNTRY FOR
VISA-PROCESSING. INDEED, MANY AMERICAN CITIZENS, WHEN CONTACTING
THE CONSULAR SECTION ABOUT THIS PROBLEM, INDICATE THAT THEY FEEL
LIKE THEY ARE IN PRISON IN ANGOLA SINCE THEY ARE WITHOUT THEIR
PASSPORT FOR SO LONG AND CANNOT TRAVEL. FAMILY MEMBERS OF "TRAPPED"
WORKERS IN ANGOLA HAVE BEGUN TO CONTACT THE DEPARTMENT ABOUT THIS
SITUATION, AND POST HAS RECEIVED TWO CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRIES IN THE
LAST YEAR RELATED TO THIS SITUATION.

5. AS A RESULT, POST'S CONSULAR SECTION IS PROCESSING AN
UNPRECEDENTED NUMBER OF SECOND AND EMERGENCY PASSPORT REQUESTS. IN
2005, POST PROCESSED A TOTAL OF 72 PASSPORT APPLICATIONS. IN 2006,
WHEN THE PROBLEMS WITH WORK-VISA PROCESSING BEGAN, THAT NUMBER
ALMOST DOUBLED TO 130. SO FAR IN FY 2007, POST HAS PROCESSED 150
PASSPORT APPLICATIONS, INCLUDING 13 EMERGENCY PASSPORTS, ALREADY
EXCEEDING LAST YEAR'S NUMBER CONSIDERABLY. IN ADDITION,
NON-IMMIGRANT VISA APPLICATIONS ARE RUNNING 15% AHEAD OF LAST YEAR'S
NUMBERS, AND POST JUST BEGAN PROCESSING IMMIGRANT VISAS IN THE LAST
YEAR. THE ADDITIONAL WORKLOAD CAUSED BY THE INCREASED PASSPORT
APPLICATIONS, RESPONDING TO NUMEROUS INQUIRIES FROM AMCITS ABOUT HOW
TO DEAL WITH THIS SITUATION, AND TRYING TO ENGAGE THE ANGOLAN
GOVERNMENT ON THIS PROBLEM IS STRAINING AN ALREADY UNDER-STAFFED
CONSULAR SECTION (SEE 07 LUANDA 000209).

6. COMPLICATING MATTERS, ONCE A SECOND OR EMERGENCY PASSPORT IS
GRANTED, AMCITS MUST THEN OBTAIN AN EXIT VISA IN ORDER TO DEPART
ANGOLA ON A PASSPORT OTHER THAN THE ONE ON WHICH THEY ARRIVED. WHILE
SME OFFICIALS HAVE SO FAR BEEN COOPERATIVE IN GRANTING EXIT VISAS IN
A TIMELY MANNER, PARTICULARLY FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS, POST IS
CONCERNED THAT SHOULD SOMEONE NEED TO TRAVEL URGENTLY ON A WEEKEND
OR HOLIDAY THEY MAY NOT BE ABLE TO OBTAIN THE REQUIRED EXIT VISA.

7. POST IS ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT THE TWO REPORTS IN THE LAST TWO
MONTHS OF SME LOSING US PASSPORTS DURING VISA PROCESSING. POST HAS
RAISED THIS ISSUE IN A DIPLOMATIC NOTE AND IN MEETINGS WITH HOST
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. AMCITS WHO HAVE NOW BEEN WAITING EIGHT WEEKS
FOR THEIR PASSPORTS ARE ALSO WONDERING IF THEIR PASSPORTS HAVE BEEN
LOST BY SME.

LUANDA 00000652 002 OF 002

7. POST HAS BEEN REQUESTING MEETINGS WITH TOP SME OFFICIALS FOR
ALMOST A YEAR NOW, BUT THE REORGANZIATION OF THE SME HAS MADE A
MEETING IMPOSSIBLE. SUCH REQUESTS MUST BE MADE VIA DIPLOMATIC NOTE
AND WE HAVE SEVERAL REQUESTS STILL OUTSTANDING. WE HAVE ALSO MET
WITH CONSULAR OFFICIALS AND THE NORTH AMERICA DESK AT THE FOREIGN
MINISTRY TO DISCUSS THE ISSUE AND REQUEST THEIR ASSISTANCE IN
SECURING A MEETING WITH SME.

8. POST HAS ALSO BEEN IN CONTACT WITH OTHER FOREIGN MISSIONS IN
ANGOLA WHO REPORT SIMILAR PROBLEMS AND DELAYS IN THE PROCESSING OF
WORK VISA RENEWALS FOR THEIR CITIZENS. IN AUGUST OF 2006, POST
CONVENED A SERIES OF MEETINGS OF CONSULAR OFFICIALS FROM OTHER
MISSIONS TO DISCUSS A JOINT RESPONSE TO THIS PROBLEM, RESULTING IN A
JOINT DIPLOMATIC NOTE FROM 10 MISSIONS, MOSTLY FROM WESTERN EUROPE,
REQUESTING A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM AND A MEETING WITH SME
OFFICIALS. A SIMILAR DIPLOMATIC NOTE WAS SENT BY EUROPEAN UNION
MEMBER COUNTRIES. THESE NOTES ALSO RECEIVED NO RESPONSE.

9. POST HAS SUBMITTED A REVISED CONSULAR INFORMATION SHEET FOR
APPROVAL BY THE DEPARTMENT WITH INFORMATION ABOUT THIS PROBLEM.
POST REQUESTS THAT THE INFORMATION BE PUBLISHED AND APPROVED AS SOON
AS POSSIBLE. POST WILL CONTINUE TO ENGAGE ALL AVAILABLE ANGOLAN
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHILE ASSISTING AMERICANS WITH THEIR TRAVEL
NEEDS THROUGH THE ISSUANCE OF SECOND AND EMERGENCY PASSPORTS. WITH
NO INCREASE IN CONSULAR STAFF, HOWEVER, NON-IMMIGRANT VISA WAIT
TIMES WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE AS WE REDUCE THE NUMBER OF
APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE IN ORDER TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF AMERICANS
WITH EMERGENCY TRAVEL NEEDS.

EFIRD

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