NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

State Department's Visa Procedures Under Fire

August 5, 2002

Critics charge that the U.S. State Department has not exhibited sufficient urgency in tightening up its visa approval procedures -- given the fact that three of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers entered the country under the department's visa shortcut program.

Critics cite these examples of the department's laxity:

  • It continued until July 19 to grant visas to 4,300 Saudi Arabians and 2,100 citizens of other countries living there without requiring prior interviews.
  • Even when interviews are required, they are often conducted by new and inexperienced foreign service officers -- and the procedure is usually over in just a few minutes.
  • Though authorities in Singapore last January arrested several terrorist suspects, the country remains exempt from many visa requirements.
  • While the department has broad authority to deny visas, its officials insist simply having suspicions about applicants' intentions are insufficient grounds to withhold visas.

Critics charge the State Department treats visas as a tool to promote tourism -- rather than as a means to protect against terrorism.

Source: Editorial, "Pre-9/11 Loopholes Render U.S. Visa Process Inadequate," USA Today, August 5, 2002.

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