At least 20 Cambodians are known to have tried to enter the US using visas acquired from the US Embassy under false pretenses, but they cannot be prosecuted under US law, embassy official Alex Arvizu said Wednesday.
The Cambodian government is investigating allegations that people posed as members of official delegations to the US and fabricated supporting documents to receive preferential treatment in the visa application process.
Some of these are said to have made it to the US and disappeared. But the US Embassy has not mounted its own investigation, and the alleged scam is “not a prosecutable criminal offense under US law,” Arvizu said at a question-and-answer session with the Club of Cambodian Journalists.
Instead, the embassy has given evidence of the scam to the government.
Arvizu said the suspicions have forced the US Embassy to heighten its scrutiny of applications for diplomatic visas.
The embassy tried to institute a “referral system” for Cambodian officials traveling to the US on official business, making it easier for them and their spouses or staffs to get visas. “It was supposed to help the government do their work and save us time,” Arvizu said.
But a procedure intended to lessen the embassy’s workload ended up creating headaches.
Arvizu said it was not known whether government workers were taking payments to put false names on delegation lists, whether delegation lists were being forged, or both.
Arvizu said there was no evidence anyone inside the embassy was involved in the scam, so “no internal disciplinary action has been taken.”
He said he did not know if the investigation would result in criminal prosecution or disciplinary action against those found responsible. “We assume that certain appropriate measures will be taken,” he said.
Cambodians applying for US visas are subjected to a high standard, he said; the burden of proof is on applicants to show that they plan to return home.