Passports and VisasStatus of Efforts to Reduce Fraud Gao ID: NSIAD-96-99 May 9, 1996
Technical problems and the failure of overseas consular staff to comply with internal management controls have hampered State Department efforts to modernize its visa and passport operations and make them less vulnerable to fraud. After initial delays, State has made steady progress in installing its machine-readable system--the primary initiative for eliminating visa fraud--and provided all visa-issuing posts with automated access to its global database containing the names of persons ineligible for visas. Operational problems, however, have diminished the effectiveness of these efforts. Meanwhile, State's modernization program to reduce passport fraud is behind schedule. State originally planned to install a new wide-area network, develop a system to print a digitalized passport photograph, and install a system to verify the multiple issuance of passports by December 1995. However, only the installation of the wide-area network, upon which the other two projects depend, has been completed. Full implementation also depends on modernizing the passport production system, which according to State depends on funding availability.
GAO found that: (1) State's efforts to overcome the material weaknesses in visa and passport processing have had mixed results; (2) after initial delays, State has made steady progress in installing its machine-readable system (the primary initiative for eliminating visa fraud) and provided all visa-issuing posts with automated access to its global database containing names of individuals ineligible for a visa; (3) operational problems have diminished the effectiveness of these efforts including technical problems that have limited the availability and usefulness of the visa improvements, limited usefulness of embassy lookout committees because of the reluctance of some agencies to share information and the lack of representation of key agencies, and lack of compliance with management control procedures designed to decrease the vulnerability of consular operations to fraud; (4) State is behind schedule in its modernization and enhancement efforts to reduce passport fraud; (5) State originally planned to have installed a new wide-area network, developed a system to print a digitized passport photograph, and completed installation of a system to verify multiple issuance of passports by December 1995, however, only the installation of the wide-area network, upon which the other two projects depend, has been completed; (6) full implementation also depends on the completion of the modernization of the passport production system which State indicates is dependent on the availability of funding; and (7) State's current goal is for full implementation by the end of calendar year 1996.