Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Uganda
DE RUEHKM #1241/01 3000912
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADCC6B26 MSI7708-695)
P 270912Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1890
INFO ALAFD/ALL AFRICAN DIP POSTS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS KAMPALA 001241
C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION
DEPT FOR CA/FPP, DHS FOR CIS/FDNS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC UG
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - UGANDA
(A) COUNTRY CONDITIONS
1. (U) Uganda is a country in political and economic transition. It
is estimated that 31% of its 30 million people live below the
poverty line, and in northern Uganda, over 70% of the population
lives below the poverty line. A high unemployment rate and the lack
of a living wage for many Ugandans fuel a desire to seek better
opportunities in the United States and elsewhere. Corruption is
endemic, and document and other types of fraud are common but
generally unsophisticated. The vast majority of Post's nonimmigrant
visa (NIV) applicants are Ugandan, and the most common type of fraud
encountered is the use of counterfeit, altered or fraudulently
obtained documents. Post's current assessment of the level of fraud
encountered locally is high, but generally unsophisticated, with the
exception of Ugandans and non-Ugandans obtaining genuine passports
in false identities.
2. (U) Uganda also serves as a transit point for migrants from other
countries. Thousands of Indian nationals reside in Uganda, active
in business and other sectors. Some Indian nationals have lived in
Uganda for decades and are well-established professionals. Others
are recent immigrants who entered Uganda as tourists, obtained
temporary work permits, and now seek to emigrate to Europe or the
United States. Past and ongoing conflicts and/or economic
instability in neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic
of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea provide a
steady pool of other third-country nationals seeking to emigrate to
the United States. Most encounters with these nationalities are
limited to following-to-join asylee (Visas 92) and refugee (Visas
(B) NIV FRAUD
3. (U) In processing tourist and business visa applications, Post
finds that the visa interview is the most effective means to
adjudicate these cases. Many Ugandan business and tourist travelers
have well-documented travel histories to Europe and/or the United
States. Ugandans are limited to two year B1/B2 visas by U.S.
reciprocity, and similar visa validity to the United Kingdom and
other European countries. This requires that they apply for visas
every few years. Applicants who present new passports or passports
that demonstrate limited regional travel are interviewed in greater
detail. Suspect letters of invitation and support, counterfeit bank
statements, and inflated claims of income are common.
4. (U) During the reporting period, several B1/B2 applicants were
refused for fraud and misrepresentation after investigations found
they had presented counterfeit employment letters and other
documents. In many cases, Post does not verify documentation as
information obtained during the visa interview clearly indicates the
applicant does not overcome 214(b) regardless of the validity of
supporting documents. On occasion, Post has had success checking
previous visa records to ascertain if the claimed signatory on a
letter of support or employment has also applied for a U.S. visa in
the past. Post reviews the signatory's previous visa application to
ascertain if the signature on a letter of support or employment
appears genuine. Such checks also provide independently verifiable
phone numbers for claimed employers, and phone calls sometimes
reveal that the letters of support or employment are forged.
5. (U) Similarly, Post also has good success identifying the
individual in the United States whom the applicant seeks to visit.
A common trend is that the applicant is an extended family member of
someone residing in the U.S., and checks of previous visa records
regularly indicate that the inviting individual entered the U.S. in
recent years on a B1/B2 visa and remained. Such information is very
useful when reviewing the current applicant's own ties to Uganda and
whether or not they are also an intending immigrant.
6. (U) Post's most recent B1/B2 visa validation study found an
overstay rate of 4.5 percent, with a 2.5 percent margin of error.
Post assumes from the receipt of I-730 following-to-join asylee
petitions that many of these overstays obtained asylum in the United
7. (U) In one recent fraud case adjudicated at Post, biometrics
assisted in discovering an applicant using a second identity to
obtain an NIV. He had a strong history of travel to the U.S. and
was using a diplomatic passport, so his visa was submitted for
checks and eventual issuance. When the Facial Recognition (FR)
check came back, it was clear that he had traveled to the U.S. under
an alias. He was called back into the embassy and questioned, and
admitted using two different identities to travel to the U.S.
8. (U) Post just witnessed another similar case where a young lady
had applied for visas under three different names, but the
adjudicating officer was not aware of this until the FR came back
showing the prior cases (and refusals).
9. (U) Another similar case involved a young lady who claimed she
had changed her name when still a minor to be able to retake a test
in school. She used the name for the better part of the next 20
years and had an NIV refusal under the new alias. She then changed
her name back to her original name and reapplied for a visa under
her original name and the only way Post was able to discern that she
had two aliases was through FR.
10. (U) Another vehicle many applicants tried to use over the busy
summer months was that of the Uganda North American Association
(UNAA) convention held in Chicago, IL in conjunction with the U.S.
(Illinois) Uganda Trade and Investment Forum also held in Chicago,
IL. FPP ran a text search on UNAA and of 30 cases since 2003, 17
returned from their travel, 2 claimed asylum and 11 overstayed or
became LPRs. The results of this search indicated an approximately
37% overstay rate. Applicants registered online or in person at a
satellite office located in Kampala for the convention. They
received a letter from the organizers of the convention: Lt. Frank
Musisi and Noah Bukenya. Many of those letters stated that UNAA
would pay for their accommodation and/or travel. Obtaining this
document fraudulently was not difficult for applicants. They often
did not know the name of the convention nor how they wanted to
participate in the convention. In this case, Post would not issue a
visa. Many people also tried to obtain visas under the guise of
entertainers or press. These people were scrutinized more heavily
and were expected to have either the proper petition or credentials
before Post would issue.
11. (U) In a previous reporting period, Post noted a number of
student athletes had secured partial scholarships to U.S. colleges.
Checks of academic transcripts presented by a number of these
student athletes disclosed that the transcripts had been altered and
a number of the applicants were refused for misrepresentation.
During this reporting period, Post has noted a decrease in F1 visa
applications by student athletes. The typical student applicant
where fraud has been documented is from a poor-to-middle class
background, presents a suspect bank statement and claims the sponsor
is an uncle or other more distant relative. The presentation of
counterfeit and altered academic transcripts is also common. In
order to combat student visa fraud, Post seeks to verify suspect
academic transcripts with the Ugandan National Examinations Board
(UNEB), secondary schools and Ugandan universities.
12. (U) In addition, Post often requests that financial sponsors
attend the visa interview. Given circumstances in Uganda, it is
common that one or both biological parents of a student applicant
may be deceased and that the applicant claims to have been raised by
an uncle or guardian. The term "uncle" is used interchangeably
between individuals who may be paternal or maternal uncles, or even
non-relatives who reportedly provide financial assistance to the
applicant. Independent interviews with financial sponsors of F1
student applicants are very useful in determining the true
relationship with the applicant, and the degree of support that the
sponsor will provide for the applicant's tuition in the United
States. Sometimes an "uncle" called for an interview cannot name
the applicant's immediate family members, or where the applicant
attended secondary school.
13. (U) Over the past several years, there have been frequent
reports of malfeasance and academic transcript fraud within Uganda's
largest university, Makerere University. Officials at Makerere have
stated that they plan to introduce more secure methods of recording
grades and issuing transcripts, but these changes are still pending.
Similarly, officials of the Ugandan National Education Board
(UNEB), responsible for the administration of Uganda's O and A level
secondary school examinations, have also stated that future national
examination certificates may contain more advanced security
14. (U) More recently, Post has seen a significant increase in
applicants applying to community colleges in rural or remote U.S.
cities. There have not been any confirmed cases of fraud with regard
to community colleges, but the vast majority of those applying to
these schools were below average applicants. They often spoke very
poor English (a consideration in a country where English is an
official language), had very poor to weak economic ties to the
person sponsoring them, and rarely knew the difference between an
Associate's Degree and a Bachelor's Degree.
15. (U) There were also a number of students currently enrolled in
undergraduate programs at universities in Uganda who then wanted to
transfer to Community Colleges to work on Associate's degrees. For
several applicants, this was an attractive method to gain entry to
the U.S., as many had other family members already studying and/or
residing in nearby cities.
Religious Worker Visas
16. (U) Applications for R1 religious worker visas are less frequent
than B1/B2s, although active cooperation exists between religious
organizations in Uganda and the United States. A number of B1/B2
applicants encountered by Post are religious ministers engaging in
evangelical tours of the U.S. as permitted under B1/B2
classification, and not taking an appointment with one church.
17. (U) Post has noticed an increase in American sponsors retracting
sponsorship of religious workers for a number of reasons, but
religious workers are under more scrutiny than in previous years.
K3 Spouse of American Citizen Visas
18. (U) Post encounters suspect K3 visa applications that generally
fit into two categories. The first is a Ugandan female applicant
who met the American petitioner over the Internet. Typically, the
Ugandan is unemployed. The couple exchange E-mails for several
months then the American travels to Uganda and stays for several
weeks. During the visit, the couple marries and the American
subsequently files I-130 and I-129F petitions in the United States.
The other category often seen is a male spouse of a female refugee
who was resettled in the United States. Upon becoming a naturalized
American citizen, the female travels to Uganda and weds a refugee
living in Uganda to whom she was introduced through a friend or
extended family member. In both scenarios, the petitioners and
beneficiaries have never met in person until the petitioner arrived
in Uganda for the wedding. The marriage certificates in such cases
are generally genuine, although in many circumstances the petitions
are returned to USCIS for recommended revocation, as it appears the
marriage was entered into for the sole purpose of facilitating the
beneficiary's immigration to the United States.
(C) IV FRAUD
19. (U) Post assumed processing of immigrant visas for adoption
cases in October 2006. All other immigrant visa applications are
processed by American Embassy Nairobi. Post assists Nairobi with
verifying marriage certificates and other documents, such as birth
and death certificates and school records for immigrant visa cases
(D) DV FRAUD
20. (U) All Diversity Visa cases are adjudicated by U.S. Embassy
Nairobi. Most diversity visa inquiries received by Post involve
members of the public who have been victims of Internet scams
promising individuals U.S. visas in exchange for fees. Post warns
the public of these scams when advertising the annual kick-off of
the Diversity Visa Lottery. Post issued a press release in
response to one diversity visa scam that targeted high level Ugandan
officials, who reportedly paid around USD500 to the scam artists.
Post also assists Embassy Nairobi in verifying certificates
presented in support of diversity visa cases.
(E) ACS & PASSPORT FRAUD
21. (U) Post has not encountered any recent ACS or passport fraud,
although it occasionally receives passport applications for adults
who have never been documented as American citizens and are unable
to provide credible evidence of their identity and birth in the U.S.
If questions arise regarding the biological relationship between
the American citizen and a Consular Report of Birth Abroad
applicant, DNA testing is usually required.
(F) ADOPTION FRAUD
22. (U) Ugandan law restricts a foreign citizen's ability to adopt a
Ugandan child, and the adoption process is complicated. Ugandan law
requires that foreign adoptive parents be physically present in
Uganda and foster the child for three years before an adoption is
executed in Uganda. However, Ugandan High Court judges have
exercised discretion granting legal guardianship in lieu of
adoption, permitting non-resident prospective adoptive parents to
take the child out of Uganda and reside permanently in another
country. This has led to an increase in the number of IR 4 cases
processed by Post.
23. (U) Post has encountered legal guardianship cases where the
child did not appear to be an orphan as defined by the INA, but the
true circumstances of the child were openly disclosed during the
court proceedings and visa application process. Fraud was not a
factor in these cases, but the children clearly did not qualify for
an IR 4 immigrant visa.
24. (U) Recently, Post has also encountered a small number of cases
where fraud was a factor. The biological parents were reportedly
deceased, but field investigations and/or DNA testing confirmed that
one or both parents were still living. In two of the cases, the
claimed deceased biological mother had presented herself in court
proceedings and at the visa interview as an aunt. These cases
generally do not involve traditional orphanages, but rather children
connected to prospective adoptive parents through charities and
child sponsorship programs. The biological parent(s) often reached
out to the charity originally claiming the child was an orphan with
the belief that this would make the child eligible for charity
support and sponsored education. Subsequently, American financial
sponsors would inquire about possible adoption and the biological
parent(s) continued with the false information regarding the true
history of the child.
25. (U) Given the difficulties and false information that Post has
encountered with IR 4 visa cases, Post relies increasingly more upon
field investigations to verify orphan status. This has
unfortunately delayed the processing of IR 4 visa applications, but
Post has found that the Ugandan authorities have no oversight
mechanism in place or means to verify the orphan status of a child.
It has also been widely reported in the media that the judiciary is
known as one of the most corrupt institutions in Uganda.
26. (U) Very recently, Post has encountered possible cases of child
trafficking. One particular case involved an American family who
showed the adjudicating officer a list of fees charged by the
orphanage to adopt a Ugandan child. While Post is aware of the high
costs of adoption abroad, the fees were exorbitant (upwards of
$15,000 directly to the orphanage and not including travel fares.)
One fee was for a "donation" to the orphanage, which the Consular
Officer felt could be construed as child buying. The case was sent
to USCIS Nairobi for adjudication as it was considered no longer
27. (U) Currently, Post is in the middle of a large scale
investigation involving a Ugandan branch of an American adoption
organization. During the course of interviews with three separate
families, it became clear to the adjudicating officer that the home
in Uganda was presenting false documents. A total of six children
were being adopted and about 11 death certificates for the
biological parents of these children were presented at the time of
the interview. Each of the death certificates indicated the exact
same occupation for the parents and the exact same manner of death.
While this is entirely possible and could be mere coincidence, Post
felt obligated to investigate further.
28. (U) Post's FSNI found out that the director of the home was
actually forging documents to present to local government officials,
who then used them to prepare authentic documents that were
presented to the Consular Officer during adjudication. When further
questioned, the director stated the organization is not yet
registered with the Government of Uganda and that the home does not
actually have legal guardianship over any of the children living
there. He also admitted to presenting false documents to the
Consular Section. In-depth field investigations are now required,
consuming most of Post's FSNI's time. These cases are still under
investigation and will be sent to USCIS Nairobi shortly.
29. (U) Post is also preparing a stand-alone fraud cable on this
issue to send to CI.
(G) USE OF DNA TESTING
30. (U) Post frequently advises applicants of the availability of
DNA testing to verify claimed relationships in following-to-join
asylee (Visas 92) and refugee (Visas 93) cases. Post also sees DNA
testing used in support of Consular Report of Birth Abroad
applications. All collection of DNA was conducted by a laboratory
technician at the office of Post's Panel Physician. As an
additional measure, one of Post's local employees is required to
observe collection of the DNA and sealing of the specimen envelope
before it is forwarded to a U.S. laboratory for testing.
31. (U) With the new guidance issued by the Department, Post will be
changing its procedure to begin on-site DNA sample collection. Some
details on fee and sample collection must still be resolved with the
panel physicians' office, so DNA collection is currently on hold
until agreement is reached.
(H) ASYLUM & OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD
32. (U) In adjudicating Visas 92 following-to-join asylee cases,
Post has observed a number of asylum claims that lack credibility.
Officers sometimes encounter similar claims that appear to have been
used previously and recycled by multiple petitioners. Post has
encountered a case where the Government of Uganda funded the
applicant's travel to the U.S. and facilitated their visa
application with a Diplomatic Note, and the applicant successfully
claimed asylum. Post also encounters cases whereby the petitioner
in the U.S. claimed persecution by the Central Government, yet when
the following-to-join family members appear for interviews, it is
sometimes discovered that the relative who has been providing for
their care is a Central Government employee in good standing. Post
also encounters a number of Legal Permanent Residents returning to
Uganda, and the information often presented indicates that they
gained LPR status via the asylum process.
33. (U) Post encounters a significant amount of relationship fraud
in processing Visas 92 cases, and utilizes DNA testing, field
investigations and interviews when adjudicating the cases. Almost
all Ugandan birth certificates submitted in support of Visas 92
cases indicate the births of the following-to-join family members
were registered in the weeks just before the petitioner traveled to
the U.S. (contradicting the common claim by petitioners that they
did not consider asylum until after their arrival in the U.S.). In
other cases, the births were recorded after the petitioner had
remained in the U.S., and in preparation for an I-730 filing. Many
Visas 92 cases involve children from multiple relationships, and
polygamy is practiced in accordance with local customs. Many
Ugandan families care for nieces and nephews who were never formally
adopted, and petitioners often falsely claim these relatives as
biological or legally adopted children. Post has started to receive
an increasing number of Visas 92 Eritrean cases, and a small number
of Rwandan cases. The Rwandan cases have involved fraudulent
adoption claims for multiple beneficiaries.
34. (U) In possible response to its request for adoption
documentation, Post is seeing more and more "adopted" beneficiaries.
This has led to an increase in investigations to verify the
authenticity of the adoption documents.
35. (U) Post also processes Visas 93 following-to-join refugee
cases. Historically, these cases involved middle-aged, Somali males
with no evidence of identity or the claimed relationship seeking to
join wives granted refugee status in the United States. Post's
holdings of these types of cases have been reduced significantly.
Instead, Post is now encountering increasing numbers of K3, spouse
of American citizen cases of Somali males living as refugees in
Uganda married to American citizens during short two-week visits.
(I) ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, & TERRORIST
36. (SBU) Uganda's location within East Africa and its porous and
remote borders can be exploited by Al Qaeda and other terrorist
organizations as well as organized crime syndicates. While the
section documented no cases of fraud related to organized crime or
terrorist travel during the reporting period, Uganda is a transit
point for such travel. The Ugandan government regularly detains
individuals suspected of involvement with terrorist associations
and, during a previous reporting period, deported two South African
nationals with reported terrorism links. Two other suspected
terrorists were arrested in Germany, and were allegedly planning
travel to Uganda.
37. (U) Post communication with airlines indicates that the most
common trend encountered at Entebbe Airport is imposters who use
borrowed or stolen documents to attempt to board flights to Europe.
In most cases, the suspected imposters are of Somali origin. In
this reporting period, airline officials reported two incidents
involving Somalis presenting fraudulent I-551 cards. One involved a
female Somali passenger traveling alone, the other case involved two
Somali males accompanied by a Legal Permanent Resident of Somali
origin who attempted to assist/facilitate the accompanying mala fide
passengers through the airport check-in process. Individuals using
fraudulent documents obtained in other countries also pose
challenges to airlines. Iraqi nationals have been intercepted
posing as Turkish tourists, and individuals using photo-substituted
South African passports have also been intercepted. Afghan
nationals were also intercepted attempting travel on fraudulent
Canadian visas. According to contacts working at the Entebbe
Airport, corrupt immigration, airline, and document clearing staff
have assisted mala fide passengers to board aircraft bound for
38. (U) Recently, three travelers were stopped at Entebbe
International Airport for traveling on fake French Passports.
(J) DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS
39. (U) In cases of criminal fraud, the Regional Security Office
(RSO) collects as much evidence as possible and refers the case to
the police. In many circumstances, the subjects may be arrested
but, if released on bail, the subjects never appear in court. Post
has had success with cases where a private firm or Ugandan
government entity actively seeks prosecution of the subject; for
example, cases where applicants presented counterfeit government
identification cards or employment letters.
(K) HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, & CIVIL REGISTRY
40. (U) As noted above, the most common type of fraud encountered is
use of suspect documents, such as bank statements, letters of
employment or support and academic transcripts. A lack of internal
controls also makes acquisition of genuine but fraudulently obtained
birth and marriage certificates a fairly simple process. A
"declarant" for a birth certificate is not required to be a family
member or authorized legal representative, and only has to attest to
the validity of the information presented when applying for a birth
certificate from the Registrar's Office. This makes genuine birth
certificates based upon fraudulent information readily available.
In turn, the birth certificate may then be used to support a Ugandan
41. (U) Reports of corruption within Uganda's immigration service
and a lack of internal controls indicate that Ugandan passports are
obtainable for those seeking to change identities or who have no
real claim to Ugandan citizenship. In the past, Post encountered
about one applicant every three months who has previously applied
for a visa in Kampala or another Post under a different identity.
These encounters have now decreased, most likely because of the
deterrent effect of biometric procedures. In addition, Post also
brings cases of Ugandans with multiple identities and passports to
the attention of the Director of Uganda's immigration service when
encountered. This action serves to facilitate investigation of the
subject holding multiple identities, as well as counters malfeasance
within the Ugandan immigration service. Passports currently issued
by Ugandan immigration authorities are machine-readable and
photo-digitized. Previously issued laminated passports are valid
until their designated expiration dates.
42. (U) Post has seen an increase in Ugandans with more than one
valid passport. This issue has been raised with the Director of
Uganda's immigration service. It remains to be seen how this will
change in the future.
(L) COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES
43. (U) Host government, local-level officials, and religious
organizations generally cooperate when Post seeks to verify civil
documents, but corruption does impact Post's ability to combat
fraud. The Director of Immigration has participated in a USG-funded
border security program in the U.S., and in meetings with Post
officials has expressed a willingness to investigate Ugandan
passport fraud and malfeasance. It remains to be seen whether he
will be successful at these efforts.
44. (U) Recently, Post's FSNI was denied the verification service
provided free of charge to foreign missions. A mid-level official
within the Registrar's Office demanded a fee for the service. Post
was surprised to hear this and pursued the matter only to find that
this officer was skirting established protocol. A subsequent letter
from the Registrar-General confirmed that no fee was to be charged
to foreign missions for authenticating documentation.
(M) AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN
45. (U) In MONTH of this year, a Consular associate was fired for
malfeasance. She admitted to accepting money from outside entities
in exchange for FILL IN. The entire staff was warned about this
practice and it seemed as though the issue was resolved. In
September, the Acting Consular Chief received a call from an
American citizen in the U.S., stating that she was aware of a fraud
scheme and wanted to notify Post about it.
46. (U) The Acting Consular Chief went to the RSO with the
information obtained and the RSO began an investigation. It turned
out that the fired Consular Section employee had opened a visa
"coaching" business and was supplying paying customers with
fraudulent documentation and false narratives to present at the time
of their interviews. She was also claiming that she still worked in
the Consular Section.
47. (U) RSO in conjunction with local police raided the offices and
private residences of the suspect and her chief accomplice. Post is
currently knee-deep in confiscated evidence and has a TDY DS
investigator arriving to assist the RSO in sorting through and
documenting the evidence. The primary suspect (the fired Consular
employee) and her chief accomplice are currently in custody and RSO
is working very closely with Ugandan police and judicial officials
to press maximum charges against them.
48. (U) There is concern that at least one current employee may be
involved in this scam as well. RSO has investigated two employees.
One was cleared of any suspicion, but the other has had significant
contact with the primary suspect. RSO has been unable to find any
hard evidence against this employee but she is aware she is under
probation. She was temporarily suspended from work pending RSO
approval to allow her return to the Section.
49. (U) Currently, RSO is continuing its investigation and Post has
(N) STAFFING AND TRAINING
50. (U) Post's Fraud Prevention Unit consists of a Consular Officer
assigned the role of Fraud Prevention Manager. As a two-officer
Post, fraud prevention duties are in addition to other full-time
duties which include visa adjudications, ACS services and all other
assigned tasks. Previously, Post's Regional Security Office and the
Consular Section shared a locally employed fraud investigator, but
this position was vacant until August of this year. Post has hired
a full-time locally-employed fraud investigator who has assisted the
section immensely and completed many successful investigations in
his short time here.