Proposed Legislation To Waive Nonimmigrant Visas for Certain Countries

Gao ID: 112211 April 28, 1980

Legislation has been proposed which would enable short-term tourists from "low risk" countries to enter the United States without the customary visa. The Department of State expects to realize substantial cost savings through reduced staffing in countries where visa applicants have posed little risk of violating their temporary visitor status. The proposed legislation contains control provisions which seemingly provide a high degree of assurance that the granting of visa waiver privileges will not lessen the United States' ability to regulate the entry and stay of aliens. It also makes a country eligible for the visa waiver if its nonimmigrant visa rate was less than 2 percent in the preceding fiscal year. Because GAO believed that adequate control mechanisms could not be realistically implemented by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the initial eligibility determination was most important since it could be irrevocable. Particular concern centered on the practicality of implementing effective controls at ports-of-entry and the high cost of determining the rate of violation by visitors to the United States. GAO believed that the INS plans for screening visitors at ports-of-entry, detecting violations, and investigating apparent overstays were very costly and time consuming. Concern was also expressed as to the use of the visa refusal rate as a complete measure of risk. By including the visa refusal rate, entry denials, and actual violations by visitors from the countries being considered for waiver privileges, a country's eligibility would be based on its actual compliance rate, as well as the additional violations that might occur once the visa screening process ended.

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