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Cablegate: Jamaican Economic Conditions: The View From a Visa Window

VZCZCXRO8686
RR RUEHGR
DE RUEHKG #1023/01 3391655
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041655Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINGSTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7030
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINGSTON 001023

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR WHA/CAR (ACADIEUX) (VDEPIRRO) (WSMITH)
WHA/EPSC (MROONEY) (FCORNEILLE)
SANTO DOMINGO FOR FCS AND FAS
TREASURY FOR ERIN NEPHEW

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV ECON ETRD SOCI PREL KFRD CVIS TRSY XL JM
SUBJECT: JAMAICAN ECONOMIC CONDITIONS: THE VIEW FROM A VISA WINDOW

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The Consular Section offers a unique perspective on
economic patterns and sheds light on the individual economic
situations of average Jamaicans. As seen from the perspective of a
visa window, the economic situation of most Jamaicans appears
tenuous and inconsistent, reflected in part in the high volume of
fraudulent documents with respect to employment situations. Often
applicants misrepresent their job, position, and salary to the
interviewing officer, so it is difficult to obtain an accurate
assessment of an applicant's job status and income level. Although
Jamaica lies in close proximity to the U.S. and there are frequent
flights, the cost of a trip is often equivalent to one month's
salary, even for Jamaicans earning higher salaries. Post expects to
see an increase in our refusal rate and the use of fraudulent
documents through the international economic downturn. END
SUMMARY.

Average Monthly Salary
----------------------

2. (SBU) More than half of the nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applicants
make less than USD 1,000 per month in a country in which the annual
per capita income is near USD 3,800. Over the past three months,
the refusal rate for Jamaican visitor's visas was 43 percent (up
from 37 percent for the same period last year). For many of those
approved for a visa, the cost of a trip to the U.S. equals about one
month's salary. Many applicants intend to stay with family members
who live in the United States, so there are no hotel expenses
associated with their travel. Flights to the U.S. are regularly
under USD 300.

Type of Work
------------

3. (SBU) Many of visa applicants are self-employed, usually in small
businesses of less than five employees that are either street vendor
operations or home-based businesses. Common occupations for the
self-employed include: small restaurants, bars, hair salons, dress
making shops, and craft making stores. It is difficult to determine
accurately the annual income for these businesses, as many are not
formally registered and most do not pay annual income taxes. Thus,
they do not have reliable revenue or tax payment records.

4. (SBU) Many applicants are unlikely to qualify for a U.S. visa
without previous travel and evidence of other financial resources
because they appear to need jobs in the United States to supplement
their incomes. Workers in the tourism industry account for a large
portion of the applicants interviewed; the majority of these
applicants are housekeepers, cooks, and receptionists who make
between USD 500 and USD 800 per month. Turnover in the sector is
also very high. Of those from this sector who are issued visas,
most work in hotels and restaurants at the managerial level, often
making USD 1,500 per month on average. The worsening economic
situation in Jamaica because of the global economic crisis raises
greater concerns over those with transportable job skills seeking to
work illegally in the United States. COMMENT: The Jamaican Ministry
of Labor does not survey wages and salary information, making it
difficult to accurately assess average incomes. END COMMENT.

5. (SBU) Jamaicans who work in the public sector have more stable
jobs, but lower salaries. Elementary and Secondary school teachers
make between USD 200 to USD 700 per month, depending on the grade
level taught and the education level of the teacher. College and
University educators earn between USD 1,000 and USD 2,000 per month.
The Jamaican military and the large bauxite and mining firms tend
to employ people for a full career. While average salaries in these
jobs are still under USD 1,500 per month, employees will usually
stay with the same organization until retirement.

Fraud Trends
------------

6. (SBU) Fraud is most commonly found with applicants in
entertainment groups and sports teams. There are often additional
applicants who apply with a larger group of performers or athletes
who have no role in the performances or competitions.
Misrepresentation is very common and job letters are often false or
misleading. In general, job letters are not reliable, as there are
many document vendors who have turned false job related documents
into a cottage industry.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Taking the global economic crisis into consideration, Post
expects that the employment situation will worsen. Rising
unemployment and weaker individual economic situations in Jamaica
will likely result in higher refusal rates. Post also expect an
increase in the use of fraudulent documents as applicants attempt to
disguise low wages or unemployment.
HEG

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