Skip to main content

Visa Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Overstay Enforcement and Address Risks in the Visa Process

GAO-11-910T Published: Sep 13, 2011. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 2011.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


The attempted bombing of an airline on December 25, 2009, by a Nigerian citizen with a valid U.S. visa renewed concerns about the security of the visa process. Further, unauthorized immigrants who entered the country legally on a temporary basis but then overstayed their authorized periods of admission--overstays--could pose homeland security risks. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has certain responsibilities for security in the visa process and for addressing overstays. DHS staff review visa applications at certain Department of State overseas posts under the Visa Security Program. DHS also manages the Visa Waiver Program through which eligible nationals from certain countries can travel to the United States without a visa. This testimony is based on GAO products issued in November 2009, August 2010, and from March to May 2011. As requested, this testimony addresses the following issues: (1) overstay enforcement efforts, (2) efforts to implement a biometric exit system and challenges with the reliability of overstay data, and (3) challenges in the Visa Security and Visa Waiver programs.

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


Immigration statusBiometric identificationBiometricsCrime preventionData integrityEntry securityHomeland securityImmigrationInvestigations by federal agenciesLaw enforcementPerformance measuresRisk managementSecurity policiesStrategic planningSystems evaluationTerrorismVisasWaivers