What is the change? A fake U.S. Embassy in Ghana’s capital has been shut down after operating under the radar for 10 years.

What does the change mean? Visa applicants should be aware that scams to sell or issue fraudulent visas can be quite sophisticated, and it is not altogether rare for unsuspecting individuals to fall victim to such scams only to find out that their visas are invalid when they attempt to enter their destination country.

Scams to sell fake visas are more common than people may think, particularly in African countries where many travel documents, including visas and work permits, are often handwritten. In 2014, South Africa stopped recognizing the validity of the Department of Home Affairs’ BI-1750 passport endorsement that confirmed the grant of South African permanent residency due to widespread forgery.

Background: The fake U.S. Embassy in Ghana was shut down earlier this year by agents of the real U.S. Embassy. The building flew an American flag, was staffed by individuals posing as embassy officials and shuttled foreign individuals from other West African countries to phony visa appointments. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security confirmed in a posted article that the scheme provided some customers “fraudulently obtained, legitimate U.S. visas” for US$6,000, as well as counterfeit visas and false identification documents. When the property was raided, 150 passports from 10 countries were found.

The U.S. State Department has denied that anyone entered the U.S. on a fake visa issued by the sham entity. Officials have said it would be difficult to use a fake visa because a traveler’s biometric data would be matched by border officials against the database of the real embassy.

BAL Analysis: Companies that delegate the responsibility of obtaining visas to foreign employees should warn employees about the prevalence of visa scams and encourage them to take precautions to verify that they are only transacting with authentic entities.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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