International Trade: Easing Foreign Visitors' Arrivals at U.S. Airports

NSIAD-91-6 Published: Mar 08, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 08, 1991.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the issues and conditions affecting foreign visitors' entry into 10 U.S. international gateway airports and specific conditions at the airports, focusing on: (1) the federal inspection process; (2) airport services and facilities; and (3) visitor facilitation improvement projects.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should consider adopting proposals, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and the Interior, and the U.S. Attorney General, aimed at increasing the speed and ease of federal inspection clearance process, such as: (1) using the U.S. citizens bypass system at all airports to ease the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) work load; and (2) seeking the removal of user fee exemptions to provide more funds to INS and the Customs Service.
Closed - Implemented
INS has implemented an accelerated citizen examination, an alternative to the citizens bypass system that basically meets the intent of this part of the recommendation. For the second part of the recommendation, INS has removed user fee exemptions. Customs has not removed user fee exemptions, and no legislation regarding this matter is pending.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should direct the head of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA) to consider expanding its Gateway Receptionist Program, which benefits: (1) foreign tourists who speak little or no English; (2) federal inspectors; and (3) college students who are unable to make good use of their foreign language skills. Funds necessary to expand the program could be provided on a matching basis by USTTA and participating airport authorities, as is now done at most participating airports.
Closed - Implemented
Commerce will expand its Gateway Receptionist Program subject to the availability of additional appropriated funds. USTTA request for funds to expand the Gateway Receptionist Program was not approved by the Office of the Management and Budget in the USTTA fiscal year 1993 budget request.
Department of Transportation To encourage high quality foreign visitor services and facilities at all U.S. international airports, the Secretary of Transportation should request that the National Transportation Facilitation Committee design a model plan for providing high quality airport services and facilities for foreign visitors, incorporating some of the more innovative projects under way at various airports, and that the plan be completed within 12 months.
Closed - Implemented
The National Transportation Facilitation Committee is designing a model plan for airport services and facilities for foreign visitors. The Committee met with the Subcommittee on Foreign Commerce and Tourism, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and told them they expect to complete the guidelines for the model plan by April 1993. NTFC has completed the guidelines.

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