Consular Services Abroad Can Be Improved, Process of Evaluating Need for Posts Questioned

ID-77-52: Published: Dec 29, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1977.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

U.S. consular officers carry out a variety of activities in foreign countries such as assisting U.S. citizens living and traveling abroad, issuing immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, and handling passport and citizenship cases. As of July 1977, the State Department had 130 Embassies, 64 consulates general, 48 consulates, and 15 consular agencies.

The need to maintain some consular agencies, or constituent posts, appears to be questionable. Although the Department makes periodic evaluations, it uses only general criteria to determine if a post is needed. Inadequate screening of applicants for nonimmigrant visas can result in persons entering the country who intend to violate the terms of their entry. The effectiveness with which nonimmigrant visa applicants have been screened has been reduced because of consular officers' limited time and lack of experience. Appropriate visa checks have not been made, and visa issuance equipment has been controlled properly. The effectiveness and efficiency of nonimmigrant visa operations could be improved by consolidating these activities at some posts. Consular services to detained Americans could be improved in some countries by: giving more prompt attention to arrested Americans, visiting imprisoned Americans on a regular basis, and maintaining better records on arrest cases.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should: direct that more specific criteria be developed for determining the need for constituent posts; review policies for the expeditious processing of nonimmigrant visas to determine if consular staffing is adequate to carry out policies while allowing for effective screening of applicants; study the feasibility of consolidating nonimmigrant visa issuance operations at one or two posts in a country; review existing consular treaties to identify those needing clarification and review consular relations in countries in which the United States has no treaties to determine the feasibility of negotiating such a treaty; and direct that a uniform system be developed for use by posts for collecting and preparing information for Consular Package submissions.

    Agency Affected:

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 21, 2016

Aug 3, 2016

Aug 1, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 5, 2016

Jun 30, 2016

Jun 28, 2016

Jun 23, 2016

Jun 22, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here