Recently, the US State Department released an unclassified version of a report about the American Consulate General in Saigon. There is nothing shocking in the report. In fact most reports like this concentrate on positive aspects. However, it is interesting to see what the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) says about the Consulate.
According to the Report, at the time of the inspection the Consulate had 17 American Consular officers, and 51 Vietnamese employees serving as FSN’s (Foreign Service Nationals). Two excellent officers lead the consulate general, and upbeat morale is evident among American and Vietnamese employees. The consul general oversees a large consular section that is challenged by serious visa, fiancée, and adoption fraud. Generally speaking, consular staff displays positive morale. Consuls praised their managers’ professional knowledge and willingness to share information but it was noted that additional training and mentoring would upgrade skills.
The consulate general’s political section regularly reports to the State Department on religious and human rights issues. Catholics, Protestants, and Buddhists are the major religious groups in Vietnam. Catholics have the fewest problems with the host government, possibly because the church has been in the country since the seventeenth century. The government has the most problems with Protestants who have been in the country for about 100 years.
If you are arrested in Vietnam: Timely arrest notification is rare, particularly for Americans of Vietnamese origin. Consular officers usually learn of an arrest from the detainees’ family members or associates long before they get any notification from the authorities. Notification may occur weeks or even months after the arrest. Visit requests must be made by a diplomatic note and can require at least three months for approval. Conversations generally must be in Vietnamese, are monitored by prison guards, and must follow a set agenda. Sometimes when prisoners write letters to the consul they are not delivered.
American Citizens Services: Nearly 180,000 American citizens visit Vietnam annually. About 600 American citizens, including minor children, are enrolled with the ACS in Ho Chi Minh City’s consular district. The consular chiefs estimate that upwards of 1,600 additional Americans live in Vietnam. In FY 2004, ACS Ho Chi Minh City processed about 1,600 citizenship/passport requests and executed about 2,250 notarials.
Nonimmigrant Visas: About 42,000 people applied for NIVs at Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City during FY 2005. Roughly 55 percent of first time visitor visa applicants do not qualify for visas. (In FY 2009, the US Consulate in Vietnam denied 42% of the Tourist Visa applications. In FY 2010, the denial rate was down to 36% compared to 55% in FY 2004).
Q.1. In FY 2010, the Consulate approved 65% of Tourist visa applications, compared to only 45% approvals in FY 2004. What is the reason for this?
A.1. No reasons have been given for the increase in approvals. We suspect that these days more applicants are better prepared for the Tourist visa interview, thanks to competent immigration service providers.
Q.2. How can visitors or foreign residents in Vietnam register with the Consulate?
A.2. It can be done easily at the Consulate website: hochiminh.usconsulate.gov.