Foreign Visitor Facilitation

Gao ID: T-NSIAD-90-56 July 18, 1990

GAO discussed foreign tourism in the United States, specifically the conditions at major U.S. international airports that affected foreign visitors' entry to the United States. GAO found that: (1) obtaining a visa was generally not a problem for most foreigners, but the process was time-consuming and tedious for citizens of some countries; (2) airports and the federal inspection services were not able to adequately handle passengers at peak times; (3) a sharp increase in international travel caused delays for international flights and congestion at airports and inspection sites; (4) some international airports had inadequate capacity to hold foreign visitors awaiting clearance; and (5) despite the growth in Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) staff, INS staff was inadequate at a number of airports. GAO also found that: (1) late delivery of luggage and too few luggage handlers caused passenger delays in proceeding to Customs; (2) airports added a $5 passenger user fee to the cost of tickets to fund Customs services; (3) Customs only inspected passengers it thought carried contraband or violated other laws; (4) facilities at 12 of the 13 airports GAO reviewed were too small or poorly configured for efficient Customs and INS operations; (5) most of the airports offered some form of full-time translation services and foreign tourist information; and (6) all of the airports either planned or completed renovations or new facilities to increase capacity and allow for more efficient federal inspection processing.

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