Thousands of Cameroonians apply to go to the United States each year for business, but many of them fall into the hands of people posing as middle men for U.S embassy visa officials. United States embassy officials have been working with Cameroon's judicial police to arrest and prosecute suspects and applicants who present fraudulent documents.
Lilian Verdze is one of the hundreds of Cameroonians asking for visas at the United States embassy in Yaounde early this week. She said it was the third time she was coming for an interview to travel to America.
"I have been here several times. Each time I come they ask me to present so many documents. They say I should bring my marriage certificate, academic certificates, bank statements, it has not been very easy. They ask so many documents, I will go and come back after, they still ask so many documents. It has not been very easy," said Verdze.
Last Wednesday, Cameroon state radio, CRTV, invited officials of the United States embassy in Yaounde to explain why there have been complaints that procedures to acquire visas are at times long and cumbersome. Consular official Nicolas Castellano said there are lots of fraudulent documents in a majority of the application files, and as such they work with the Cameroon police to authenticate suspected documents.
"A majority of Cameroonian visa applicants come to the American embassy with a fraudulent document. The most fraudulent acts that we see are the introduction of business employment letters, financial statements, university transcripts, and so we have been able to partner with the judicial police and have numerous people in the last few months arrested. The judicial police do an investigation, take information on the person and then proceed them through the Cameroonian legal system," he said.
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Castellano said they have been able to "turn" many of the arrested suspects. He said it is both in the embassy’s interest and that of the Cameroon government to have a fraud-free, fluid and very easy process for everyone who has a legitimate application and good documents.
Kweke Emmanuel of Cameroon's judicial police said there are well established networks of visa frauds and middle men claiming to represent U.S embassy staff in Cameroon.
He said they even arrested a suspect who had obtained a fake police identification badge and always wore a police uniform before deceiving people that he could facilitate the process to establish visas at the United States embassy. He said many such suspects have been detained and are helping the police in their investigations.
Ndzeh Amos of the communication and public relations department of the Cameroon police force said they have been urging Cameroonians to visit the United States embassy for all visa requirements and to report all suspects to the police.
Amos said many people are awaiting trial for fabricating fake documents and certificates for people requesting visas. He said some of them even went to parents who intended to send their children for studies out of Cameroon and promised that they could help.
Roberto Quiroz, public affairs officer of the U.S embassy in Cameroon, said they will continue the battle, along with Cameroon's judicial police, to clear the system of all fraudulent people whose goal is to extort money from visa applicants.
"The message is we want visa peddlers to be out of office. These peddlers must be out of business because a lot of Cameroonians qualify for visas but when they listen to the siren song, they fall prey to the corrupt practices of these people, so they qualify for visas to see family and friends but they lose this opportunity because they violate Cameroonian laws," said Quiroz.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs states that attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States.