Overseas Processing of Admissions Applications

NSIAD-88-221: Published: Sep 9, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the refugee eligibility determination process to determine: (1) the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) rationale for and cost of making the determinations; (2) whether INS officers were uniquely qualified to determine refugee eligibility and had made such determinations uniformly and consistently; and (3) the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of transferring all or a portion of determination responsibility to the Department of State.

GAO found that: (1) the Attorney General had broad discretionary authority to delegate responsibility for refugee admission into the United States; (2) INS had no performance standards for measuring overall refugee-processing efficiency and cost-effectiveness; (3) INS officers did not receive systematic preparation or formal training for overseas refugee processing; (4) State officials stated that their officers could make refugee determinations with appropriate training and supervision; (5) INS did not maintain records on individual officers' refugee approvals and denials; (6) INS maintained that its role for alien admissions served as a check and balance to human rights, while State maintained that refugee policy was related to foreign policy concerns; and (7) although there were no apparent overall savings to the government if the process transferred from INS to State, delegation of the process to State could prove more cost-effective and efficient at certain remote overseas posts with limited numbers of refugee applicants.

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