Controls Over Nonimmigrant Aliens Remain Ineffective

GGD-80-87: Published: Sep 11, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1980.

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It was requested that GAO review certain activities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which is responsible for admitting aliens, monitoring their status, and apprehending those who violate the conditions of their entry. INS does not, however, have the capability to monitor the status of nonimmigrant aliens, such as foreign students, diplomats, and tourists. The Iranian crisis focused attention on this weakness and, to gain greater accountability, INS has proposed a program to interview all foreign students.

GAO believes that this extensive effort should be delayed until INS has the capability to keep the required information current. INS has made little progress toward implementing recommended evaluation programs, developing better guidelines, or improving the criteria used by schools and INS adjudicators to approve foreign students' applications. Inadequate recordkeeping procedures continue to limit INS ability to provide complete, accessible information. Proposed legislation to waive the visa requirement for temporary business visitors and tourists from certain low-risk countries may also affect INS control of nonimmigrants. INS cannot realistically implement control mechanisms which provide the degree of precision required by the legislation. In addition, the INS Nonimmigrant Document Control system cannot be used to account for nonimmigrants or as an enforcement tool. The information provided by the system is neither timely nor reliable. INS is trying to improve its information systems by: (1) identifying inadequacies of the current Nonimmigrant Document Control system; and (2) automating district offices. However, these efforts have been hindered by the inability to specify study objectives and by the absence of a long-range automatic data processing plan to guide automation efforts.

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