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09KYIV1271, UKRAINE: FEWER SUMMER WORK AND TRAVEL STUDENTS IN 2009, BUT

July 31, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV1271 2009-07-31 14:09 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO1330
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHKV #1271/01 2121409
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311409Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8191
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 001271 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR CA/FPP (BILLINGSR), CA/VO/F/P, EUR/UMB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: CVIS KFRD CMGT ECON UP
 
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: FEWER SUMMER WORK AND TRAVEL STUDENTS IN 2009, BUT 
FRAUD IS A CONSTANT 
 
REF: TEL AVIV 423 
 
1. (U) SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. 
 
2. (U) Summary: Between January and June, Post interviewed 8288 
Ukrainian university students aspiring to participate in the summer 
work and travel and camp counselor (SWT) program in the U.S. The 
number of SWT applicants was approximately 14 percent lower than in 
2008. Post attributes the decline to the economic crisis and the 
devaluation of the hryvna. In past years, over 93 percent of SWT 
visa recipients returned to Ukraine on time.  Despite the lower 
number of applicants, misrepresentation and fraud continued to be an 
issue in a relatively large number of cases. This was a factor in 
the 15 percent refusal rate among SWT applicants. Post maintained a 
rigorous anti-fraud posture during the SWT season, increasing 
scrutiny of local SWT agencies as a source of bogus documentation 
and job offers. To counter ongoing fraud, Post will continue to 
refine its processing of SWT cases in order to maintain the 
integrity of the program. End summary. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
NUMBERS DOWN, MONITARY MOTIVATION STEADY 
---------------------------------------- 
 
3. (U) Post interviewed 8288 SWT and camp counselor visa applicants 
in 2009, down from 9663 last year.  SWT agencies originally 
projected a 20 percent increase in applicants over 2008, but 
participation actually declined by about 14 percent, almost 
certainly due to the international recession and the recent 
devaluation of the hryvna. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that 
a few applicants requested that officers refuse their visa, as their 
families could no longer afford the travel costs to the U.S. and a 
refusal would allow them to recoup part of the fee paid to the SWT 
agency.  Students paid local agencies between 990 and 1200 USD to 
participate in the program, plus the cost of airfare and the visa 
application fee. 
 
4. (SBU) Fifteen percent of applicants were refused visas under 
section 214b, most often for failing to demonstrate sufficient 
ability to speak English.  A handful were refused for material 
misrepresentation under section 6C. 
 
5. (U) Historically, the vast majority of SWT participants return 
from the U.S. on time.  Most of them work on the East Coast in 
tourism-related jobs, while a notable number gut fish in Alaskan 
processing plants.  In January 2009, Post's Fraud Prevention Unit 
(FPU) conducted a validation study of 715 randomly selected SWT 
students from the 2008 season.  According to Department of Homeland 
Security records, over six percent did not return to Ukraine as 
planned (2.8 percent remained illegally in the U.S., 3.6 percent 
adjusted their visa status).  FPU plans to check this trend with 
another validation study following the 2009 season. 
 
5. (U) Students clearly value the opportunity to travel and see the 
United States, though the opportunity to earn money there is often 
the primary motivation. Even after costs, the average 7-9 USD an 
hour they receive in the U.S. at a genuine job empowers them to earn 
in a week what their parents earn in a month.  The average 
Ukrainian's monthly wage for the first half of the year was just 
over 225 USD, and in over half of the country's regions it was under 
200 USD (in Kyiv it was 380 USD). Given this economic stimulus, it 
is not surprising that a notable number of SWT applicants plan to 
work 6 days a week for a total of 50-60 hours weekly.  Some repeat 
SWT applicants told us that they took second jobs to increase their 
earning power during past programs and intended to do so again. 
Although many students save their earnings and take them home, 
others use the money to shop and travel around the U.S. before they 
return to Ukraine. (Comment: The excessive hours worked by some 
students raise concerns that for a notable portion of SWT 
participants, the program is seen as primarily a temporary guest 
worker program.) 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
WORKING WITH THE AGENCIES: TOUGHER THAN BEFORE 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
6. (U) Our key partners for SWT are local recruitment agencies. 
Several years ago, Post established a block appointment system to 
help manage and process the large number of SWT applicants from 
January to June each year.  Approved SWT agencies (i.e., bona fide 
agencies that have not abused the block appointment system in the 
past and for which Post does not have chronic fraud concerns) may 
reserve a specific number of appointments in advance.  Five business 
days before these appointments, agencies must bring all required 
documents for each applicant (except passports) to the consular 
section, where the NIV staff verifies job offers and enters 
applicant information into the system.  About 70 percent of all SWT 
 
KYIV 00001271  002 OF 003 &
#x000A; 
 
students were processed through the block appointment system in 
2009. 
 
7. (U) For the first time in 2008, several agencies were removed 
from the block appointment system due to their inability to follow 
procedures and fraud concerns. Given increased problems, we focused 
our efforts on documents certifying student status, insurance 
coverage and job offers.  Typical SWT fraud included 
misrepresentations about student status, intended place of 
employment, and presence of family and friends in the U.S -- all 
indicators that the applicant has questionable intentions. False 
information on insurance coverage was a less common, but growing 
indicator. 
 
--------------------------------- 
FRAUD PREVENTION AND FRAUD TRENDS 
--------------------------------- 
 
8. (U) In addition to Post's normal fraud prevention efforts, the 
NIV staff prescreens and investigates the job offers submitted by 
students participating in the block appointment system. Post checks 
each job offer to verify its legitimacy by searching for information 
about the sponsoring business and employer through online open 
sources.  If more than a few students are offered jobs at the same 
location, NIV staff will call to verify all job offers there.  NIV 
and FPU staff subjected applications with missing or misspelled job 
information to more in-depth prescreening and called these employers 
for verification of job offers.  Rapid entry of watch phrase alerts 
maximized the benefit of Post's investigative results and helped 
catch numerous additional illegitimate applications. 
 
 
9. (SBU) Among other schemes, one agency, ProStudy UA, provided job 
offers to several applicants it knew were no longer students, and 
supplied them with documents verifying their student status and 
confirming their health insurance coverage.    In other cases, 
several students attempted to obtain SWT J1 visas in order to work 
for friends and family in the U.S.  (Comment: Though not a violation 
of the letter of the rules in itself, job offers from friends or 
family raise questions about the intentions of Ukrainian applicants, 
particularly when the applicants are not truthful about their 
intended place of employment. It also seems to run counter to the 
purpose of the program to give applicants wide exposure to American 
culture, rather than visiting family friends in the Ukrainian 
diaspora. End comment.) 
 
------------------------------------- 
PROTECTING STUDENTS FROM EXPLOITATION 
------------------------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) Post also encountered a number of seemingly bona fide 
applicants whose agencies supplied them with fraudulent or 
non-existent job offers, or job offers from organizations with a 
reputation for exploiting students. For example, several students 
received job offers for a Dunkin' Donuts in New Jersey. However, NIV 
prescreening revealed that this business does not participate in 
SWT, and that the designated supervisor, Vince Ludwig, is a 
character in the film "The Naked Gun." Depending on the 
circumstances of the case, these applicants were often refused under 
Section 221(g) and given the opportunity to return with a legitimate 
job offer from a different agency. 
 
11. (SBU) Post continued to see SWT job offers associated with 
Southern Amenity Inc., a Panama City Beach, Florida operation 
connected with immigrants from the former Soviet Union and involved 
in exploiting students and conducting visa fraud.  In the fall of 
2008, a returning SWT student informed the consular section that 
Southern Amenity takes a significant cut from the hourly wage of its 
SWT participants, charges excessive rent to students, forces them to 
live in small rooms with several other students, and threatens 
students with the loss of their jobs and visas if they complain or 
try to move and find other jobs. In 2009, several other businesses 
in and around Panama City, Florida were found to be affiliated with 
Southern Amenity.  All SWT sponsors in northwestern Florida are now 
verified during prescreening. 
 
12. (SBU) Finally, Post discovered that the Dead Sea Products fraud 
and trafficking scheme involving young Israelis (reftel) has found 
its way into the Ukrainian market, as several Ukrainian students 
applied with job offers associated with this business. As described 
in reftel, the various regional companies affiliated with Dead Sea 
Products are involved in questionable immigration activities and 
exploitative practices concerning their workers.  Officers carefully 
scrutinized SWT applicants with ties to this business, and many were 
refused under Section 214(b) or requested to find another job 
offer. 
 
 
 
KYIV 00001271  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
13. (U) Comment: Despite a drop in overall numbers, SWT remains 
popular despite, and perhaps because of, the difficult economic 
climate in Ukraine.  While there are concerns about fraud and the 
significant number of hours that some SWT participants spend on the 
job, most participants seem to receive exposure to American culture. 
Post believes that its efforts to work with agencies, prescreen job 
offers, and carefully monitor fraud/overstay indicators during the 
interview process have contributed to a relatively low overstay rate 
in prior years.  Given the current negative climate in Ukraine, Post 
will be extra vigilant in conducting a validation study to see if 
the low overstay rate will continue. 
 
 
PETTIT

Wikileaks

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