Inspection of the US Consulate General in Saigon
This week we are continuing our report about the State Department inspection of the US Consulate in Saigon. Recently this Inspection report was declassified and made available to the public.
The IV unit now works at full capacity with acceptable morale, generating a valuable product. However, it has reached its limit. There is no time for training, reporting, or similar activities; customer service and file maintenance are beginning to suffer. The Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City does not have many specific standard operating procedures. Consular managers requested additional IV staff positions and the Report supports this request.
Fraud is a critical problem, particularly among fiancé(e) applicants. As a result, increasing numbers of these applications and related petitions must be returned to US CIS with recommendations for revocation. The Consulate sent almost 1,100 cases for revocation in 2004.
Widespread attempted fraud caused the State Department to designate Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City as a high fraud location. Ho Chi Minh City’s fraud prevention unit (FPU) focuses on the problem. They authenticate family relationships, determine identity and citizenship, validate educational records, and substantiate work histories. The FPU had a backlog of about 700 cases at the time of the inspection. FPU confirms that there are fiancée visa scams in 85-90 percent of applications that they investigate. They found fraud in 350 cases in FY 2004.
Information Unit: Every month in 2005, the Information Unit responded to about 150 Congressional inquiries, 4,700 telephone calls, 5,500 walk-in inquiries, and 3,000 fax, mail, and e-mail questions. In 2009, the Information Unit stopped accepting phone inquiries.
Amerasians: The Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987 authorizes Vietnamese persons fathered by American citizens between 1962 and 1975 to reside in the United States. This program resulted in the movement of about 87,000 persons to the United States from 1987 through 2002. Fraudulent claims continue to be a problem. Since January 2005, most applicants have no physical resemblance to persons of Caucasian, African-American, or Hispanic heritage. Cases involving cosmetic alteration also exist.
Official Residence Expenses: A question was raised about the $10,000 USD per month that the Consulate pays to rent a Diamond Plaza penthouse.
Q.1. The report says that “There is no time for training, reporting, or similar activities”. How does this effect visa processing.
A.2. Without adequate training, reporting and supervision, new consular officers may lack the guidance they need to make fair decisions. More experienced officers may rely too much on their intuition and not enough on hard facts and regulations.
Q.2. Has the situation at the Consulate improved much since the Inspection in 2005?
A.2. The best way to answer that is to point out that last year, for the first time in the history, the Consulate in Saigon was sued because of the way it denied a fiancée visa and returned the petition to CIS.