oversight

Border Security: State Could Enhance Visa Fraud Prevention by Strategically Using Resources and Training

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-09-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                 United States Government Accountability Office

GAO              Report to Congressional Requesters




September 2012
                 BORDER SECURITY

                 State Could Enhance
                 Visa Fraud Prevention
                 by Strategically Using
                 Resources and
                 Training




GAO-12-888
                                              September 2012

                                              BORDER SECURITY
                                              State Could Enhance Visa Fraud Prevention by
                                              Strategically Using Resources and Training
Highlights of GAO-12-888, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                        What GAO Found
Foreign nationals may apply for entry         Certain countries and visa categories are subject to higher levels of fraud. In fiscal
into the United States under dozens of        year 2010, almost 60 percent of confirmed fraud cases (9,200 out of 16,000) involved
different visa categories, depending on       applicants from Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, India, and Mexico. Department of
circumstances. State’s Bureaus of             State (State) officials told GAO that fraud most commonly involves applicants for
Consular Affairs and Diplomatic               temporary visits to the United States who submit false documentation to overcome
Security share responsibility for the         the presumption that they intend to illegally immigrate. Fraud is also perpetrated for
prevention of visa fraud, which is a          immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visa categories such as temporary worker visas
serious problem that threatens the            and student visas. In response to State efforts to combat visa fraud, unscrupulous
integrity of the process. Some                visa applicants adapt their strategies, and as a result, fraud trends evolve over time.
applicants commit fraud to obtain travel
                                              State has a variety of technological tools and resources to assist consular officers in
documents through illegal means, such
                                              combating fraud, but does not have a policy for their systematic use. For example,
as using counterfeit identity documents
                                              State recently implemented fraud prevention technologies such as a fraud case
or making false claims to an
                                              management system that establishes connections among multiple visa applications,
adjudicating officer. Visa fraud may
                                              calling attention to potentially fraudulent activity. Overseas posts have Fraud
facilitate illegal activities in the United
                                              Prevention Units that consist of a Fraud Prevention Manager (FPM) and locally
States, including crimes of violence,
                                              employed staff who analyze individual fraud cases. In 2011, the ratio of Fraud
human trafficking, and terrorism. This
                                              Prevention Unit staff to fraud cases varied widely across overseas posts, causing
report examines (1) countries and visa
                                              disproportionate workloads. The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) is a domestic
categories that are subject to the most
                                              resource available to posts that verifies information on certain visa applications.
fraud; (2) State's use of technologies
                                              However, KCC services are only provided on an ad-hoc basis, and State does not
and resources to combat fraud; and (3)
                                              have a policy for posts to systematically utilize its resources. For example, an FPM
training requirements of State officials
                                              at a high fraud post told GAO that the post would like to utilize KCC anti-fraud
responsible for fraud prevention. GAO
                                              services for screening certain visa categories, but did not know how to request KCC
examined State's reports and data on
                                              assistance.
fraud trends and statistics, examined
resources and technologies to counter         Although State offers anti-fraud training courses at the Foreign Service Institute and
fraud, and observed visa operations           online, it does not require FPMs to take them and does not track FPMs’ enrollment.
and fraud prevention efforts overseas         Consular officers receive limited fraud training as part of the initial consular course,
and domestically.                             and FPMs are not required to take advanced fraud training in new technologies. In
                                              addition, GAO found that 81 percent of FPM positions were filled by entry-level
What GAO Recommends                           officers and 84 percent of FPM positions were designated as either part-time or
GAO recommends that State (1)                 rotational. Between October 2009 and July 2012, entry-level officers made up about
formulate a policy to systematically          21 percent of the total students who registered for a course on detecting fraudulent
utilize anti-fraud resources available at     documents, and State could not guarantee that FPMs were among them. Four out of
KCC, based on post workload and               the five FPMs with whom GAO spoke had not been trained in State's new fraud case
fraud trends, as determined by the            management system.
Department and (2) establish                  Visa Applicants at a High Fraud Post Wait for Interviews with Consular Officials
requirements for FPM training in
advanced anti-fraud technologies,
taking advantage of distance learning
technologies, and establishing
methods to track the extent to which
requirements are met. State concurred
with these recommendations.



View GAO-12-888. For more information,
contact Michael Courts at (202) 512-8980 or
courtsm@gao.gov.

                                                                                            United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                       1
               Background                                                                    3
               Certain Countries and Visa Categories Experience High Levels of
                 Fraud, but Trends Evolve over Time                                        14
               State Has a Variety of Tools and Resources to Combat Fraud, but
                 Does Not Have a Policy for Systematically Utilizing Domestic
                 Anti-Fraud Resources                                                      21
               Although State Offers a Variety of Anti-Fraud Training Courses,
                 Fraud Prevention Managers Are Not Required to Take Them                   29
               Conclusion                                                                  32
               Recommendations                                                             33
               Agency Comments                                                             33

Appendix I     Scope and Methodology                                                       35



Appendix II    U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Classes of Admission                                 38



Appendix III   Case Studies                                                                41



Appendix IV    Comments from the U.S. Department of State                                  43



Appendix V     GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                       46



Tables
               Table 1: Percentage of Tourist Visas Refused in Brazil, China, India,
                        and Mexico, Fiscal Years 2006 to 2011                              11
               Table 2: Type and Number of Staff Assigned to Fraud Prevention
                        Units and Ratio of Staff to Suspected Fraud Cases, Fiscal
                        Year 2011                                                          27




               Page i                                          GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Figures
          Figure 1: Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visas Issued Worldwide,
                   Fiscal Years 1992 to 2011                                                         9
          Figure 2: Standard Nonimmigrant Visa Adjudication Process at a
                   U.S. Embassy or Consulate                                                        12
          Figure 3: Top 10 Countries for Referrals to Fraud Prevention Units,
                   Fiscal Year 2010                                                                 16




          Abbreviations

          ARSO-I                     Assistant Regional Security Officer - Investigator
          DHS                        U.S. Department of Homeland Security
          ECAS                       Enterprise Case Assessment Service
          ICE                        Immigration and Customs Enforcement
          KCC                        Kentucky Consular Center
          LES                        Locally Employed Staff
          MATRIX                     Match Analytics and Trusted Real-time Identity X-
                                     Ref (or cross-reference)
          MLB                        Major League Baseball
          RSO                        Regional Security Officer
          State                      U.S. Department of State
          SWT                        Summer Work Travel
          USCIS                      U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


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          United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety
          without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain
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          necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.




          Page ii                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   September 10, 2012

                                   The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Susan M. Collins
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Department of State’s (State) visa issuance process is the first line of
                                   defense against fraudulent or unlawful entry into the United States. State
                                   issues visas for both temporary visitors (referred to as nonimmigrant
                                   visas) and those seeking to enter the United States as permanent
                                   immigrants (referred to as immigrant visas). There are dozens of visa
                                   categories for entry, such as tourist visas, student visas, and temporary
                                   worker visas (see app. II for a list of all temporary visitor visa categories).
                                   State seeks to identify and prevent attempts by applicants to obtain travel
                                   documents through unauthorized means, such as knowingly altering or
                                   using counterfeit identity documents or intentionally making false claims
                                   or statements. Some applicants use fraudulently obtained visas to
                                   facilitate illegal activities in the United States, including crimes of violence,
                                   narcotics, human trafficking, and terrorism.

                                   In 2005, we reported that State and other agencies had taken many steps
                                   to strengthen the visa process as an antiterrorism tool since the
                                   September 11, 2001 attacks. For example, State increased hiring of
                                   consular officers, revamped consular training with a focus on
                                   counterterrorism, and increased resources to combat visa fraud. 1 In 2007,
                                   we reported that the security of visas had been enhanced but more
                                   needed to be done to prevent their fraudulent use. 2 That same year, we




                                   1
                                    GAO, Border Security: Strengthened Visa Process Would Benefit from Improvements in
                                   Staffing and Information Sharing, GAO-05-859 (Washington, D.C.: Sept.13, 2005).
                                   2
                                    GAO, Border Security: Security of New Passports and Visas Enhanced, but More Needs
                                   to Be Done to Prevent Their Fraudulent Use, GAO-07-1006 (Washington, D.C.: July 31,
                                   2007).




                                   Page 1                                              GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
reported that the Diversity Visa Program is particularly vulnerable to
manipulation from an unscrupulous visa industry in some countries. 3

This report examines (1) countries and visa categories subject to the
most visa fraud; (2) State’s technologies and resources to combat fraud;
and (3) training requirements of State officials responsible for fraud
prevention.

To determine the countries and visa categories subject to the most visa
fraud, we analyzed State Fraud Digest reports from 1996 through 2012,
reviewed fraud summaries for posts with high rates of fraud, reviewed
compilations of Diplomatic Security Monthly Status reports, analyzed data
on the number of visa applications referred to Fraud Prevention Units,
and interviewed State officials at headquarters and abroad to discuss
fraud trends. To assess State’s use of technologies and resources to
combat fraud, we met with State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of
Consular Systems and Technology to review State’s major data systems
as well as the latest technological tools available to consular officers and
Fraud Prevention Managers, and we visited the Kentucky Consular
Center (KCC) to observe prescreening and anti-fraud activities. To
understand the training required of State officials responsible for
combating fraud, we gathered information about the training requirements
of Fraud Prevention Managers and staff working in Fraud Prevention
Units. We also analyzed data on the experience level of Fraud Prevention
Managers at all 222 visa-issuing posts. Lastly, we conducted interviews
with consular officials and Diplomatic Security Special Agents working in
five overseas posts on issues related to visa fraud prevention.

We conducted our work from August 2011 through September 2012, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and




3
 GAO, Border Security: Fraud Risks Complicate State’s Ability to Manage Diversity Visa
Program, GAO-07-1174 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 21, 2007). The program provides up to
55,000 immigrant visas each fiscal year to aliens from countries with low rates of
immigration to the United States. Diversity visas provide an immigration opportunity to
individuals from such countries.




Page 2                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                            conclusions based on our audit objectives. (see appendix I for more
                            information about our scope and methodology).


                            The mission of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (Consular Affairs) is to
Background                  protect the lives and interests of U.S. citizens overseas and to strengthen
                            U.S. border security through the vigilant adjudication of U.S. passports
                            and visas. Consular officers abroad have sole legal authority to adjudicate
                            visa applications, and they receive overseas and domestic support to help
                            identify visa fraud. Consular officers at overseas posts issue
                            nonimmigrant visas to temporary visitors and immigrant visas to people
                            who intend to immigrate to the United States. 4 The adjudication
                            processes for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applications contain
                            steps to check for fraud.


Consular Officers Rely on   Consular Affairs has more than 11,000 officers, local staff, and
Overseas Support to         contractors working in over 300 locations around the world, including
Identify Fraud              domestic visa centers and passport facilities. Within each consular
                            section at overseas posts, consular officers adjudicate visa applications,
                            serving as fraud detection officers on the first line of defense for border
                            security. Consular officers are charged with facilitating legitimate travel
                            while preventing ineligible aliens, including potential terrorists, from
                            gaining admission to the United States. To help detect and prevent fraud,
                            consular officers work with members of a Fraud Prevention Unit located in
                            the consular section. In large posts, the Fraud Prevention Unit may be led
                            by a Fraud Prevention Manager, and may be augmented at certain high-
                            fraud posts by a Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer
                            Investigator. 5 In smaller posts, the Fraud Prevention Manager may be a
                            consular officer who has other responsibilities depending on the workload
                            volume and prevalence of fraud at the post. Consular officers may also
                            coordinate with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Visa Security
                            Officer and an external anti-fraud working group.




                            4
                             The issuance of all visas is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 as
                            amended by subsequent immigration legislation.
                            5
                             See appendix III for specific case studies of the Fraud Prevention Unit and the Assistant
                            Regional Security Officer Investigator.




                            Page 3                                                   GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
•   Fraud Prevention Manager. Under the Bureau of Consular Affairs,
    fraud prevention efforts at the 222 visa-issuing posts are led by a
    Fraud Prevention Manager—a Foreign Service Officer assigned by
    consular management to investigate fraud cases, conduct fraud
    training, and provide information on fraud trends to the entire consular
    section. As of April 30, 2012, 81 percent of all visa issuing posts (180
    of 222) had Fraud Prevention Manager positions filled by an entry-
    level officer or an officer of unspecified grade, and 84 percent of visa
    issuing posts (186 of 222) had Fraud Prevention Manager positions
    designated as part- time or rotational. 6 As of April 30, 2012, 36 posts
    had full-time mid-level Fraud Prevention Managers serving for 2
    years. An additional 40 posts had full-time entry-level Fraud
    Prevention Managers serving for 2 years in positions originally
    designated for mid-level officers. Officers assigned to part-time Fraud
    Prevention Manager positions have other consular-related duties in
    addition to preventing fraud. An officer filling the position on a
    rotational basis serves as the Fraud Prevention Manager for a
    designated period of time, typically 6 months, before moving on to
    other duties. State officials told us that the reason most Fraud
    Prevention Manager positions are part-time or rotational is in order to
    provide consular managers more flexibility in how they use consular
    staff, and also to provide officers with more opportunities to work on
    different activities.

•   Fraud Prevention Unit. At 94 percent of visa-issuing posts (208 of
    222), Fraud Prevention Managers have locally employed staff to
    assist them in fraud investigations, forming a Fraud Prevention Unit. 7
    Out of the 3,700 locally employed staff working at consular posts, 417
    are assigned to Fraud Prevention Units. These staff generally have
    special expertise in host country culture and language, as well as a
    network of local contacts to help develop leads on possible fraud. The
    Fraud Prevention Unit collects and verifies data for use in identifying
    fraud trends, analyzes individual fraud cases, and drafts and
    disseminates fraud reports. Tools utilized in individual fraud
    investigations vary from post to post, but may include physical


6
 For more information on State staffing, see GAO, Department of State: Foreign Service
Midlevel Staffing Gaps Persist Despite Significant Increases in Hiring, GAO-12-721
(Washington, D.C.: June 14, 2012).
7
 Not all consular posts have a dedicated Fraud Prevention Unit. Some posts are very
small and provide limited consular services (such as only American Citizen Services, and
no visa services).




Page 4                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
    document examination, visa record searches, facial-recognition
    review, phone calls to verify data, Internet searches, and site visits.
    Once all of the data have been collected, verified, and assessed, the
    Fraud Prevention Manager reviews the results and provides a final
    fraud finding to consular officers, who use the information to make a
    determination on whether to issue a visa to the applicant. If the Fraud
    Prevention Manager determines that the visa fraud may involve
    criminal activity, the case may be referred to Diplomatic Security
    agents at post for further investigation.

•   Assistant Regional Security Officer Investigator. Under the Bureau of
    Diplomatic Security, 84 Assistant Regional Security Officer
    Investigators (ARSO-I) are assigned to 75 high-fraud posts to protect
    the integrity of the visa system and disrupt criminal networks and
    terrorist mobility. 8 ARSO-Is are Diplomatic Security Special Agents
    who specialize in criminal investigations of visa fraud. 9 Diplomatic
    Security recommends that ARSO-Is spend 80 percent of their time
    working on visa fraud, and 20 percent of their time supporting other
    Diplomatic Security responsibilities, such as providing security to high-
    level visitors at post. ARSO-Is often work with local law enforcement
    and judicial officials to arrest and prosecute violators of local laws
    related to visa fraud, such as the fraudulent production of local
    identification documents used in applications for visas. Some
    investigations are connected to large-scale alien smuggling or human
    trafficking cases.

•   DHS’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Visa
    Security Program. ICE deploys Visa Security Officers to assist the
    consular section at designated high-risk posts by providing advice and
    training to consular officers regarding specific security threats,
    reviewing visa applications, and conducting investigations with




8
 By the summer of 2013, Diplomatic Security plans to have 105 ARSO-Is working in 93
posts in 63 countries, according to Diplomatic Security officials.
9
 Diplomatic Security assigns ARSO-Is based on a number of factors including the number
of visas adjudicated and visa refusal rates. At posts without an ARSO-I, the Diplomatic
Security Regional Security Officer is responsible for criminal investigations of visa fraud.
However, Regional Security Officers have numerous responsibilities, such as physical
security of the compound, and according to State officials are not able to dedicate a large
portion of their time to investigating visa fraud.




Page 5                                                   GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                              respect to consular matters under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of
                              Homeland Security. 10

                         •    External Anti-Fraud Working Group. At some posts, members of the
                              Fraud Prevention Unit may coordinate with officials from other
                              countries’ embassies and consulates to share fraud trends in an anti-
                              fraud working group.


Consular Officers Also   Domestically, both State and DHS play a role in fraud prevention and
Rely on Domestic Fraud   detection. While the Secretary of State has the lead role with respect to
Prevention Efforts       foreign policy-related visa issues, DHS is responsible for reviewing
                         implementation of the policy and providing additional direction.

                         •    State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office has direct responsibility
                              for visa policy and oversight for the operations of KCC and the
                              National Visa Center in New Hampshire. 11 These two centers
                              prescreen visa applications for fraud and provide other support for
                              visa adjudication worldwide.

                         •    State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Fraud Prevention
                              Programs advises posts on visa and passport fraud questions,
                              develops training material to manage fraud prevention programs,
                              produces publications on fraud issues and trends, and coordinates
                              with other U.S. agencies involved in preventing visa fraud.

                         •    State’s Diplomatic Security Office of Overseas Criminal Investigations
                              Branch provides managerial oversight, guidance, and support to
                              ARSO-Is at overseas posts.

                         •    Diplomatic Security domestic field offices support overseas
                              investigations by investigating visa fraud that is connected to criminal
                              networks within the United States.




                         10
                           For more information on the Visa Security Program, see GAO, Border Security: DHS’s
                         Visa Security Program Needs to Improve Performance Evaluation and Better Address
                         Visa Risk Worldwide, GAO-11-315 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 31, 2011).
                         11
                           KCC is a centralized nonimmigrant and diversity visa processing facility. The National
                         Visa Center is a centralized immigrant visa processing facility.




                         Page 6                                                   GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
•   DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Fraud
    Detection National Security Directorate is responsible for detecting,
    pursuing, and deterring immigration benefit fraud, and identifying
    persons seeking benefits who pose a threat to national security and
    public safety. In addition, Fraud Detection National Security
    Directorate staff conduct site visits and administrative inquiries within
    the United States on persons or entities suspected of immigration
    fraud and follow up with ICE investigators, law enforcement, and
    intelligence agencies on potential national security risks identified
    during background checks on immigration benefit applications.

•   DHS’s ICE Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces work with
    federal, state, and local partners to detect, deter, investigate, and
    present instances of benefit fraud for criminal prosecution.

•   DHS’s Customs and Border Protection agents serve as the last line of
    defense in protecting American borders. Customs and Border
    Protection agents verify that visitors have proper travel documents
    and valid visas, and have the discretion to not admit travelers with
    valid visas into the United States if the agent suspects the traveler
    intends to violate the terms of his or her visa.




Page 7                                           GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Issuance of Visas Has       After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the number of visas issued
Generally Increased since   initially declined, but has generally increased steadily since 2003, and
2003                        State anticipates demand for visas to continue to rise. As seen in figure 1,
                            in 2001, the United States issued almost 8 million nonimmigrant and
                            immigrant visas, based on data from the Consular Consolidated
                            Database. 12 From 2001 to 2003, visa issuances declined by 34 percent.
                            However, since then, the number of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas
                            issued has generally trended upward. In 2011, consular officers issued
                            more than 7.5 million nonimmigrant visas, up 54 percent from 2003
                            levels. Approximately 75 percent of the 7.5 million nonimmigrant visas
                            issued in 2011 were processed for temporary visits to the United States
                            for business or personal reasons, such as tourism. 13 More than half (52
                            percent) of the visas for temporary visits were issued to visitors from
                            Brazil, China, India, and Mexico. According to the Deputy Assistant
                            Secretary for Visa Services, State continues to see increases in visa
                            demand for individuals residing in some of the world’s fastest-growing
                            economies.




                            12
                              The Consular Consolidated Database contains passport, nonimmigrant visa, and
                            immigrant visa application information that has been collected since 1999.
                            13
                             These data include border crossing cards issued to Mexican nationals.




                            Page 8                                                GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Figure 1: Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visas Issued Worldwide, Fiscal Years 1992
to 2011




While visa issuances have generally increased since 2003, visa refusals
have fluctuated since 2006. In fiscal year 2011, more than 2.1 million
nonimmigrant visa applicants worldwide were denied visas for entry into




Page 9                                            GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
the United States. 14 As seen in table 1, adjusted refusal rates for tourist
visas in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico fluctuated between fiscal years
2006 and 2011. 15 While refusals of visitors from Brazil, China, and Mexico
have generally decreased in the last 6 years, refusals of visitors from
India have increased. Visas may be refused for a number of reasons
other than a suspicion of fraud, such as insufficient documentation or
suspected immigration intent. 16 When a consular officer suspects that the
applicant’s travel or financial documents are counterfeit, the consular
officer may deny the applicant’s request for a visa or may refer the case
to the Fraud Prevention Unit for an additional fraud assessment. 17




14
  Approximately 775,000 of the 2.1 million refusals were waived or overcome in fiscal year
2011. The Immigration and Nationality Act contains provisions that may allow a visa
applicant who was denied a visa for a particular ineligibility to apply for a waiver of that
ineligibility. DHS adjudicates all waivers of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa ineligibility.
Waivers are discretionary, meaning that there are no guarantees that DHS will approve a
waiver. If the waiver is approved, the applicant can be issued a visa. For nonimmigrant
visa waivers, the consular officer must first choose to recommend to DHS that the
applicant be considered for a waiver.
15
  Visa applicants who are deemed ineligible and refused nonimmigrant visas may apply,
and State may choose to overcome the initial refusal or the applicant may apply for a
waiver. The information in table 1 depicts adjusted refusal rates based on both overcomes
and waivers.
16
  Under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,[8 U.S.C. 1184(b)], an
applicant for a nonimmigrant visa is generally presumed to be an intending immigrant until
the applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of an interviewing consular officer that
they are entitled to the type of visa for which they are applying and that they will depart the
United States at the end of their authorized temporary stay.
17
  An applicant who, by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact, attempts to
obtain a visa or admission into the United States is inadmissible under section
212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.




Page 10                                                    GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                         Table 1: Percentage of Tourist Visas Refused in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico,
                         Fiscal Years 2006 to 2011

                             Country                       2006              2007             2008           2009        2010       2011
                             Brazil                            13               10                    6          7          5           4
                             China                             25               21                   18         16         13          12
                             India                             20               22                   25         29         27          30
                                                                 a                 a                  a          a
                             Mexico                           31               33                11            11          11          13
                         Source: GAO analysis of State data in the Consular Consolidated Database.
                         a
                         Does not include border crossing card applications.


                         The U.S. travel and tourism industry benefits from foreign visitors, and the
                         U.S. government is working to accommodate an increase in demand for
                         tourist travel. For example, State reported in 2010 that international
                         tourists contributed $134 billion to the U.S. economy and supported over
                         1.1 million jobs. The Administration has encouraged State to increase
                         visa processing capacity and reduce wait times for receiving a visa. In
                         January 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order requesting
                         that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with
                         the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and
                         Counterterrorism and the Director of the Office of Management and
                         Budget, develop an implementation plan to (1) increase nonimmigrant
                         visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent over the
                         coming year and (2) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa
                         applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of visa applications.


Nonimmigrant and
Immigrant Visa
Adjudication Processes
Include Fraud Checks

Nonimmigrant Visa        Almost all nonimmigrant visa applicants submit an online visa application
Adjudication Process     called the DS-160 through State’s web-based portal called the Consular
                         Electronic Application Center, and then schedule a visa interview at a
                         local U.S. embassy or consulate. Consular officers interview visa
                         applicants, review the application and supporting documents, such as
                         birth certificates, and make an initial decision to issue or deny the visa
                         application. A consular officer may temporarily deny the visa in order to
                         scrutinize the application for suspected fraud or to process it further
                         administratively (see fig. 2).



                         Page 11                                                                          GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Figure 2: Standard Nonimmigrant Visa Adjudication Process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate




                                       a
                                        Prior to this step, some nonimmigrant visas require petitioners to file a petition on behalf of the
                                       applicant with USCIS. USCIS is responsible for approving or denying the petition, notifying the
                                       petitioner, and sending the approved petition to KCC, where a file is created in the Petition
                                       Information Management System.
                                       b
                                        KCC also prescreens work visas submitted to 24 high-fraud, high-volume posts based on information
                                       provided in the USCIS petition. Relevant information is entered into the comments on the DS-160 for
                                       consular officers to review at the time of the interview.




                                       Page 12                                                            GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Immigrant Visa Adjudication   Obtaining an immigrant visa is one part of a four part process for aliens
Process                       outside of the United States to become a permanent resident of the
                              United States. First, an eligible U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident,
                              called a petitioner, must file a petition (a paper form) with USCIS on
                              behalf of the alien applying for lawful permanent resident status, who is
                              called the beneficiary. Generally, the petitioner can be either a relative 18
                              or employer, although there are visa categories in which the applicant can
                              self petition, such as the diversity visa. 19 USCIS has the sole authority to
                              approve or deny the petition. Second, once a petition is approved and a
                              visa number is available in the appropriate category, the beneficiary
                              prepares for a visa interview by gathering required documentation and
                              undergoing a medical exam. Third, the beneficiary, now called the
                              applicant, submits an online visa application, either the DS-260 or the DS-
                              230, along with evidence supporting the applicant’s eligibility, such as a
                              birth certificate or diploma. 20 All aliens outside the United States apply for
                              an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate in their current country of
                              residence. As in the nonimmigrant visa process, the alien schedules a
                              visa interview, submits fingerprints, and pays a visa application
                              processing fee. During the interview, a consular officer reviews submitted
                              documentation as well as biometric and other security and fraud checks,
                              determines if the alien is subject to any ineligibilities, and confirms that
                              the applicant has the required legal relationship with the petitioner. The
                              consular officer then either approves or denies the visa application. If the
                              visa application is approved, a visa is printed and placed in the applicant’s
                              passport. Fourth, the applicant travels to the United States with his or her
                              immigrant visa and packet of supporting documentation. Upon admission



                              18
                                For U.S. citizens petitioning for a family member, immediate relatives include spouses,
                              parents of citizens ages 21 and older, and citizens’ unmarried children under age 21.
                              There is no limit on the number of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens that can seek lawful
                              permanent residency. U.S. citizens may also petition for adult children and for siblings;
                              and there are numerical limits on these categories. For lawful permanent residents
                              petioning for a family member, the family member must be a spouse, a child or an
                              unmarried adult son or daughter; and there are numerical limits.
                              19
                                Permanent residency based on employment may be provided to aliens such as (1)
                              professionals with advanced degrees, (2) persons with exceptional ability, (3) skilled or
                              professional workers, (4) special immigrants, and (5) immigrant investors. Immigration law
                              limits the annual number of employer-sponsored immigrants.
                              20
                                The DS-260 is an online immigrant visa form that is replacing the DS-230, a paper form.
                              State is in the process of rolling out the DS-260 around the world, according to State
                              officials.




                              Page 13                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                             by a Customs and Border Patrol officer at the port of entry, the alien
                             becomes a lawful permanent resident.


                             Certain countries, such as Brazil, China, the Dominican Republic, India,
Certain Countries and        and Mexico, had high numbers of suspected fraud cases in fiscal year
Visa Categories              2010, and certain visa categories, such as work visas, student visas, and
                             diversity visas, had high levels of fraud. Visa fraud has become more
Experience High              sophisticated over time with increased globalization, advanced
Levels of Fraud, but         technology, and ease of travel.
Trends Evolve over
Time
Although Fraud Conditions    State requires Fraud Prevention Managers to classify fraud levels at each
Are Post-Specific, Certain   post. Fraud Prevention Managers are required to submit a fraud
Countries Have High          assessment twice a year as part of the post’s bi-annual fraud summary.
                             Fraud assessments rank a post’s fraud conditions as high, medium, or
Numbers of Suspected         low, based on the ratio of visa applications referred to the Fraud
Fraud Cases                  Prevention Unit out of the total number of visa applications. The fraud
                             assessment also includes the prevalence of corruption in the local
                             environment, including the reliability of country documents and
                             cooperation with local law enforcement. Additionally, ARSO-Is provide
                             input into fraud assessments regarding the nature of criminal activity
                             involving visas. According to State, a country with high numbers of
                             suspected fraud cases may not necessarily be designated as a high-fraud
                             country if its proportion of suspected fraud to visa applications is low.

                             Recently, State has taken steps to improve its ability to compare fraud
                             levels across posts. In the past, according to State officials, self-reported
                             fraud levels had not been used to assess posts’ fraud conditions relative
                             to other posts because posts had different methods for referring cases to
                             Fraud Prevention Units. 21 Referrals to Fraud Prevention Units are
                             considered an accurate portrayal of the volume of fraud cases handled at
                             individual posts because Fraud Prevention Managers must make a fraud



                             21
                               In June 2005, State’s Office of Fraud Prevention Programs developed a one-time fraud
                             ranking of posts that included weighted criteria based on demographics, immigrant and
                             nonimmigrant visa refusal rates, DHS statistics on adjustments of status by country, posts’
                             own assessments of fraud, and a country corruption index. This one-time ranking was
                             primarily used to assist in deliberations on ARSO-I placement.




                             Page 14                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
assessment for all cases that are referred. In July 2012, State distributed
new guidance that clarifies when consular officers should refer visa
applications to Fraud Prevention Units. For example, new guidance
instructs consular officers to refer applications to Fraud Prevention Units
whenever the unit is expected to expend resources to verify some aspect
of an applicant’s case or when consular officers cannot perform a needed
task, such as verifying the employment of an applicant.

The volume of visas processed and the number of fraudulent applications
vary from country to country. In general, fraudulent activity is found in a
very small percentage of overall visas granted. Based on State’s
Consular Consolidated Database, 6.9 million nonimmigrant and immigrant
visas were issued worldwide in 2010. That same year, approximately
74,000 visa applications were referred to Fraud Prevention Units for
additional scrutiny. Of these, about 16,000, or 22 percent, were confirmed
as fraudulent in fiscal year 2010. 22 Some countries may experience high
visa demand but low numbers of suspected fraud cases, while other
countries may experience high visa demand and high numbers of
suspected fraud cases. For example, in 2010, consular officers
throughout Brazil issued approximately 556,000 visas and referred about
3,000 visa applications to their Fraud Prevention Units, of which 750 (or
24 percent of visa applications suspected of fraud) were confirmed as
fraudulent. Meanwhile, consular officers throughout India issued about
528,000 visas in 2010, referred about 5,200 visa applications to their
Fraud Prevention Units, and confirmed about 2,600 (or 50 percent of visa
applications suspected of fraud) as fraudulent. See figure 3 for the top 10
posts for referrals to Fraud Prevention Units among total nonimmigrant
and immigrant visa applications in 2010. Almost 60 percent of confirmed
fraud cases (9,200 out of 16,000) were referred to Fraud Prevention Units
in Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, India, and Mexico in fiscal year
2010. 23




22
  State’s suspected and confirmed fraud case data for fiscal year 2011 were divided into
two data systems, and some cases may have been double-counted. We determined that
State’s data for fiscal year 2010 were more reliable for our purposes.
23
 These countries have many fraud cases because they process a high volume of visas.




Page 15                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                          Figure 3: Top 10 Countries for Referrals to Fraud Prevention Units, Fiscal Year 2010




Visa Fraud Concentrated   State’s Office of Fraud Prevention Programs reports that a majority of
in Nonimmigrant Visa      visa fraud involves nonimmigrant visa applicants who submit false
Applications              documents or make false statements to obtain a tourist or business visitor
                          visa. According to State officials, some visitor visa applicants provide
                          fraudulent statements or documents, such as a false bank statement, to
                          demonstrate strong ties with their home country and therefore overcome
                          the presumption that they intend to use their temporary visitor visa to
                          illegally immigrate to the United States. Denied visitor visa applications
                          are not usually referred to the Fraud Prevention Unit unless the officer
                          suspects the case could be linked to organized crime.

                          Other kinds of fraud can be found in temporary worker visas, student
                          visas, exchange visitor visas, immigrant visas, and diversity visas.

                          •   Temporary Worker Visas: While State officials said that most work
                              visas facilitate legitimate travel, fraud has been found among


                          Page 16                                             GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
     petitioners and applicants for both skilled worker and temporary
     agricultural worker visas. 24 Some petitioners in the United States
     create phony companies and petition for workers to join them in the
     United States, usually with the applicants’ knowledge and participation
     in the fraudulent activity, according to State officials. Other examples
     of fraud include cases in which educational degrees were found to be
     fraudulent, signatures were forged on supporting documents, and
     workers performed duties or received payments significantly different
     from those described in the applications. A recent DHS study reported
     that 21 percent of skilled worker petitions they examined involved
     fraud or technical violations. 25 In 2005, DHS began collecting an
     additional $500 fee on certain work visas to be used for fraud
     prevention and detection purposes. 26

•    Student Visas: Foreign students interested in studying in the United
     States must first be admitted to a school or university before applying
     for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. 27 The process for


24
  The most common of these types of visas are H and L visas. H visas are for temporary
workers and L visas are for intracompany transfers. In 2011, 56 percent of all skilled
worker visas (H-1B) were issued to citizens of India and 94 percent of all temporary
agricultural visas (H-2A) were issued to citizens of Mexico. For more information, see
Visa Program: Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of
Current Program, GAO-11-26 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 14, 2011).
25
   As a result of the findings of this study and others, USCIS launched an Administrative
Site Visit and Verification Program (ASVVP) —an ongoing program to visit work sites of
companies hiring skilled workers and considered to be at a higher risk for abusing the
program, according to officials. All H1-B ASVVP cases are randomly selected. During
fiscal year 2010, USCIS conducted 14,433 skilled worker visa site inspections, which
resulted in 948 adverse actions, such as the revocation or denial of benefits, or the referral
of a case for criminal investigation.
26
  H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-447, Div. J, Title IV, Section 426, 118
Stat. 3357. In addition, legislation established an additional fee of $2,000 for petitions filed
through September 30, 2015, for petitioners with 50 or more employees in the United
States and more than 50 percent of those U.S. employees on H-1B or L visas. Pub. L. No.
111-230, § 402(b), 123 Stat. 2485, 2487, as amended by Publ. L. No 111-347, § 302, Jan.
2, 2011, 124 Stat. 3667.
27
  Students are granted F and M visas. F visas are for study at academic institutions and M
visas are for study at vocational or nonacademic institutions. According to State’s
regulations, a student visa applicant must meet the following requirements to qualify: (1)
acceptance at an approved school; (2) possession of sufficient funds; (3) sufficient
knowledge of the English language to undertake the chosen course of study or training
(unless coming to participate exclusively in an English language training program); and (4)
present intent to leave the United States at conclusion of studies. See 22 C.F.R. §
41.61(b)(1) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(F) and § 1101(a)(15)(M).




Page 17                                                     GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
      determining who will be issued or refused a visa contains several
      steps, including documentation reviews, in-person interviews,
      collection of applicants’ fingerprints, and cross-references against
      multiple databases of information. 28 In 2011, State issued over
      486,000 student visas, of which 71 percent were issued to students
      from Asia. According to the Fraud Prevention Coordinator for India,
      fraud among student visa applications is common throughout India.
      For example, some exam centers that offer the Test of English as a
      Foreign Language (TOEFL) are suspected of being complacent when
      students cheat on the exam in order to achieve high scores. If a
      student applicant cannot answer a consular officer’s questions in
      English, yet received 105 out of 120 on their TOEFL score, fraud may
      be present, according to a consular officer in New Delhi.

•     Exchange Visitor Visas: Summer Work and Travel (SWT) visas are a
      subset of the Exchange Visitor Program, and are susceptible to
      fraud. 29 The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding
      through educational and cultural exchanges. All exchange visitors are
      expected to return to their home country upon completion of their
      program in order to share their experiences. In 2011, 35 percent
      (108,717) of the total exchange visitors (306,429) were granted entry
      into the United States for the purpose of “Summer Work and Travel.”
      According to State officials, many SWT visa applicants misrepresent
      their status as students or their intentions for using the SWT visa.
      Additionally, many U.S. sponsors falsely represent their businesses
      and how they intend to employ SWT applicants. U.S. sponsors have
      been found to exploit SWT visa holders for financial gain. On May 10,
      2012, State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Exchange issued
      rules that are expected to protect the health, safety, and welfare of
      SWT program participants. The rules provide a cap on the number of
      annual SWT program participants that may be granted visas. 30




28
  For more information, see GAO, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, DHS Needs to
Assess Risks and Strengthen Oversight Functions, GAO-12-572 (Washington, D.C.: June
18, 2012).
29
  Exchange visitors are granted J visas. J visas do not involve petitioners, and are
therefore not screened in the same manner as petition-based applications, according to
State officials.
30
    See 77 Fed. Reg. 27593 to be codified at 22 C.F.R. PART 62.




Page 18                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
•    Immigrant Visas: In 2010, State issued 482,052 immigrant visas. That
     same year, 21,013 immigrant visa applications were referred to Fraud
     Prevention Units and 4,984 (or about 24 percent) were confirmed as
     fraudulent. Immigrant visa fraud can take many forms. At several
     posts we visited, State officials said a common problem involved
     applicants who pay American citizens to marry them or who falsely
     represent their intentions to citizens and deceive them into marriage in
     order to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. In a
     typical immigrant visa fraud case, an individual divorces his or her
     spouse in a foreign country, marries an American citizen, and, after
     living in the United States for a certain period of time, obtains U.S.
     citizenship or legal permanent resident status, divorces the U.S.
     spouse, and remarries the original spouse so that they can reunite in
     the United States.

•    Diversity Visas: The Diversity Visa Program was established through
     the Immigration Act of 1990 and provides up to 55,000 immigrant
     visas annually to aliens from countries with low rates of immigration to
     the United States. 31 Aliens register for the diversity visa lottery for free
     online and applicants are randomly selected for interviews through a
     lottery process. Upon being selected, a winner must apply for a visa,
     be interviewed, and be found eligible for the diversity visa. All
     countries are eligible for the Diversity Visa Program except those from
     which more than 50,000 immigrants have come to the United States
     over the preceding 5 years. In 2011, approximately 16.5 million
     people applied for the program and about 107,000 (7 percent) were
     selected for further processing. Of those selected, 75,000 were
     interviewed at posts for a diversity visa, and approximately 50,000
     received visas. Because the program does not require a U.S.-based
     petitioner, it is particularly susceptible to fraud. Diversity visa fraud is
     rampant in parts of South Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, and is
     particularly acute in areas where few individuals have independent
     access to the Internet. 32 A typical scenario includes visa facilitators,
     travel agents, or Internet café operators who help would-be applicants
     submit an entry for a fee. Many of these facilitators withhold the
     confirmation information that the entrant must use to retrieve his or



31
  Immigration Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-649, § 131, 104 Stat. 4978, 4997-99 (1990)
(codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1153 (c).
32
  In fiscal year 2011, between 5,000 and 6,000 individuals were registered for diversity
visas from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Ukraine.




Page 19                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                               her selection status. To access the lottery notification, the facilitators
                               may require winning applicants to either pay an additional exorbitant
                               fee or agree to enter into a marriage with another of the facilitator’s
                               paying clients solely for the purpose of extending immigration
                               benefits.

Fraud Risks Evolve Over   Visa fraud has evolved and become more sophisticated over time due to
Time                      unscrupulous visa applicants who adapt to State’s efforts to combat fraud,
                          increased globalization, advanced technology, and ease of travel. Fraud
                          schemes are no longer centralized in individual countries. Criminal fraud
                          rings, human smuggling networks, and trafficking rings work across
                          multiple countries to circumvent State’s visa process. For example, in
                          2009, a typical route for traffickers from India who sought religious asylum
                          in the United States originated in New Delhi and transited through
                          Moscow, Dubai, Sao Paulo, and Mexico before reaching Texas,
                          according to the Assistant Regional Security Officer Investigator in New
                          Delhi. In addition, new technologies have helped individuals and
                          organizations adapt to State’s visa security features and develop
                          increasingly sophisticated fraud schemes. For example, high-quality
                          micro-printing and new assembly methods have allowed imposters to
                          duplicate State’s visa security threads and serial numbers. With global
                          access to the Internet, fraud scams used in one country or continent have
                          quickly made their way to others, and therefore high-fraud countries and
                          posts have shifted from year to year. For example, only 4 countries were
                          among the top 10 countries for visa fraud in both 2005 and 2010: the
                          Dominican Republic, Ghana, Jamaica, and Peru. 33




                          33
                           The other six countries among State’s 2005 Fraud Ranking included: Bangladesh, El
                          Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria, and the Philippines.




                          Page 20                                              GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                          Consular officers rely on State’s advanced information technology, fraud
State Has a Variety of    reports, and domestic and overseas fraud prevention resources to
Tools and Resources       improve their ability to detect and deter fraud. However, State does not
                          have a policy to systematically utilize its domestic anti-fraud resources to
to Combat Fraud, but      offset fraud workload overseas.
Does Not Have a
Policy for
Systematically
Utilizing Domestic
Anti-Fraud Resources
State Has Implemented     The Consular Affairs Office of Consular Systems and Technology has
New Technological Tools   deployed several new tools to counter fraud in the visa process, including
Intended to Enhance Its   the following:
Visa Fraud Prevention     •   Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form, DS-160: In the spring of
Efforts                       2010, State implemented the DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa
                              application system, which requires applicants to submit all information
                              electronically. With the collection of electronic information prior to the
                              scheduled visa interview, State is able to research and analyze
                              applicants’ data for indicators of fraud prior to an interview with a
                              consular officer. Overseas, State encourages Fraud Prevention Units
                              to conduct pre-screening checks of applicants’ visa history to identify
                              aliases or discrepancies between current and previous applications.

                          •   Enterprise Case Assessment Service (eCAS): In April 2011, State
                              released eCAS, the first centralized system for Fraud Prevention Units
                              to track and manage their nonimmigrant and immigrant visa fraud
                              cases. eCAS is based in the Consular Consolidated Database, and
                              Fraud Prevention Units use it to create, develop, and resolve fraud
                              assessments. Previously, fraud cases were either designated as
                              “fraud confirmed” or “fraud not confirmed.” With eCAS, fraud cases
                              are now designated as “fraud confirmed,” “no fraud,” or “inconclusive,”
                              which allows Fraud Prevention units more flexibility to designate that
                              some cases have a suspicion of fraud but not enough evidence to
                              confirm fraud. In the first 5 months of the system’s use, May 2011
                              through September 2011, 188 posts worldwide used eCAS to process
                              over 43,000 fraud cases. According to State, in 2012 State released
                              an eCAS module domestically that can also be used to process
                              passport fraud cases, and State plans to extend this module overseas
                              in 2013.



                          Page 21                                          GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
•    MATRIX: In 2011, State released a new fraud prevention tool known
     as MATRIX that is accessible to Fraud Prevention Units and
     Diplomatic Security agents through State’s Consular Consolidated
     Database. 34 MATRIX is a search tool that makes associations
     between information on a visa application and other records and data
     sources. MATRIX links information in the Consular Consolidated
     Database to other State records, USCIS records, and INTERPOL
     data. 35 Fraud Prevention Managers and ARSO-Is can use MATRIX to
     link information contained on previous visa applications and to reveal
     similarities across multiple applications as an indicator of fraud. For
     example, according to Consular Affairs officials, MATRIX found that
     one applicant’s contact phone number in the United States matched
     the phone numbers used by 17 other applicants, a possible indication
     of fraud.

•    Diversity Visa Entry Status Check: In 2010, State began an online
     verification system called the Entry Status Check that allowed all
     entrants of the 2010 Diversity Visa Program to electronically,
     individually, and privately check the status of their online submissions
     through a State website. This system eliminated the need for direct
     mailing of Diversity Visa correspondence and enhanced State’s ability
     to combat fraud. Prior to the electronic system, notification letters
     were physically mailed to the address listed on the application.
     Unscrupulous visa agents listed their own addresses so that the
     notification letters were delivered to them instead of the people
     selected in the lottery. The agent could demand thousands of dollars
     from an applicant in exchange for the letter.

•    Consular Consolidated Database Search Rules to Identify Fraud
     Indicators: State is currently developing a new anti-fraud tool that will
     automatically search visa applications for fraud indicators and alert
     consular officials when fraud indicators are found. For example, State
     may find higher rates of fraud among visa applicants who rely on
     services provided by a particular local visa company. Consular



34
  MATRIX stands for Match Analytics and Trusted Real-Time Identity X-Ref (or cross-
reference).
35
  The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) is the world’s largest
international police organization that helps police understand criminal trends, analyze
information, conduct operations and, ultimately, arrest as many criminals as possible,
according to INTERPOL’s website.




Page 22                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                                 officials in that country can request that State flag future visa
                                 applications listing that visa company’s name.

State Compiles Various      State shares information between consular posts and headquarters
Internal Reports to Share   regarding the latest fraud trends through reporting mechanisms such as
Information about Fraud     validation studies, semi-annual fraud summaries, fraud digests, fraud
                            notices, or reporting cables, Diplomatic Security monthly status reports,
Trends and Available        and Diplomatic Security program reviews.
Resources
                            •    Validation Studies: State considers validation studies to be one of the
                                 best fraud-prevention tools available to consular officers. Posts
                                 conduct validation studies on visas that have been issued to
                                 determine the extent to which the visas have been misused, and
                                 posts send summaries of fraud risks to headquarters twice a year.
                                 Posts are required to conduct at least two validation studies per year,
                                 one on a visa category of the post’s choosing and one on visa
                                 referrals. 36 Generally, consular officers select a sample of visa
                                 issuances and determine how many of the visa recipients departed
                                 the United States within the terms of their visas, how many remained
                                 in the United States longer than their visas allowed, and how many
                                 never traveled to the United States. 37 Validation studies help measure
                                 the accuracy of adjudication decisions, and allow Consular Affairs
                                 officials to share emerging fraud trends across posts.

                            •    Semi-Annual Fraud Summaries: State guidance calls for validation
                                 studies to be incorporated into posts’ Semi-Annual Fraud
                                 Summaries—reports submitted twice annually that provide input for
                                 improvements in fraud prevention guidance, training, and resources.
                                 State guidance notes that the summaries should discuss current
                                 country conditions that may contribute to fraud risks, such as the
                                 presence of organized crime networks. According to the guidance, the
                                 summaries should discuss fraud trends for nonimmigrant visas,
                                 immigrant visas, diversity visas, passports, and coordination with



                            36
                              Visa referrals occur when State officials refer their professional contacts for expedited
                            visa appointments, reducing their wait time for scheduling an interview with a consular
                            officer.
                            37
                              Since 2008, State has been given access to DHS’s Arrival and Departure Information
                            System (ADIS) to generate a sample of issued visas to conduct a validation study. In
                            2011, ADIS results were linked to each visa application so that consular officers could
                            view applicants’ prior travel history.




                            Page 23                                                   GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
    Diplomatic Security personnel, among other topics. These studies
    should discuss new information that may be used to establish new
    fraud indicators.

•   Fraud Digests: Since September 1996, State has published a monthly
    newsletter called the Fraud Digest that profiles worldwide fraud
    trends, fraud prevention techniques, and advances in areas such as
    fraud prevention technology and immigration document design. The
    digests are accessible on the web and are shared government-wide
    with approximately 3,600 subscribers, as of April 2012. The main
    audience for the digest is domestic and overseas consular personnel
    and Diplomatic Security agents.

•   Reporting Cables: State headquarters gathers and analyzes
    information from posts, and distributes guidance to posts through
    monthly reporting cables in order to update consular officers on
    evolving fraud trends.

•   Diplomatic Security Monthly Status Reports: According to Diplomatic
    Security officials, ARSO-Is worldwide submit monthly status reports
    that delineate the number of hours spent on criminal investigations
    and training of foreign personnel. The status report also describes
    progress on the post’s visa cases, including preliminary queries for
    information and arrests. The information supplements data entered
    into the Diplomatic Security primary case management system known
    as the Investigative Management System, according to Diplomatic
    Security officials.

•   Diplomatic Security Program Reviews: Diplomatic Security officials
    told us that Diplomatic Security program reviews are internal reports
    that highlight best practices at posts and make recommendations for
    improvements. To complete the program reviews, officials from
    Diplomatic Security’s Office of Criminal Investigations told us that they
    spend 2 days at each post answering standardized questions about
    training, pending cases, arrests, budget, and information systems,
    among other topics. Diplomatic Security aims to visit all posts with an
    ARSO-I presence once every 2 years, according to Diplomatic
    Security officials.




Page 24                                         GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
State Has Expanded Anti-   KCC, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has become an important anti-
Fraud Activities           fraud resource for State. State opened KCC in October 2000, to process
Conducted by KCC           worldwide diversity visa applications and reduce the workload on
                           adjudicating officers at overseas posts. According to KCC officials, the
                           number of local employees at KCC has increased from 40 to 273,
                           including 54 staff working within a Fraud Prevention Unit. 38 In August
                           2001, KCC began a pilot project to screen all nonimmigrant visa
                           applications with facial recognition software. According to KCC officials,
                           after the September 11, 2001 attack, State was required to store visa
                           applications for 7 years. As a result, KCC officials began scanning old
                           visa applications and uploading all biographic information and evidence of
                           visa ineligibilities. All visa applicants’ biographic information, including
                           both fingerprints and digitized photographs, is checked through State’s
                           Consular Lookout and Support System database and facial recognition
                           software.

                           State describes KCC as an incubator for new consular projects, and KCC
                           is in the process of expanding anti-fraud services to posts overseas,
                           according to KCC officials. Currently, KCC provides prescreening
                           services for selected posts overseas. Any post may request KCC
                           assistance in conducting research and analysis on visa applications,
                           either on an ad-hoc basis for individual cases, or on a pilot basis for
                           larger-scale projects. For example, since over 50 percent of all skilled
                           worker (H-1B) and intracompany transfers (L) visas are processed in
                           India, KCC initiated a process to verify all petitioner information contained
                           on these types of visa applications from posts in India, according to State
                           officials. Globally, KCC screened 81,862 H-1B and L-1 applications for
                           fraud in calendar year 2011. In addition to H and L visas, KCC conducts
                           prescreening on several other visa classifications that are susceptible to
                           fraud. According to State officials, KCC screeners and fraud analysts
                           conduct basic checks, such as verifying the legal name of the business as
                           well as more complex research including data mining, evaluation of the
                           petitioning organization’s business viability, and phone calls to petitioning
                           employers. Additionally, KCC fraud analysts may also refer the case to
                           onsite Fraud Detection and National Security officers to request a visit to
                           the proposed employment site. If derogatory information, such as a


                           38
                            In addition to the contractors, State employs two Foreign Service Officers, two Civil
                           Service employees, one Diplomatic Security Special Agent, and five assistants. DHS
                           employs one Fraud Detection National Security Directorate staff member, according to
                           KCC officials.




                           Page 25                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                        revocation of a prior petition, exists on a petitioning company, screeners
                        enter all comments into the applicant’s online DS-160 form, for access by
                        the consular officer, who makes the ultimate decision to issue or deny the
                        visa.

                        In fiscal year 2012, State intends to prescreen 15 percent of all worldwide
                        nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applications prior to the visa interview,
                        increasing to 50 percent by fiscal year 2013. To prescreen visa
                        applications, KCC reviews and processes all sets of documents and data
                        received from petitioners and beneficiaries. KCC employees conduct
                        research on visa applicants and petitioners, and provide this information
                        to consular officers overseas so that they have access to the information
                        prior to interviewing a visa applicant in person. 39 For example, we
                        observed a KCC analyst conducting research on a summer work and
                        travel visa application that listed the sponsor business as a restaurant.
                        However, the KCC analyst determined that the physical address listed on
                        the visa application was an adult entertainment venue, a business
                        prohibited by the program. The KCC analyst notified the interviewing post
                        of this finding so that the adjudicating officer would have knowledge of it
                        before the interview. KCC now prescreens the vast majority of certain
                        visa categories that have been associated with high rates of fraud, such
                        as summer work and travel visas. From March 2011 to April 2012, KCC
                        analysts researched over 9,000 companies participating in the Summer
                        Work and Travel Program and found that 13 percent of them had fraud
                        indicators. For example, some companies did not exist, the company’s
                        phone number was invalid, or the company reported that it never
                        expected a summer work and travel participant.


Overseas Anti-Fraud     Anti-fraud staffing levels in Fraud Prevention Units vary widely across
Staffing Levels and     overseas posts, causing disproportionate workloads. State assigns
Workload Vary by Post   personnel to Fraud Prevention Units based on input from post
                        management and consular affairs management at headquarters.
                        Personnel from State’s Office of Fraud Prevention Programs said
                        resource decisions for Fraud Prevention Units are driven by visa workload




                        39
                         KCC employees do not make decisions on whether or not to issue a visa.




                        Page 26                                              GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                                           and other factors at posts, not by the number of fraud cases. 40 Although
                                           statistics on the number of fraud cases confirmed, unconfirmed, or
                                           inconclusive are used by posts to direct anti-fraud strategies, Consular
                                           Affairs does not use these statistics to determine the appropriate
                                           distribution of personnel to Fraud Prevention Units.

                                           The posts with the highest numbers of suspected fraud cases in 2011
                                           were not assigned a number of Fraud Prevention Unit staff proportionate
                                           to the number of fraud cases, as seen in table 2. For example, one entry
                                           level officer and one mid-level officer in Santo Domingo, who were
                                           assigned to Fraud Prevention Manager positions, joined five locally
                                           employed staff in the Embassy’s Fraud Prevention Unit to combat the
                                           entire country’s visa fraud. With approximately 7,879 cases suspected of
                                           fraud in 2011, each member of Santo Domingo’s Fraud Prevention Unit
                                           investigated an average of 1,126 cases and each member of
                                           Guangzhou’s Fraud Prevention Unit investigated an average of 239
                                           cases that year.

Table 2: Type and Number of Staff Assigned to Fraud Prevention Units and Ratio of Staff to Suspected Fraud Cases, Fiscal
Year 2011

Posts with highest        Level and                        Number of           Total Fraud         Number of       Ratio of Fraud
numbers of suspected      number of Fraud                      locally         Prevention           suspected     Prevention Unit
                                                                                          a                 b
fraud cases in 2011       Prevention Managers           employed staff          Unit staff       fraud cases        staff to cases
Santo Domingo, the        1 mid-level officer,                        5                   7              7879               1:1126
Dominican Republic        1 entry-level officer
Kyiv, Ukraine             1 mid-level officer                         7                   8              7675                1:959
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico     1 mid-level officer,                       11                  13              3620                1:278
                          1 part-time or rotational
                          officer
Shanghai, China           1 mid-level officer,                        5                   8              3068                1:384
                          2 entry-level officers
Beijing, China            1 mid-level officer,                        3                   6              3047                1:508
                          2 part-time or rotational
                          officers




                                           40
                                             The consular component of State’s Overseas Staffing Model uses consular workload
                                           and environmental factors to assist in the allocation of staffing resources. Workload
                                           factors include the number of immigrant, nonimmigrant, and diversity visa cases
                                           processed annually, and environmental factors include fraud and the number of third-
                                           country national applications processed, among other criteria.




                                           Page 27                                                GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Posts with highest     Level and                              Number of           Total Fraud          Number of         Ratio of Fraud
numbers of suspected   number of Fraud                            locally         Prevention            suspected       Prevention Unit
                                                                                             a                  b
fraud cases in 2011    Prevention Managers                 employed staff          Unit staff        fraud cases          staff to cases
Guangzhou, China       1 mid-level officer,                                   7             10                2386                  1:239
                       2 entry-level officers
Shenyang, China        1 mid-level officer,                                   5              7                2350                  1:336
                       1 part-time officer
Bogota, Colombia       1 mid-level officer,                                   4              7                2293                  1:328
                       2 entry-level officers
Accra, Ghana           1 mid-level officer                                    3              4                1726                  1:432
New Delhi, India       1 mid-level officer,                                   6              8                1640                  1:205
                       1 entry-level officer
                                        Source: GAO analysis of State data.
                                        a
                                         Staffing data was gathered as of April 30, 2012.
                                        b
                                         The suspected number of fraud cases is based on data from eCAS for the period of May 1, 2001
                                        through September 30, 2011, as well as data from State’s previous fraud tracking system for the
                                        period of October 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011.




State Does Not Have a                   According to State officials, while State plans to expand the use of KCC
Policy for Utilizing                    anti-fraud resources, there is no systematic process for overseas posts to
Domestic Anti-Fraud                     formally request KCC prescreening assistance. State’s Program
                                        Evaluation Policy notes that program evaluation is essential for planning
Resources to Offset Posts’              decisions, and evaluation findings should be integrated into program
Fraud Workload                          strategies and policies. However, State officials told us that anti-fraud pilot
                                        programs conducted at KCC are not formally evaluated and there is no
                                        established policy for posts to access domestic anti-fraud resources. 41
                                        Rather, KCC provides anti-fraud assistance to overseas posts on an ad-
                                        hoc basis based on informal communication. 42

                                        According to KCC’s Director, most posts have not requested KCC’s
                                        assistance because they are not familiar with all of the anti-fraud services
                                        that KCC can provide or how to request services. For example, a Fraud
                                        Prevention Manager in a high-fraud post that we visited told us that the
                                        post would like additional KCC prescreening of certain visa categories,
                                        but was unaware of how to request KCC assistance. Multiple State


                                        41
                                          Although State provided us with the parameters of five KCC pilots, it was unable to
                                        provide the results of each pilot.
                                        42
                                          When a post requests additional KCC assistance, KCC officials must consult with the
                                        Visa Office, in coordination with the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs, before initiating
                                        the service.




                                        Page 28                                                       GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                            officials told us that most KCC prescreening initiatives have been due to
                            institutional knowledge at the management level in the field. For example,
                            all India-specific services provided by KCC were a direct result of a
                            Consular Manager in India who was aware of the prescreening services
                            KCC could provide.

                            According to the KCC Director, there are clear benefits to utilizing KCC
                            for fraud investigations. KCC staff are fully vetted U.S. citizens with secret
                            clearances and access to all restricted databases used in visa
                            adjudications. In addition, both Diplomatic Security and the U.S.
                            Citizenship and Immigration Service are represented at KCC, and are
                            available to assist in fraud investigations. The majority of KCC staff are
                            provided through a contractor, and the contract provides for the ability to
                            adjust to changes in demand for services.


                            Although State offers anti-fraud courses in a classroom setting and
Although State Offers       online, State does not require Fraud Prevention Managers to take them.
a Variety of Anti-          In addition, State does not track Fraud Prevention Manager enrollment in
                            anti-fraud courses, and therefore State does not know whether the large
Fraud Training              number of entry-level officers filling fraud prevention manager positions
Courses, Fraud              have taken the anti-fraud courses.
Prevention Managers
Are Not Required to
Take Them

State Offers a Variety of   The Foreign Service Institute has expanded the number of courses it
Anti-Fraud Training         offers Foreign Service Officers in fraud prevention and detection, covering
Courses                     topics such as advanced name checking, analytic interviewing, and
                            emotional content analysis. 43 The institute’s anti-fraud training courses
                            include the following:

                            •    Basic Consular Course (PC530): Commonly known as ConGen,
                                 PC530 is a 6-week course that all Foreign Service officers are
                                 required to take prior to their first consular tour. PC530 is also


                            43
                              The George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center’s Foreign Service
                            Institute is the federal government’s primary training institution for officers and support
                            personnel of the U.S. foreign affairs community.




                            Page 29                                                    GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
     required for any officer heading to a consular tour who has neither
     done consular work nor taken ConGen in the preceding 5 years. The
     course contains a module covering security, accountability, fraud, and
     ethics, which includes training in detecting and preventing fraud.

•    Fraud Prevention for Consular Managers (PC541): This course is
     designed for Fraud Prevention Managers who are currently serving in
     the field, emphasizing anti-fraud and counterterrorism tools for
     consular officers. 44

State also offers consular officers distance learning or online courses in
detecting and preventing fraud. These courses are either prescheduled
live courses, prerecorded or accessible 24 hours a day, or offered on-
demand. Online consular training in fraud includes the following:

•    Detecting Imposters (PC128): This course teaches students
     procedures for identifying imposters either at the interview window or
     in photographs.

•    Detecting Fraudulent Documents (PC544): This course teaches
     consular officers how to determine whether a document has been
     altered or is counterfeit.

•    New Consular Technologies (eCAS and MATRIX): This course trains
     consular officers in how to use eCAS and MATRIX to combat visa
     fraud.

State officials from the Office of Consular Systems and Technology said
that its training programs are updated as soon as new features are rolled
out, and the training typically focuses on new technology features.
Consular officers are provided with manuals that explain the new software
tools about a month in advance and can attend live and prerecorded
training courses. While some consular courses can take about 2 hours,
training in MATRIX is a prerecorded session that takes approximately 30
minutes. Although training on new technological tools is available and
encouraged by State, a survey of Fraud Prevention Managers revealed




44
 The Foreign Service Institute also offers PC542, a fraud prevention course for locally
employed staff.




Page 30                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                         that respondents’ lack of knowledge of some key anti-fraud tools
                         indicated that updates were not uniformly reaching officers. 45


State Does Not Require   While State encourages Fraud Prevention Managers to take updated
Fraud Prevention         fraud prevention training, the training is not required. Entry-level officers
Managers to Take Anti-   are required to complete 6 weeks of basic consular training prior to their
                         arrival at post but are not required to take other advanced anti-fraud
Fraud Courses            courses offered at the Foreign Service Institute or online, such as eCAS
                         or MATRIX. For example, four of the five Fraud Prevention Managers we
                         met with had not been trained in MATRIX. Advanced fraud training
                         courses are targeted to mid-level officers, but the majority of Fraud
                         Prevention Manager positions (180 of 222) were filled by an entry-level
                         officer or an officer of unspecified grade. In 2011, a little more than half of
                         the students enrolled in PC541 were entry-level officers, and State could
                         not determine whether Fraud Prevention Managers were among them.
                         Additionally, between October 2009 and July 2012, entry-level officers
                         made up approximately 22 percent (489 of 2,252) of the total number of
                         students who registered for Detecting Imposters (PC128) and 21 percent
                         (486 of 2,246) of the total number of students who registered for
                         Detecting Fraudulent Documents (PC544). Without advanced fraud
                         training courses, Fraud Prevention Managers may not know about the
                         roles and responsibilities of KCC, or how to use the Consular Lookout
                         and Support System name-check database and biometric systems. For
                         example, two of the five Fraud Prevention Managers with whom we met
                         were unfamiliar with the anti-fraud services available at KCC. According
                         to the Office of Fraud Prevention Program’s country desk officers, the
                         level of anti-fraud training offered to Foreign Service Officers largely
                         depends on the officer’s experience level, years in the Foreign Service,
                         and available time. Desk officers offer a 1-hour briefing of country-specific
                         fraud issues and resources to all Foreign Service Officers prior to their
                         deployment, but not all of the officers take advantage of the briefing,
                         according to officials from the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs.

                         In addition, a significant period of time may pass between an entry-level
                         officer’s completion of the basic consular course and the time when he or
                         she assumes the role of Fraud Prevention Manager. Entry-level officers



                         45
                           State’s survey reached 158 of the 222 visa-issuing consular posts. We determined the
                         results to be sufficiently reliable for our purposes.




                         Page 31                                                GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                         are required to take only limited fraud prevention training that does not
                         include new anti-fraud technologies. For example, officers may not arrive
                         at a post until they complete required language training, which can take 6
                         months to a year. Additionally, entry-level officers who are not on the
                         consular affairs career track may serve a rotation in a different specialty
                         area before serving a rotation in consular affairs. Finally, many entry-level
                         officers are not assigned to the Fraud Prevention Manager position until
                         after they arrive at post.


State Does Not Track     While State offers these anti-fraud training courses, both in Washington
Enrollment of Fraud      D.C., and online, it does not track whether Fraud Prevention Managers
Prevention Managers in   are taking them. In 2012, four of the five Fraud Prevention Managers with
                         whom we met had not been formally trained in MATRIX. 46 Since its
Anti-Fraud Courses
                         rollout, State has not tracked the number of Fraud Prevention Managers
                         that have been trained in eCAS and MATRIX. In addition, State was
                         unable to differentiate enrollment data by position and therefore could not
                         confirm that Fraud Prevention Managers had enrolled in any fraud
                         prevention course.


                         State’s fraud prevention efforts protect the integrity of the visa process
Conclusion               and help prevent people from exploiting the visa process to commit
                         crimes or threaten the security of the United States. Fraud trends evolve
                         over time as criminal networks and unscrupulous visa applicants seek to
                         circumvent State’s visa application process. Meanwhile, the number of
                         visas issued has risen steadily since 2003 and consular officers face
                         increased pressure to expedite visa processing. The evolving nature of
                         fraud and increases in the volume of visas adjudicated require State to
                         continuously update its anti-fraud efforts. In recent years, State has taken
                         steps to enhance the tools and services available to combat visa fraud,
                         including the deployment of new anti-fraud technologies and resources
                         improving State’s ability to prescreen applications for indicators of fraud
                         and to readily access information from prior visa applications. However,
                         these technologies and resources are only useful if consular officers know
                         that they exist and know how to use them. Currently, the majority of Fraud
                         Prevention Manager positions are filled by entry-level officers, who are


                         46
                           The lack of training is a trend that has continued since at least 2005, when we reported
                         that 10 of the 25 consular managers with whom we met said that their Fraud Prevention
                         Managers had not yet received training specific to their fraud prevention duties.




                         Page 32                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                  not the targeted audience for advanced anti-fraud training, and State
                  does not require them to be trained in all anti-fraud technologies. As a
                  result, Fraud Prevention Managers may not be fully equipped to detect
                  and combat fraud. Furthermore, posts increasingly rely on KCC to
                  prescreen certain visa applications for fraud, and State intends to
                  prescreen 50 percent of all visa applications worldwide prior to consular
                  interviews. However, State does not have a policy that specifies how to
                  systematically utilize the center’s resources, based on post workload and
                  fraud trends. Therefore, State cannot be assured that a valuable tool to
                  combat fraud is being strategically utilized. Absent effective support and
                  training, Fraud Prevention Units may make uninformed decisions, thus
                  enabling ineligible aliens, including potential terrorists, to gain admission
                  to the United States.


                  To further improve the visa fraud prevention process, we recommend that
Recommendations   the Secretary of State take the following two actions:

                  (1) Formulate a policy to systematically utilize anti-fraud resources
                  available at the Kentucky Consular Center, based on post workload and
                  fraud trends, as determined by the department; and

                  (2) Establish standardized training requirements for Fraud Prevention
                  Managers, to include training in advanced anti-fraud technologies, taking
                  advantage of distance learning technologies, and establishing methods to
                  track the extent to which requirements are met.


                  We provided a draft of our report to State and DHS. State and DHS
Agency Comments   provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate.
                  State also provided written comments, which are reproduced in
                  appendix IV. State concurred with our recommendations.


                  As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
                  this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 14 days from the
                  report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to interested
                  members of Congress and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and
                  State, as well as other interested members of Congress. In addition, the
                  report is available at no charge on the GAO website at
                  http://www.gao.gov.




                  Page 33                                         GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
me at (202) 512-8980 or CourtsM@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key contributions to this
report are listed in appendix V.




Michael J. Courts,
Acting Director, International Affairs and Trade




Page 34                                        GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
             Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




             This report examines (1) countries and visa categories subject to the
             most visa fraud; (2) technologies and resources to combat fraud; and (3)
             training requirements of State officials responsible for fraud prevention.
             This report focuses on visa fraud, and not passport fraud. 1

             To determine the countries and visa categories subject to the most visa
             fraud, and the evolution of fraud over time, we reviewed nonimmigrant
             and immigrant visa issuance data from the Consular Consolidated
             Database from 1992 to 2011. While we did not analyze State data on the
             number of visa applications during this time period, we reviewed visa
             refusal percentages by country. We did not review the reliability of these
             data because they were for background purposes only. We also reviewed
             State Fraud Digest reports from September 1996 through May 2012,
             semi-annual fraud summaries for some of the posts with the highest
             numbers of suspected fraud cases, and Diplomatic Security Monthly
             Status reports from fiscal year 2011. We also analyzed fiscal year 2010
             and 2011 data on the number of visa applications referred to Fraud
             Prevention Units. We found 2010 data more reliable because State
             transitioned to a new fraud management system in the middle of fiscal
             year 2011, and formal guidance on how and when to refer cases to Fraud
             Prevention Units was not released until July 2012. We compared the
             2005 Country Fraud Ranking of Posts to fiscal year 2010 data on the
             countries with the highest numbers of suspected fraud cases. We found
             these data to be sufficiently reliable for the purposes of indicating the
             countries that reported the highest volumes of reported fraud cases and
             made the most referrals. However, we found that these data may not
             accurately reflect the relative levels of actual fraud in each country due to
             possible differences in reporting by posts. We used fiscal year 2010 data
             for our analysis because State introduced a new data system in 2011,
             and we noted some potential problems with the 2011 data that arose due
             to the transition. State officials in the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs
             provided qualitative information on the types of visa categories that are
             subject to fraud. Lastly, we interviewed State officials at headquarters and
             abroad to discuss recent fraud trends.



             1
              In March 2009, a GAO investigation exposed major vulnerabilities in State’s passport
             issuance process, demonstrating that terrorists or criminals could steal an American
             citizen’s identity, use basic counterfeiting skills to create fraudulent documentation for that
             identity, and obtain a genuine U.S. passport. GAO, Department of State: Undercover
             Tests Reveal Significant Vulnerabilities in State’s Passport Issuance Process,
             GAO-09-447 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 13, 2009).




             Page 35                                                    GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




To assess State’s use of technologies and resources to combat fraud, we
met with State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Consular Systems
and Technology to review State’s major data systems as well as the latest
technological tools available to consular officers and Fraud Prevention
Managers. Specifically, we received demonstrations on State’s newly
deployed Enterprise Case Assessment Service (eCAS) used for tracking
fraud cases, and MATRIX, a search tool used in fraud prevention. We
visited the Kentucky Consular Center, an anti-fraud resource available to
posts, and observed its activities. We interviewed State officials at posts
regarding their usage of these tools and resources. To determine the
reliability of data captured by eCAS on the number of cases referred to
Fraud Prevention Units and the number of confirmed cases, we met with
consular officers and Fraud Prevention Managers in five posts to
determine how information was entered into eCAS. We determined that
the eCAS system was widely used across posts and was sufficiently
reliable to determine the general volume of fraud referrals.

To understand the training required of State officials responsible for
combating fraud, we gathered information about training requirements
and course enrollment from the Foreign Service Institute’s Student
Training Management System. We interviewed Foreign Service Institute
personnel regarding controls, strengths and limitations of the course
enrollment data and determined it was sufficiently reliable for our
purposes. We also analyzed data on the number of direct hire and local
staff working in all 222 visa-issuing consular posts as of December 2011
and reviewed data gathered by State liaisons from the Consular Workload
Statistics System on the number and grade of officers assigned to Fraud
Prevention Units at consular posts as of April 2012. We obtained staffing
data from State’s GEMS database. We tested the data on direct hires and
local staff working at visa-issuing posts for completeness, confirmed the
general accuracy of the data with select overseas posts, and interviewed
knowledgeable officials from the Office of Resource Management and
Organizational Analysis concerning the reliability of the data. We
assessed data on the number and grade of officers assigned to Fraud
Prevention Units for reliability, and interviewed Consular Affairs officials
regarding how the data was collected and entered into the database, the
controls and reviews of the data collection, and the major strengths and
limitations of the data. We found the data to be sufficiently reliable for our
purposes. Lastly, we conducted interviews with visa chiefs, Fraud
Prevention Managers, and DS Assistant Regional Security Officers
working in five overseas posts on issues related to consular staffing and
resources, among other topics.



Page 36                                         GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




We visited U.S. consular posts in five countries—Brazil, the Dominican
Republic, India, Jordan, and Ukraine. During these visits, we observed
visa operations and interviewed consular staff and embassy management
about visa adjudication policies, procedures, and resources. In addition,
we spoke with officials from other U.S. agencies that assist consular
officers in the visa adjudication process. We chose Brazil, the Dominican
Republic, India, and Ukraine because each of the fraud prevention teams
in these countries investigated 500 or more fraud cases in fiscal year
2010. We chose Jordan because of the nature of the fraud cases
investigated in that country, which included security concerns.

We conducted our work from August 2011 through September 2012, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.




Page 37                                      GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix II: U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Classes
                                  Appendix II: U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Classes
                                  of Admission



of Admission

                                  Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States temporarily may
                                  apply for entry under the following visa classes of admission:


Visa Class                                         Description
Transit aliens
C-1                                                Aliens in continuous and immediate transit through the United States
C-2                                                Aliens in transit to the United Nations Headquarters District
C-3                                                Foreign government officials, attendants, servants, and personal
                                                   employees, and spouses and children in transit
Temporary visitors for business
B-1                                                Temporary visitors for business
GB                                                 Visa Waiver Program—temporary visitors for business to Guam
WB                                                 Visa Waiver Program—temporary visitors for business
Temporary visitors for pleasure
B-2                                                Temporary visitors for pleasure
GT                                                 Visa Waiver Program—temporary visitors for pleasure to Guam
WT                                                 Visa Waiver Program—temporary visitors for pleasure
Temporary workers and trainees
H-1B                                               Temporary workers with “specialty occupation”
H-1B1                                              Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreement Aliens
H-1C                                               Nurses under the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999
H-2A                                               Seasonal agricultural workers
H-2B                                               Seasonal nonagricultural workers
H-3                                                Trainees
H-4                                                Spouses and children of H-1, H-2, or H-3 visa holders
O-1                                                Temporary workers with extraordinary ability or achievement in the
                                                   sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, TV or film.
O-2                                                Temporary workers with essential skills accompanying and assisting O-
                                                   1 visa holders
O-3                                                Spouses and children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders
P-1                                                Temporary workers—internationally recognized athletes or entertainers
                                                   for a specific competition or performance
P-2                                                Temporary workers—artists or entertainers under reciprocal exchange
                                                   programs with a similar organization of a foreign state
P-3                                                Temporary workers—artists or entertainers under culturally unique
                                                   programs
P-4                                                Spouses and children of P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holders
Q-1                                                Temporary workers in international cultural exchange programs
R-1                                                Temporary workers in religious occupations




                                  Page 38                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                                        Appendix II: U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Classes
                                        of Admission




Visa Class                                               Description
R-2                                                      Spouses and children of R-1 visa holders
TN                                                       North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional workers
TD                                                       Spouses and children of TN visa holders
Treaty traders and investors
E-1                                                      Treaty traders and spouses and children
E-2                                                      Treaty investors and spouses and children
E-3                                                      Australian Free Trade Agreement principals and spouses and children
Intracompany transferees
L-1                                                      Intracompany transferees
L-2                                                      Spouses and children of L-1 visa holders
Representatives of foreign information media
I-1                                                      Representatives of foreign information media and spouses and children
Students
F-1                                                      Students—academic institutions
F-2                                                      Spouses and children of F-1 visa holders
F-3                                                      Canadian or Mexican national commuter students—academic
                                                         institutions
M-1                                                      Students—vocational/nonacademic institutions
M-2                                                      Spouses and children of M-1 visa holders
M-3                                                      Canadian or Mexican national commuter students—
                                                         vocational/nonacademic institutions
Exchange visitors
J-1                                                      Exchange visitors
J-2                                                      Spouses and children of J-1 visa holders
Other categories
A-1                                                      Ambassadors, public ministers, career diplomatic or consular officers,
                                                         and spouses and children
A-2                                                      Other foreign government officials or employees and spouses and
                                                         children
A-3                                                      Attendants, servants, or personal employees of A-1 and A-2 visa
                                                         holders and spouses and children
BE                                                       Bering Strait Agreement aliens
FSM                                                      Federated States of Micronesia nationals
G-1                                                      Principal resident representatives of recognized foreign member
                                                         governments to international organizations, staff, and spouses and
                                                         children
G-2                                                      Temporary representatives of recognized foreign member governments
                                                         to international organizations and spouses and children
G-3                                                      Representatives of unrecognized or nonmember foreign governments
                                                         to international organizations and spouses and children




                                        Page 39                                                 GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
             Appendix II: U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Classes
             of Admission




Visa Class                    Description
G-4                           Officers or employees of unrecognized international organizations and
                              spouses and children
G-5                           Attendants, servants, or personal employees of G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4
                              visa holders and spouses and children
K-1                           Alien fiancés(ees) of U.S. citizens
K-2                           Children of K-1 visa holders
K-3                           Alien spouses of U.S. citizens
K-4                           Children of K-3 visa holders
MIS                           Republic of the Marshall Islands nationals
N-1 to N-7                    North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aliens, spouses, and
                              children
N-8                           Parents of international organization special immigrants
N-9                           Children of N-8 visa holders or international organization special
                              immigrants
PAL                           Republic of Palau nationals
Q-2                           Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program aliens
Q-3                           Spouses and children of Q-2 visa holders
T-1 to T-5                    Victims of a severe form of trafficking and spouses, children, parents,
                              and siblings
U-1 to U-4                    Aliens suffering physical or mental abuse as victims of criminal activity
                              and spouses, children, and parents
V-1 to V-3                    Spouses and children of a lawful permanent resident who has been
                              waiting 3 years or more for immigrant visas and dependents
             Source:State.




             Page 40                                                  GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix III: Case Studies
                              Appendix III: Case Studies




                              The following five case studies provide examples of the types of activities
                              carried out by Fraud Prevention Units and Assistant Regional Security
                              Officer Investigators (ARSO-Is) overseas.


Fraud Prevention Unit         In Ukraine, we observed consular officers adjudicating visas for the
Case Study                    Summer Work and Travel program. A consular officer suspected an
                              applicant’s student identification was fraudulent, and he told the applicant
                              to wait while he asked the Fraud Prevention Unit for assistance. The
                              senior Locally Employed Staff (LES) person inspected the student ID and
                              said it was most likely a fake. The consular officer asked the LES to assist
                              in questioning the applicant. The LES reviewed the applicant’s school
                              transcripts that were submitted with the visa application, and asked the
                              applicant to provide the name of the school’s chancellor. The applicant
                              could not provide the name. The Fraud Prevention Unit called the school
                              to attempt to verify whether the applicant was currently enrolled, but the
                              school would not verify the applicant’s status. The Fraud Prevention Unit
                              told the consular officer that they believed the applicant was committing
                              fraud on her application, and the consular officer denied the visa.


ARSO-I Case Studies
U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo,   U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) teams award large signing bonuses to
the Dominican Republic        younger prospective players in the Dominican Republic, creating a
                              significant economic incentive to make prospective players seem
                              younger. As a result, MLB prospects often falsify their ages and
                              sometimes their identities on visa applications to make them appear
                              younger than they truly are. To date, ARSO-I Santo Domingo has
                              facilitated the arrests of two MLB Dominican talent scouts, an MLB
                              Investigator, and an MLB pitcher, among others, for participating in
                              identity fraud. The pitcher, a Dominican citizen, assumed the identity of a
                              younger person and obtained a contract to play professional baseball as
                              a pitcher in the United States in 1999. The pitcher has since illegally
                              obtained at least 10 nonimmigrant visas in his assumed identity. ARSO-I
                              Santo Domingo confirmed the pitcher’s true identity and coordinated with
                              the Dominican prosecutors’ office to obtain a Dominican arrest warrant.
                              The pitcher later returned to the Dominican Republic and obtained travel
                              documents and a new nonimmigrant visa petition from the MLB in his true
                              identity, and applied for a nonimmigrant visa. The interviewing consular
                              officer found the pitcher ineligible for the nonimmigrant visa due to identity
                              fraud, and the ARSOI-I Santo Domingo subsequently facilitated his arrest



                              Page 41                                         GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
                                Appendix III: Case Studies




                                by the Dominican National Police, based on his outstanding Dominican
                                arrest warrant.

U.S. Consulate Sao Paulo,       In December 2010, Sao Paulo Civil Police arrested a Brazilian who
Brazil                          presented false documents in support of his U.S. visa application. This
                                was the ninth arrest of applicants whom had named the same individual
                                known to be a smuggler and fraudulent document vender on their visa
                                application. Further investigation identified approximately 70 persons who
                                had used false documents provided by the document vendor since 2009.
                                ARSO-I Sao Paulo received information that the document vendor and
                                his accomplices were also producing false documents in support of
                                Canadian visa applications, and Italian and Brazilian passports. In March
                                2011, the Brazilian Federal Police, the State of Santa Catarina Civil
                                Police, and the State of Santa Catarina Prosecutor’s office arrested the
                                document vendor and three of his accomplices.

U.S. Embassy New Delhi, India   Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) contacted the Deputy Assistant
                                Regional Officer Investigator in New Delhi after receiving information that
                                a private translator was extorting money from U.S. Citizenship and
                                Immigration Services (USCIS) refugee/asylum applicants. The translator
                                had access to protected information from USCIS files. ICE spoke with an
                                informant who was being threatened by the translator to pay significant
                                sums or have her application denied. Preliminary investigations
                                determined that the translator would “cold-call” asylum applicants. ARSO-
                                I New Delhi and ICE interviewed the translator, three USCIS local
                                employees, and three local guards. The translator denied obtaining
                                personal identifiable information from embassy staff. As a result of this
                                investigation, the translator was arrested upon departure of the Embassy,
                                one local guard was terminated for accepting money from the translator,
                                and one USCIS LES employee was put on administrative leave for
                                divulging personally identifiable information.

U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine      Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Attaché contacted ARSO-I Kyiv
                                for assistance with an individual present in Kyiv with an active INTERPOL
                                Red Warrant for human trafficking. The fugitive was wanted in the
                                Eastern District of Michigan for forced labor, money laundering,
                                immigration and visa fraud, and witness tampering. ARSO-I Kyiv
                                coordinated assistance with the Ministry of Internal Affairs Organized
                                Crime Department. The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs Organized
                                Crime Department agents arrested the fugitive at his residence for
                                immigration overstay charges. ARSO-I Kyiv and ICE Attaché Frankfurt
                                escorted the fugitive from Kyiv to New York, where the fugitive was
                                arrested by ICE agents.


                                Page 42                                        GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix IV: Comments from the U.S.
              Appendix IV: Comments from the U.S.
              Department of State



Department of State




              Page 43                               GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix IV: Comments from the U.S.
Department of State




Page 44                               GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix IV: Comments from the U.S.
Department of State




Page 45                               GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Michael J. Courts, (202) 512-8980 or CourtsM@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the individual named above, Anthony Moran (Assistant
Staff             Director), Jon Fremont, Julia Ann Roberts, Katie Bernet, Karen Deans,
Acknowledgments   Martin De Alteriis, Etana Finkler, Mary Moutsos, Mark Speight, and Maria
                  Stattel made key contributions to this report. Others providing technical
                  assistance include Claude Adrien and Emily Biskup.




(320858)
                  Page 46                                       GAO-12-888 Visa Fraud Prevention
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