Visa Waiver Program: Additional Actions Needed to Mitigate Risks and Strengthen Overstay Enforcement

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "GAO has reported on actions that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken to improve the security of the Visa Waiver Program; but, additional risks remain. In May 2011, GAO reported that DHS implemented the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), required by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act), and took steps to minimize the burden associated with this requirement. DHS requires Visa Waiver Program travelers to submit biographical information and answers to eligibility questions through ESTA prior to travel. DHS ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. March 27, 2012.

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "GAO has reported on actions that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken to improve the security of the Visa Waiver Program; but, additional risks remain. In May 2011, GAO reported that DHS implemented the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), required by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act), and took steps to minimize the burden associated with this requirement. DHS requires Visa Waiver Program travelers to submit biographical information and answers to eligibility questions through ESTA prior to travel. DHS made efforts to minimize the burden imposed by this requirement. For example, although travelers formerly filled out a Visa Waiver Program application form for each journey to the United States, ESTA approval is generally valid for 2 years. However, GAO reported that DHS had not fully evaluated security risks related to the small percentage of travelers without verified ESTA approval. In 2010, airlines complied with the requirement to verify ESTA approval for almost 98 percent of Visa Waiver Program passengers prior to boarding, but the remaining 2 percent—about 364,000 travelers—traveled under the program without verified ESTA approval. In May 2011, GAO reported that DHS had not yet completed a review of these cases to know to what extent they pose a risk to the program and recommended that it establish timeframes for regular review. DHS concurred and has since established procedures to review a sample of noncompliant passengers on a quarterly basis. Further, per the 9/11 Act, DHS requires Visa Waiver Program countries to enter into three information-sharing agreements with the United States; however, DHS reported that only about half of the 36 countries have fully complied with this requirement as of March 2012, and many of the signed agreements have not been implemented. DHS, with its interagency partners, established a compliance schedule to finalize these agreements by June 2012. Also, DHS and its interagency partners have developed measures short of termination that could be applied on a case-by-case basis to countries not meeting their compliance date."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • March 27, 2012

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Visa Waiver Program: Additional Actions Needed to Mitigate Risks and Strengthen Overstay Enforcement, text, March 27, 2012; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc298158/: accessed December 12, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.