Foreign Visitor Facilitation

T-NSIAD-90-56: Published: Jul 18, 1990. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 1990.

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GAO discussed foreign tourism in the United States, specifically the conditions at major U.S. international airports that affected foreign visitors' entry to the United States. GAO found that: (1) obtaining a visa was generally not a problem for most foreigners, but the process was time-consuming and tedious for citizens of some countries; (2) airports and the federal inspection services were not able to adequately handle passengers at peak times; (3) a sharp increase in international travel caused delays for international flights and congestion at airports and inspection sites; (4) some international airports had inadequate capacity to hold foreign visitors awaiting clearance; and (5) despite the growth in Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) staff, INS staff was inadequate at a number of airports. GAO also found that: (1) late delivery of luggage and too few luggage handlers caused passenger delays in proceeding to Customs; (2) airports added a $5 passenger user fee to the cost of tickets to fund Customs services; (3) Customs only inspected passengers it thought carried contraband or violated other laws; (4) facilities at 12 of the 13 airports GAO reviewed were too small or poorly configured for efficient Customs and INS operations; (5) most of the airports offered some form of full-time translation services and foreign tourist information; and (6) all of the airports either planned or completed renovations or new facilities to increase capacity and allow for more efficient federal inspection processing.

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