In deciding to approve or deny a visa application, the Department of State's (State) consular officers are on the front line of defense in protecting the United States against those who seek to harm U.S. interests. To increase border security following the September 11 attacks, Congress, State, and the Department of Homeland Security initiated a series of changes to border security policies and procedures. These changes have added to the complexity of consular workload. But consular officers must balance this security responsibility against the need to facilitate legitimate travel. In recent years, GAO has issued a series of reports on the visa process. This statement discusses (1) wait times for visas, (2) factors that affect wait times, and (3) GAO's recent work on consular staffing.
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