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04VILNIUS1532 2004-12-20 10:39:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
Cable title:  

FY2004 CONSULAR PACKAGE NARRATIVE FOR VILNIUS

Tags:   CMGT CVIS CASC CPAS KFRD ASIG AFSI LH 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 VILNIUS 001532 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/EX, EUR/EX, EUR/NB, OIG/ISP, M/FSI/SPAS,
CA/VO,CA/FPP AND CA/OCS
AMCONSUL FRANKFURT FOR RCO BARBARA L. ARMSTRONG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT CVIS CASC CPAS KFRD ASIG AFSI LH
SUBJECT: FY2004 CONSULAR PACKAGE NARRATIVE FOR VILNIUS

REF(S): State 227856




1. Post submits the following consular package
narrative keyed to reftel.

Management

A) Consular Section Chief: Ruta D. Elvikis (Consul),
ETD: July 2005, Direct Office Telephone Number: 370-
5-266-5591, E-mail: ElvikisRD@state.gov;

Deputy Consular Section Chief: Gregory L. Bernsteen
(Vice-Consul), ETD: February 2005, Direct Office
Telephone Number: 370-5-266-5605, E-mail:
BernsteenGL@state.gov;

Vice Consul: Timothy E. Liston
ETD: January 2005, Direct Office Telephone Number: 370-
5-266-5592, E-mail: ListonTE@state.gov.

Consular Section Fax Number: 370-5-266-5590. IVG
(tie line) code: 973.

B) Do you have sufficient staff to meet consular MPP
objectives? (If you believe you do not, describe
steps you have taken to maximize staff efficiency.
Note any special circumstances at your post that
hinder productivity. Specify the number, type, and
grade of personnel you would need in order to fully
meet MPP objectives). Add any comments you might
have on the effectiveness of training of new
personnel (such as Congen, FSI language training,
etc.)

Response: Post at this time has adequate staff to do
consular work in accordance with MPP objectives and
current consular regulations and procedures. Post's Vice-
Consuls are currently able to handle all NIV interviews.
Meeting consular MPP objectives will be a challenge over
the next three months, however, as we face the extended
absence of the Consul from January 1 through April 1,
early departure at the end of January of one Vice Consul
not to be replaced until March 1, and rotation of our
second Vice Consul in mid-February. Promised TDY
assistance from the Department will help us bridge this
gap. The most challenging month will be in March, when
we begin processing our large Work and Travel program
(see description below), which will require the
processing of more than 3000 visas between March and
June. In addition, post's Consular Associate departed
post at the end of July 2004 and has yet to be replaced
pending budget approval. A CA would help the section
fulfill MPP objectives, such as assisting American
citizens, as the Section's Vice-Consuls focus on
processing Work and Travel visas.

Post is experiencing an increase in the number of
Americans traveling to and residing in Lithuania. Our
back-up ACS assistant is more often required to assist
the full-time assistant with our increasing ACS workload.
As such, we are considering re-designating the back-up
ACS assistant as a half-time ACS assistant, while
considering the need for an additional position in ACS to
allow better service for the growing American community
in Lithuania. This staffing change in ACS would assist
post in meeting its MPP goals.

Regarding training, Congen has traditionally offered
new consular officers a solid foundation in consular
work. However, rapid changes in regulations and
procedures are a challenge for all consular section
staff. Consular officers in the field would greatly
benefit from additional training, even if only online, in
SAO processing requirements and working with the TAL.
Given the many changes in consular work, post would also
recommend some sort of refresher training for all
consular officers between overseas assignments.

Post would further recommend that JO's assigned to
Vilnius receive 30 weeks of language rather than 24.
Solid knowledge of Lithuanian is absolutely necessary at
the visa window and, despite the excellent FSI Lithuanian
language program, 24 weeks is sometimes not enough time
to get a good grasp on the complexities of this extremely
difficult language.

C) Do you have sufficient space to meet consular MPP
objectives? (If you believe you do not, describe the
nature of the space limitations. Note steps post
has taken to address these limitations, including
development of design proposals, allocation of post
funds, requests for OBO or CA funding, etc.)
Response: The Consular Section is adequate for the
current level of staffing. The greatest difficulty for
consular operations is that the Vice-Consuls do not have
office space in the Consular Section, physically
isolating them from daily operations during non-interview
hours. Their offices are located down the hall from the
Consular Section in the Chancery. Space will become more
of an issue with the Section's move into temporary swing
space sometime in FY2006 for the duration of the Chancery
expansion project. The swing space is slightly smaller
than the Section's current space, resulting in a smaller
waiting area, loss of one interview window, loss of a
privacy booth, and less space for storage of consular
files. Current estimates have the Consular Section
located in this swing space for approximately a year.

D) Describe any management practices (such as off-
site fee collection, use of a user pays call center,
courier passback, post hosted web appointment system,
business programs) that post has instituted in the past
year. Are these management practices effective? Also
please list any management practices that have been
discontinued in the past year, citing reasons for the
termination.

Response: N/A.

E) Please advise whether and why post might benefit
from a Consular Management Assistance Team (CMAT)
visit. If a CMAT visited your post over the past year,
please summarize any benefits and what steps, if any,
could be taken to further enhance the productivity of
CMAT visits.

Response: Post is fortunate to have available the
guidance of an experienced RCO, who, in her most
recent visit, offered many of the same benefits as a
CMAT. Consequently, while we would welcome the
visit of a CMAT, we do not believe that post should
be considered a priority at this time.

Systems:

F) Do you have the equipment you need to meet
consular MPP objectives? (If you believe you do
not, describe the equipment you need and efforts you
have made to obtain it.)

Response: At this time, post has the equipment it
needs.

G) How would you rate your consular section's
satisfaction with the automated consular systems
(excellent, good, average, poor)? Are there any
unresolved software or hardware issues? How do you
rate the training of post personnel both within the
consular section and in Management/IM on the use and
support of Consular systems (excellent, good,
average, poor)? What types of assistance would you
need from the next training and refresher teams
coming from the consular systems division to assist
consular system users? Please also comment on the
quality of assistance provided by the CA Overseas
Help Desk.

Response: We rate the ACS system as poor. The
warden information is unwieldy and impractical to
use for notifications, particularly with the advent
of alternative methods of notification such as
email. This is made even more complicated by the fact
that IBRS does not interface with the warden database in
ACS and vice versa. Consular Section staff generally
rate NIV as good and user-friendly. We like the new SAO
capability and look forward to the day when it is
entirely electronic.

An Orkand team was here in August for biometric
installation as well as refresher training. In addition
to providing excellent training on all the various
consular systems and biometric collection, the team
provided invaluable support for our public relations
campaign to roll out the new program. Thanks to its
help, which included participating in press interviews
about the equipment and setting up a demonstration
workstation for the press, post's rollout was a
tremendous success. The Consular Section is generally
satisfied with the support received from Management/IM
but wishes that that office had more time to devote to
consular systems issues. Due to other demands on IM's
time, the Consular Section has had to wait a week or more
for installation of new software or hardware.
We are pleased that a member of post's IM staff was able
to receive formal training on consular systems. We are
also satisfied with the support we have received from the
CA Overseas Help Desk. Its replies have been timely and
useful. We particularly appreciated their most recent
assistance in quickly adding NATO visas to our NIV visa
table in time for Lithuania's first NATO staff member to
travel to the United States.

H) Some posts have recently begun scanning 2-D
barcodes to input DS-156 information into consular
systems. Please comment on other forms you would like to
see automated and explain why.

Response: No comment at this time.

ACS:

I) What aspects of your ACS work are the most
demanding?

Response: As more Americans choose to travel to or reside
in Lithuania, post's ACS workload, from routine notarials
to jail visits, continues to increase. Our full-time ACS
assistant increasingly requires the help of our back-up
ACS assistant just to handle our day-to-day workload.

Another challenging aspect of our ACS work is Federal
Benefits. In FY2004, we finally received permission from
SSA to re-enroll non-U.S. citizen beneficiaries based on
an exchange of notes with the GOL in early 2003. It took
substantial time to locate surviving eligible
beneficiaries and process their paperwork. Embassy
Warsaw provided invaluable assistance in facilitating
their re-enrollment, enabling payment of benefits to
begin promptly. Although the total number of new
beneficiaries was relatively small, it did add to our FBU
workload, which is already significant and continues to
grow, due largely to the number of Lithuanian-Americans
who return to Lithuania as a way to stretch their pension
dollars. The conference for FBU FSNs held last year in
Warsaw provided great training for our FBU assistant. We
hope it was the first of many more such regional FBU
conferences.

Visas:

K) What aspects of your NIV work are the most
demanding?

Response: The decline in post's NIV applications seems to
have finally leveled off. Despite the relatively low
number of total applications compared to our peak in
2000, post's NIV workload remains high. Lithuanians
continue to look to the United States for illegal work
even after Lithuanian accession into the EU (see Vilnius
01493). Unfortunately, Lithuania's EU accession has made
it more difficult for us to ascertain a visa applicant's
periods of stay in the United States as border officials
no longer stamp the passports of returning Lithuanians.
As we still do not have access to DHS entry/exit records,
Lithuanian entry stamps were our only sure means of
detecting repeated six-month stays, which often is a sign
of illegal employment in the United States.

We also continue to see a great deal of fraud, including
forged Burroughs and Teslin foil visas and imposter
travelers. There are a number of ongoing investigations
in Lithuania's second city of Kaunas involving fraudulent
documents and imposter passports and visas, with links to
counterfeit currency. We work closely with RSO and local
authorities on these investigations. The level and
increasing sophistication of fraud continues to be the
most demanding aspect of NIV work in Lithuania. We are
continually frustrated that these same rings after their
arrests are quickly back in business in some modified
form. The increased time spent in interviewing to screen
for fraud, new processing requirements, and the increase
in the number of applicants seen at post who were
either refused change of status by DHS, turned around or
deported due to prior violations, or who have serious
hits in CLASS have increased not only the complexity of
the visa process but also the overall time necessary to
handle post's relatively small NIV workload.
Another demanding aspect of NIV work at post is the
Work and Travel program. Lithuania has one of the
largest per capita participation rates in Eastern
Europe. Post processed 2,100 Work and Travel visas
in FY2004, approximately 27 percent of all visas
issued by post in that year. This is a decrease from
last year's totals, due to competition from programs in
the U.K. Organizers are hoping to submit at least as
many Work and Travel applicants in 2005. As these visas
are all processed over a short period of time (from
March to June), this places a great strain on every
aspect of NIV processing at post. The perennial demands
on Section resources of universal interviewing, fraud
screening, and the risk of printer failure are joined
this year by the challenges posed by the planned absence
of the Consul and the timing of the Vice-Consuls'
rotations. Post has developed strategies to handle the
anticipated challenges.

M) Please comment on the impact that the fingerprinting
requirement has had on consular space, processing time,
and relations with your host country.

Response: Post only began fingerprinting on August 23,


2004. Our limited experience with fingerprinting has
been positive. We had anticipated a negative backlash
from the Lithuanian public based on local media reaction
in the early days of the program. With the cooperation
of post's PD section, Front Office, the Orkand
installation team (as noted above), and some good local
contacts, we had a successful media event for the
biometric rollout. During that event, four "Famous
Fingers" demonstrated the fingerprinting procedure, and
the Deputy Director of the Lithuanian Consular Department
explained the future of biometrics. The campaign
succeeded, as the transition to fingerprinting went
without a hitch. A number of Lithuanians holding valid
visas even called the Embassy to ask if they could have
their fingers scanned anyway.

From the workload perspective, the switch to
fingerprinting has had little impact on our operations.
We have only occasionally experienced long delays with
IDENT returns, but never so long as to disrupt our
workflow. There has been no real impact on consular
space.

N) What aspects of your IV work are the most
demanding? (Discussion should address any backlogs
and their causes).

Response: Though Vilnius does not process immigrant
visas, we accept petitions for immediate relatives,
usually marriage or fiance petitions. The number of
petitions we received has doubled in the last year. We
continue to see cases of suspected marriage fraud.
Approximately 10 percent of the petitions received at
post in FY2004 were not clearly approvable. The decline
in fraudulent marriages seen at post is most likely a
benefit of EU accession, with young Lithuanian women, the
usual participant in such schemes, now looking for
opportunities in Europe rather than in the United States.

O) If applicable, please describe the impact of the
DV program on your workload.

Response: Lithuanians are very interested in the DV
program, and every year the consular section receives
a large number of inquiries about the process. The
availability of information on the Internet and through
our pre-recorded phone message has reduced the number of
phone and written inquiries to post about the program.
We are affected by the program in two ways. First, we
continue to receive a large number of press inquiries
every year; second, we receive many requests from Embassy
Warsaw, our regional DV processing post, for assistance
in conducting fraud checks of Lithuanian documentation,
in particular fraudulent diplomas, submitted in support
of DV applications. The resources necessary to assist
Warsaw with these checks place an additional burden on
our fraud unit.

P) What percentage of your NIV and IV applicants are
third country nationals (TCN)? From what countries are
they? Do they speak a different language than post's
designated language? If so, how do you communicate with
them?
Response: Only seven percent of NIV applications at post
are non-Lithuanian citizens. The vast majority of these
are citizens of Russia, mostly seamen from the
Kaliningrad region. While many speak at least some
English, about half speak only Russian. Almost the
entire FSN staff speaks fluent Russian, and those not
fluent are at least proficient. They interpret for the
interviewing officers as needed.

Passport:
Q) Discuss how your post has been affected by the
Overseas Photodigitized Passports program (OPDP) deployed
in 2003. Please note any major adjustments you have had
to make to workflow or staffing. Has the number of
emergency passports issued at post decreased? If so, by
how much?

Response: Post continues to be pleased with the
improvement of service following implementation of OPDP.
Customers are especially appreciative of this improvement
in service. This faster turnaround has resulted in a
decrease in the already small number of emergency
passports post issues, down more than half from FY2003.

Fraud Prevention:

R) Briefly summarize the types of fraud most frequently
encountered at post and programs in place to combat that
fraud, including use of investigation resources, tracking
systems, electronic tools, liaison and information
sharing. If post has conducted a validation study, what
was learned from it? Are you satisfied with the level of
fraud prevention training for officers and FSNs? If not,
what do you believe you need to support your efforts in
this area? Do you conduct in-house fraud training for
non-Embassy consular contacts? If so, who is the
targeted audience and how often is it done? Do local
authorities effectively prosecute document vendors and
smugglers?

Response: Visa fraud in Lithuania has changed
markedly in the last few years. Fraudulent job letters
and bank letters are increasingly rare. As we improved
our detection of these documents with access to the
Lithuanian Social Insurance Agency's (SoDra) database to
confirm income declarations and use of the InfoBankas
corporate record database, mala fide applicants have
turned to other, more sophisticated techniques. We
continue to receive reports of fake Burroughs and Teslin
MRV visas. While the number of interception reports from
airport officials has decreased, this may indicate that
the quality of false documents has improved. We are also
receiving reports of Lithuanians seeking entry into the
U.S. on imposter or photo-subbed passports. This is
especially difficult for Lithuanian authorities to
address as the aliens, having used their real passport
for departure, have broken no laws in Lithuania. Local
authorities recently located and shut down a visa
"facilitator" who had a binder full of hundreds of photos
from legitimate travel documents with valid U.S. visas
from which travelers could select the best likeness.
Post is working closely with investigators to identify
those to whom the travel documents were originally issued
as well as those who may have fraudulently used them.
The investigation may take years but prosecutors are not
optimistic that the document purveyors will actually do
jail time.

The Lithuanian Border Police are very helpful in our
fraud efforts, but the information and assistance
provided by the Criminal Police is not very specific
nor responsive to post's concerns. Post continues to
work to strengthen its relationships with local law
enforcement authorities. We continue to work closely
with RSO to further improve information sharing with
local authorities. DHS Copenhagen has been of great
assistance in a number of investigations, running checks
through its systems in addition to sharing their
expertise.

The results of post's last B1/B2 validation study,
completed in early 2004, showed definite improvement from
the previous year's study with a 57 percent return rate.
Most unusual in this year's study was the significant
number of visa holders (23 percent) who had not yet used
their visas. One possible explanation is that many
applicants obtained U.S. visas on the eve of Lithuania's
EU accession "just in case." Some Lithuanians were
nervous about the effect accession would have on the
local economy and, for all the promise of opportunities
for legal work within the EU, others continue to look to
the United States for work opportunities, legal or
otherwise. More than six months since Lithuania's EU
accession, we still see just as many potential economic
migrants despite the possibility for legal work
elsewhere.

Post's fraud prevention staff currently consists of one
full-time Anti-Fraud investigator and is managed by the
Consul. Our part-time fraud assistant is currently
acting as our full-time Anti-Fraud investigator during
the investigator's extended leave. She is assisted in
anti-fraud efforts and investigations by all Section
staff as necessary. Neither she nor any of the American
officers currently at post have had specific anti-fraud
training. The opportunity for both our local and
American staff to obtain such training would no doubt
enhance our anti-fraud efforts. Despite the expertise of
our AFI and extensive fraud files, we still too often
find ourselves ill-equipped to investigate large, and
increasingly sophisticated, organized fraud rings. Post
has developed a fraud database that will assist us in
identifying commonalities, analyzing trends, and in
detecting organized fraud. The ability to access
immigration systems such as NIIS and NAILS ourselves
would greatly strengthen our efforts. Post would also
like increased opportunities to attend regional fraud
conferences and to see more sharing of regional fraud
information.

We had not felt the need to conduct in-house training for
our local contacts, as they continue to demonstrate an
aptitude for detecting fraudulent documents, thanks in
large part to excellent training provided by DHS
Copenhagen in the last two years. We do, however,
provide informal orientations on U.S. documents for our
Consular colleagues. As it has been several years,
though, the Consular Section and RSO would like to bring
DHS here for another round of training with the
Lithuanian Border Guard, as well as prosecutors and the
Consular Department, who were not included in prior
training sessions.

General:

S) Describe country conditions that affect your ability
to provide consular services (infrastructure, fraud,
political setting, etc.).

Response: Since Lithuania regained its independence
in 1991, over 500,000 Lithuanians have reportedly
left the country, many of them to the United States
where a sizeable Lithuanian community already exists.
The Lithuanian government does little to discourage this
exodus, as many politicians are convinced that the
majority of Lithuanians will eventually return, better
and richer for their time spent overseas. While the
Lithuanian economy continues to grow rapidly, not all
groups benefit equally from the growth. This factor, and
the fact that most young Lithuanians desire to work
abroad despite their country's excellent growth
prospects, contribute to continuing emigration. These
factors will continue to drive post's NIV work, and
refusal rate, in the future. Immigration to Lithuania
from both the EU and non-EU world, for both legitimate
and illegitimate reasons, will continue to increase.
Significant numbers of illegal aliens continue to be
apprehended at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border and in
the port of Klaipeda. The influx of non-Lithuanians has
already led to a small increase in the number of TCN
applicants seen at post. This number will most likely
increase further over the next few years and will
require greater vigilance in the screening of NIV
applications.

Integration has already increased emigration from
Lithuania to Western Europe, as Lithuanians seek
opportunities for legal foreign employment, though this
has not diminished the demand for visas to the United
States. Despite Lithuania's membership in the EU, we
have not yet seen the quality of visa cases improve, as
economic growth continues to leave certain sectors of
society behind.

Now that Lithuania is officially part of Europe, but with
a cost of living still far below its Western neighbors,
tourism will continue to increase. More American
visitors, coupled with a likely increase in the number of
people who choose to settle in Lithuania, will further
increase the demand for section services.
T) Describe any other issue not raised in the
preceding questions that you believe to be
significant to the consular section's effectiveness
in handling its responsibilities.
Response: Post is planning for a major physical expansion
of the Chancery with construction scheduled to begin in
FY2006. The Consular Section will continue to work with
other elements of the Mission to ensure that our space
concerns are considered in the final plans. Two
additional stories will be constructed above the current
Consular Section. During that construction, the Consular
Section will be moved into swing space in another
building. The space is slightly smaller than our current
quarters. While OBO has been working with the Consular
Section to meet our needs, this temporary inconvenience
will pose challenges for the Consular Section, which we
are confident we will manage successfully.

MULL