Thousands of miles from any U.S. port of entry, the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is disrupting international criminal organizations and strengthening U.S. border security through its visa fraud detection and deterrence program in Nepal. Since DSS began training and collaborating with Nepali law enforcement officials in November 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu has seen a 30 percent decrease in fraudulent applications for U.S. visas.
U.S. Embassy Kathmandu’s Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigator (ARSO-I) partnered with the Embassy’s Consular Section Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU) to conduct a thorough review of fraudulent visa submissions. Following this analysis, the ARSO-I reached out to Nepali law enforcement officials who were happy to assist with investigating and prosecuting fraudulent document vendors and visa applicants. The ARSO-I trained the Nepal Police on how to identify fraudulent visa application, and continued working with them as they revised local laws to allow the police to prosecute those falsifying or creating fake documents and records.
The results of this enhanced partnership have been incredible. Within the first six months of this new process, the police made 17 arrests; to date, they have arrested 61 individuals engaged in fraudulent activity. By comparison, between 2011 and 2017, the police made just 12 arrests related to document fraud. The Nepal Police have publicized their work, issuing press releases highlighting illicit activities and their legal consequences. This program has strengthened and matured the Nepali authorities’ investigative capabilities and ability to combat transnational crime.
DSS also trained Nepali immigration authorities on how to spot authentic and fraudulent travel document security features, which decreases misuse of U.S. visas and transnational criminal activities. With limited resources, Nepali police and immigration officers do not get this type of training often. The visa fraud detection and deterrence program has been well received by the Nepali government, and has spread beyond the U.S. Embassy to include joint training sessions with the German, Canadian, and British embassies in Kathmandu.
Another example of DSS’ collaboration with Nepal is the country’s establishment of a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Bureau, which aligns with the U.N. Palermo Protocol and helps address the increasing problem of human trafficking there. The ARSO-I established an interagency working group with representatives from several U.S. law enforcement agencies to strengthen the TIP Bureau through investigations training, mentorship, and criminal database development.
Collaborations like this protect the integrity of the U.S. visa application process, disrupt criminal organizations, and secure U.S. borders, advancing U.S. national security interests. Nepali law enforcement and immigration officials have become strong partners in the fight against transnational crime, which affects both the United States and Nepal. With a clear benefit for the American people, DSS will continue to seek opportunities to train and collaborate with Nepal and other foreign partners around the globe.
About the Author: James Guanci is a Special Agent with the Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of State.