U.S. Consular Services to Innocents--And Others--Abroad:

A Good Job Could Be Better With a Few Changes

ID-81-9: Published: Nov 6, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 1980.

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Every year some 1.8 million Americans abroad find themselves unexpectedly in need of help from the U.S. Government. GAO examined U.S. consular services to American citizens abroad to determine the kinds and quality of services American travelers seek, the adequacy of the State Department's response, and the need for adjustments in either the citizen's expectations or the government's ability to meet them, or both.

A substantial majority of American travelers indicated satisfaction with the consular services they had sought. About a fourth indicated dissatisfaction. Many citizens' complaints about consular performance revealed a lack of understanding about what consulates can and cannot do in the prevailing legal or political circumstances. Other complaints appeared reasonable.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should in cooperation with the Secretary of State, determine what if any monitoring, screening, or control arrangements are necessary to an effective waiver system and so report to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish a number of positions for the consular function more nearly commensurate with the workload; establish a firm policy of keeping all authorized consular positions filled at all times; determine and clarify for the Foreign Service the reasons for the perceived inequities in the classification structure between the consular cone and the others and make such rectifications as may be necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should reassess and revise as necessary the present authority and resources available to consular officers to: (1) help Americans abroad in personal emergencies; (2) determine and initiate improvements in the nation's consular treaties and, as urged in a previous report, negotiate them with additional countries in order to enhance possibilities for protecting the lives and property of U.S. citizens abroad; and (3) clarify the Department's instructions to the field concerning the Privacy Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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