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.

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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.

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