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Cablegate: Work Permits and Amcit Travel in Namibia: Continuing

VZCZCXYZ0022
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWD #0354/01 2721308
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291308Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0786
INFO RUEHWD/SADCC COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS WINDHOEK 000354

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

For AF/S, CA, and L/CA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS PREL WA
SUBJECT: Work Permits and AMCIT travel in Namibia: Continuing
Difficulties

Ref: WINDHOEK 167


-------
Summary
-------

1. Action Requests - see paras 15 and 16.

2. (U) Post has experienced extensive delays in the initial issuance
and renewal of work permits for some USG employees and contractors.
Also, as reported reftel, Americans traveling for tourism and
business have experienced difficulties at ports of entry due to
inconsistencies in the interpretation and enforcement of some GRN
regulations by immigration officials. Post requests assistance from
the Department to help resolve these issues. In response to the
Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, post also requests that
the Department provide technical assistance to help improve the
Ministry's work flow and management controls. End Summary.

----------------------------------
Work Permit Issuances and Renewals
----------------------------------

3. (U) The Ambassador met with the Minister of Home Affairs and
Immigration, Rosalia Nghidinwa, on September 4 to seek clarification
of GRN immigration policies and resolution of a number of specific
cases. The meeting was in follow up to an August 19 call on
Permanent Secretary Samuel Goagoseb by the DCM.
4. (U) In both meetings, delays in the processing and issuances of
work permits was discussed. Two specific cases were highlighted,
both regarding Canadian personal services contractors employed by
USAID. In addition, the DCM provided the Permanent Secretary with a
list of work permit renewal applications from USAID contractors and
partner organizations, some of which had been pending for more than
a year.

5. (U) Both the Minister and her Permanent Secretary separately
declared that applications from USG agencies or from organizations
working under a Government of Namibia (GRN)-USG bilateral program
were supposed to be handled by a "special desk" and given expedited
service, ordinarily processed within 10 working days. Despite this,
the Minister acknowledged that the system appeared to have broken
down and requested the Embassy to document this problem.


----------------------
Work Visas for TDYers?
----------------------

6. (U) The Ambassador and DCM expressed concern in their
conversations that USG employees and contractors, who are called to
Namibia on an ad hoc basis and only for brief temporary assignments,
sometimes have been asked to obtain work visas at the port of entry.
The Ambassador and DCM noted that this requirement was highly
burdensome and could have an adverse impact on programs which the
GRN values highly, PEPFAR in particular. In her discussion with
Minister Nghidinwa, the Ambassador suggested that perhaps business
visas acquired at the port of entry would be sufficient for TDY
workers.

7. (U) A staff member accompanying the Minister insisted that the
law required all foreigners working in Namibia, even if paid from
abroad, to have work visas. Nevertheless, the Minister requested a
written statement of the issue and the Embassy's proposal. She
committed to review the law and consider any accommodation which may
be made.

--------------------------------------
Extended Visa Validity for Peace Corps
--------------------------------------

8. (U) The DCM informed Goagoseb that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV)
normally spend 27 months (three months training, followed by 24
months of active service) in country, but the Namibian Embassy in
Washington only issues 24-month visas. As a result, 60 PCV
passports must be submitted for three-month extensions every year.
The DCM suggested that the GRN consider issuing 30-month visas
instead, in order to relieve the administrative burden on both the
Permanent Secretary's own staff and the Peace Corps/Namibia office.
The Ambassador reiterated this proposal with Minister Nghidinwa, who
was receptive to the idea.

--------------------------------------
General Issues Related to Amcit Travel
--------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Both the Ambassador and DCM noted inconsistencies in the

application of some GRN regulations by immigration officials at the
ports of entry. They pointed out that guidance from the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs states that American travelers for business or
tourism who are staying less than 90 days do not require visas, yet
some travelers who have stated "business" as a purpose of travel
have been required to obtain visas upon arrival. They noted,
additionally, that immigration officers are inconsistent about the
number of blank pages they require for visa stamps as travelers
enter the country (as few as one and as many as four), which has
likewise caused needless expense and delays for American travelers.

10. (U) Regarding the visa requirement, both Nghidinwa and Goagoseb
confirmed that Americans who planned to spend less than 90 days in
Namibia for tourism or business do not require visas. Concerning
the number of blank pages required for stamps, the Permanent
Secretary stated that three pages were needed for entry and exit,
but that this was "more of an administrative rule" which had not
been codified.

11. (U) The DCM raised the issue of passport validity, reporting
that some American travelers have been delayed at ports of entry
because their passports were valid for less than six months. He
noted that the U.S requirement of six months of passport validity
for foreign visitors is related to the standard length of admission
to the United States. Asked for clarity on Namibia's policy on that
issue, Goagoseb undertook to consult and get back to us. (NOTE: The
standard length of admission to Namibia for temporary visitors is 90
days. Subsequent to our meetings at the Ministry, the Consular
section noted that two Americans arriving with passport validity of
less than 90 days were admitted with instructions to obtain new
travel documents at the Embassy. End note.)

--------------------------------------------
Technical and Financial Assistance Requested
--------------------------------------------
12. (U) The Ambassador followed up on the Minister's previous
request for "technical assistance" (reftel) at the Ministry, asking
for clarification and more detail on precisely what assistance was
needed. The Ambassador also noted that she had heard other
diplomatic missions may have provided assistance. She asked that
the Minister identify gaps in assistance already provided, so that
duplication of effort could be avoided.

13. (SBU) The Minister acknowledged that Microsoft Corporation had
been contracted to computerize admissions and exits at ports of
entry, but these services did not extend to the Ministry's workflow.
The Minister candidly acknowledged that their system was "a mess."
She suggested that assistance in developing their workflow and
management controls, as well as training for Ministry personnel,
would be of benefit. The Minister also specifically mentioned the
need for security doors in some offices. She did not yet know the
cost of purchasing and installing the doors, but requested that the
USG consider funding such a security upgrade.

-------
COMMENT
-------

14. (SBU) Both Nghidiwa and Goagoseb listened intently to our points
and seemed genuinely committed to resolving the difficulties
outlined. Follow-up and implementation has proven to be more
difficult, however, due to serious inefficiencies and lack of clear
communication within the Ministry.

----------------
ACTION REQUESTED
----------------

15. (U) Per reftel, Post requests that CA engage the Namibian
embassy to express concerns about our ongoing difficulties. We
propose the following solutions: 1) that the GRN issue 30-month
visas for PCVs; 2) based on reciprocity, that the GRN agree to
require a 90-day validity for passports rather than 6 months, which
would be consistent with the standard length of admission into
Namibia for temporary visitors; and 3) that the USG advise the GRN
that endorsement/amendment pages may be used for visa stamps. Post
has already requested Overseas Citizen Services (OCS) to consider
this last proposal for Namibia as it was recently instituted in S.
Africa. We request feedback on the suggested proposals.

16. (U) Post also requests that CA identify technical assistance
that could be provided to the Ministry of Home Affairs and
Immigration by the State Department or Department of Homeland
Security. It is in the USG interest to do so, given the substantial
impact of the Ministry's difficulties on USG programs in Namibia and
on travel by American citizens.


HARRINGTON

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