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Cablegate: Niv Demand in Vietnam at Record Levels

VZCZCXRO0297
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT
DE RUEHHM #0821 2150928
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030928Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2958
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 2087
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3160

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000821

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS CMGT VM
SUBJECT: NIV DEMAND IN VIETNAM AT RECORD LEVELS


1. Demand for nonimmigrant visas in Vietnam is at an all-time
high, and shows no sign of slowing. NIV demand in 2007 is up
over 40% compared to the same period in 2006 in both Ho Chi Minh
City (HCMC) and Hanoi. In past years, NIV volume typically
peaked in June and then gradually declined until beginning to
rise again in October. This year, however, demand is remaining
steady, or even rising, even as August begins; HCMC saw 49% more
applicants in July 2007 than in July 2006.

2. Demand for tourist and business visas is high and growing,
but interest in student visas is skyrocketing. Applications for
F-1 visas are up by over 70% year-on-year, and by a whopping
160% over 2004. Incoming Ambassador Michalak noted during his
recent confirmation hearings that he intended to double the
number of Vietnamese students in the United States over the next
three years; at current rates of increase, that goal will be met
easily and will likely be exceeded.

3. When full visa services were established in Vietnam in early
2000, Mission management and CA had assumed that NIV volume in
HCMC would take off, but for years NIV growth was slow or
stagnant even as IV numbers kept going up. It seems that a
corner has now been turned, and that NIVs will begin to comprise
a larger and larger proportion of the Vietnam consular workload,
in Hanoi as well as HCMC.

4. With signs of a booming economy visible on every street in
downtown HCMC and Hanoi, and WTO accession completed, the
Vietnamese people -- especially in the urban centers -- have
more money than ever before and the U.S. remains the "dream
destination" of most of those who want to travel overseas. U.S.
education is also widely respected, with an American college
degree the ultimate dream of those who can afford it. In the
past, most U.S.-bound students were either government employees
on state-sponsored scholarships or the children of high-ranking
officials, but the situation is changing rapidly.
State-sponsored education is expanding from Hanoi to the
provinces, as evidenced by the "Mekong 1000" program in which
the provinces of the Mekong Delta region are awarding 1,000
complete scholarships to local residents as part of their
economic development plan. We are also already seeing
increasing numbers of self-funded student applicants whose
parents have been successful in private business and want to
cement the best possible future for their offspring.

5. While Vietnam is clearly growing wealthier rapidly, it must
be remembered that this remains a poor country with a high
demand for emigration. We are issuing more NIVs than ever
before, but refusal rates remain high: over 40% overall, and
approximately 60% for students (largely reflecting the fact that
unsuccessful F-1 applicants tend to reapply multiple times).
Fraud has long been endemic on the IV side, and there are
indications that it is increasing on the NIV side; FPU has
confirmed numerous cases in which student applicants have bought
whole packages of counterfeit documents from fixers, and we
regularly hear rumors that this practice is widespread.

6. The combination of sharply increasing NIV volume and
increasing fraud will put increasing stress on consular staff in
the coming months and years, especially as IV and fraud remain
heavy, ACS workload trends upward, and adoptions continue to go
up. If current trends continue -- and there is no reason at
this point to think that they will not -- Mission Vietnam will
be asking CA for increased resources, both human and technical,
to deal with these new consular challenges.

7. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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