Border Security: New Policies and Procedures Are Needed to Fill  
Gaps in the Visa Revocation Process (18-JUN-03, GAO-03-798).	 
                                                                 
The National Strategy for Homeland Security calls for preventing 
the entry of foreign terrorists into our country and using all	 
legal means to identify; halt; and, where appropriate, prosecute 
or bring immigration or other civil charges against terrorists in
the United States. GAO reported in October 2002 that the	 
Department of State had revoked visas of certain persons after it
learned they might be suspected terrorists, raising concerns that
some of these individuals may have entered the United States	 
before or after State's action. Congressional requesters asked	 
GAO to (1) identify the policies and procedures of State, the	 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Federal	 
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that govern their respective visa  
revocation actions and (2) determine the effectiveness of the	 
process.							 
-------------------------Indexing Terms------------------------- 
REPORTNUM:   GAO-03-798 					        
    ACCNO:   A07113						        
  TITLE:     Border Security: New Policies and Procedures Are Needed  
to Fill Gaps in the Visa Revocation Process			 
     DATE:   06/18/2003 
  SUBJECT:   Counterterrorism					 
	     Immigrants 					 
	     Immigration information systems			 
	     Immigration or emigration				 
	     Interagency relations				 
	     Internal controls					 
	     National preparedness				 
	     Policy evaluation					 
	     Identification cards				 
	     Department of State Consular Lookout and		 
	     Support System					 
                                                                 
	     National Strategy for Homeland Security		 

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GAO-03-798

                                       A

Report to Congressional Requesters

June 2003 BORDER SECURITY New Policies and Procedures Are Needed to Fill
Gaps in the Visa Revocation Process

GAO- 03- 798

Letter 1 Results in Brief 3 Background 6 Visa Revocation Policies and
Procedures 9 Weaknesses Existed in the Visa Revocation Process 15
Conclusions 26 Recommendations for Executive Action 27 Agency Comments and
Our Evaluation 27

Appendixes

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology 30

Appendix II: Legal Process for Visa Revocations 33 Authority to Revoke
Visas 33 Timing and Effect of Visa Revocations 33 The Legal Process for
Removing an Alien Who Is Already in the

Country 35

Appendix III: Detailed Information on Revoked Visas 37

Appendix IV: Example of a Revocation Cable the Department of State Sent to
the INS and the FBI 40

Appendix V: Sample of a Revocation Certificate the Department of State
Sent to the Immigration and Naturalization Service Lookout Unit 42

Appendix VI: Comments from the Department of Homeland Security 43

Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of State 44 GAO Comments 48

Tables Table 1: Number of Individuals Whose Visas Were Revoked on
Terrorism Grounds, by Region and Nationality (Sept. 11,

2001, through Dec. 31, 2002) 37 Table 2: Number of Visa Revocations, by
Class and Type of Visa

Revoked 39 Figures Figure 1: Overview of the Border Security Process for
Controlling

Entries and Visits of Foreign Visitors 7

Figure 2: Diagram of Visa Revocation Notification System That, If Fully
and Consistently Implemented, Would Provide Information to the Appropriate
Units at State, Homeland Security, and the FBI 14 Figure 3: Diagram of
Gaps in the Visa Revocation Notification

System 17 Figure 4: INS Lookout Unit Receipt of Revocation Notification
for

240 Cases 19

Abbreviations

CLASS Consular Lookout and Support System FBI Federal Bureau of
Investigation IBIS Interagency Border Inspection System INA Immigration
and Nationality Act INS Immigration and Naturalization Service NIIS
Nonimmigrant Information System VGTOF Violent Gang and Terrorist
Organization File

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June 18, 2003 Let er t The Honorable Christopher Shays Chairman,
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International
Relations Committee on Government Reform House of Representatives

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley Chairman, Committee on Finance United
States Senate As stated in the President*s National Strategy for Homeland
Security, 1 the U. S. government has no more important mission than
protecting the homeland from future terrorist attacks. The strategy calls
for preventing the entry of foreign terrorists into our country and using
all legal means to identify; halt; and, where appropriate, prosecute or
bring immigration or other civil charges against terrorists in the United
States. In October 2002, 2 we reported that the visa process should be
strengthened as an

antiterrorism tool. We found that the Department of State had revoked the
visas 3 of certain persons as a precautionary measure after it learned
that they might be suspected terrorists, raising concerns that some of
these

individuals may have entered the United States before or after their visas
were revoked.

1 Office of Homeland Security, National Strategy for Homeland Security
(Washington, D. C.: July 2002). 2 U. S. General Accounting Office, Border
Security: Visa Process Should be Strengthened as an Antiterrorism Tool,
GAO- 03- 132NI (Washington, D. C.: Oct. 21, 2002). 3 In this report, we
use the term *visa* to refer to nonimmigrant visas only. The United States
also grants visas to people who intend to immigrate to the United States.
A visa is a travel

document that allows a foreign visitor to present himself or herself at a
port of entry for admission to the United States. Citizens of 27 countries
that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, Canada, and certain other
locations are not required to obtain visas for business or pleasure stays
of short duration. See GAO- 03- 132NI for more information on the visa

adjudication process and U. S. General Accounting Office, Border Security:
Implications of Eliminating the Visa Waiver Program, GAO- 03- 38
(Washington, D. C.: Nov. 22, 2002), for more information on the Visa
Waiver Program.

At your request, we assessed how the visa revocation process is being used
as an antiterrorism tool. Specifically, we (1) determined the policies and
procedures of the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS), 4 and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that govern
their respective actions in the visa revocation process and (2) assessed
the effectiveness of the visa revocation process, specifically (a) the
steps State took to notify the appropriate units within INS and the FBI of
revocations;

(b) the procedures used by the three agencies to post lookouts on these
revocations to their terrorist watch lists; 5 (c) whether any of the
individuals whose visas had been revoked were able to enter the United
States before or after the revocation; and (d) the actions taken by INS
and the FBI to

investigate; locate; and, where appropriate, clear, remove, or prosecute
the individuals who did enter the United States and may still remain in
the country after their visas had been revoked. Our review covered only
visas that the State Department revoked on terrorism grounds from
September 11, 2001, through December 31, 2002. 6

To identify the policies and procedures governing the visa revocation
process, we interviewed officials from State, INS, and the FBI and
reviewed relevant documents. To evaluate the effectiveness of the visa
revocation process, we reviewed all 240 of State*s visa revocations on
terrorism grounds from September 11, 2001, through December 31, 2002. For
each of these cases, we obtained information from the State Department to

determine if, and when, State notified INS and the FBI of the revocations.
We also obtained information from these agencies to determine if, and
when, they posted appropriate lookouts on their terrorist watch lists. We
4 On March 1, 2003, INS became part of three units within the Department
of Homeland

Security. INS inspection functions transferred to the Bureau of Customs
and Border Protection; its investigative and enforcement functions
transferred to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and its
immigration services function became part of the Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services. Because our work focused on visa revocation cases
that took place before the March 1 reorganization, our report refers to
the U. S. government*s immigration agency as *INS.*

5 These watch lists are automated databases that contain information about
individuals who are known or suspected terrorists so that these
individuals can be prevented from entering the country, apprehended while
in the country, or apprehended as they attempt to exit the country.
Specific entries on watch lists are sometimes referred to as *lookouts.*

6 The State Department also revokes visas for reasons other than
terrorism, such as alien smuggling, drug trafficking, and
misrepresentation. State Department officials told us that visas revoked
on terrorism grounds represent a significant portion of all revoked visas,
but they did not have data available on this matter.

reviewed INS arrival and departure data to assess whether any of the
individuals whose visas had been revoked had entered the United States
either before or after revocation and whether they may still remain in the
country. Where available, we supplemented the INS data with information
from the State Department. We interviewed INS, FBI, and Department of
Justice officials to discuss what actions INS and the FBI had taken to
investigate; locate; and, where appropriate, clear, remove, or prosecute
those individuals who may remain in the United States. Appendix I

provides more information on our scope and methodology, including the
limitations to INS and State data that we reviewed.

Results in Brief Our analysis indicates that the U. S. government has no
specific written policy on the use of visa revocations as an antiterrorism
tool and no written

procedures to guide State in notifying the relevant agencies of visa
revocations on terrorism grounds. State and INS have written procedures
that guide some types of visa revocations; however, neither they nor the
FBI have written internal procedures for notifying their appropriate
personnel to take specific actions on visas revoked by the State
Department. State and INS officials could articulate their informal
policies and procedures for how and for what purpose their agencies have
used the process to keep terrorists out of the United States, but neither
they nor FBI officials had policies or procedures that covered
investigating, locating, and taking appropriate action in cases where the
visa holder had already entered the country.

The lack of formal, written policies and procedures may have contributed
to systemic weaknesses in the visa revocation process that increase the
probability of a suspected terrorist entering or remaining in the United

States. In our review of the 240 visa revocations, we found that (a)
appropriate units within INS and the FBI did not always receive
notification of the revocations; (b) lookouts were not consistently posted
to the agencies* watch lists of suspected terrorists; (c) 30 individuals
whose visas were revoked on terrorism grounds entered the United States
either before or after revocation and may still remain in the country; 7
and (d) INS

and the FBI were not routinely taking actions to investigate, 8 locate, or
resolve the cases of individuals who remained in the United States after
their visas were revoked. For instance:

 In a number of cases, notification between State and the appropriate
units within INS and the FBI did not take place or was not completed in a
timely manner. 9 For example, INS officials said they did not receive any
notice of the revocations from State in 43 of the 240 cases. In

another 47 cases, the INS Lookout Unit received the revocation notice only
via a cable, State*s backup method of notification. However, these cables
took, on average, 12 days to reach the Lookout Unit. Although State
generally sent information cables to the FBI*s main communications center
to notify it of the revocations, FBI officials could not provide us with
evidence that the communications center sent these cables to the
appropriate counterterrorism units.

7 This number is based on our analysis of data we received from INS as of
May 19, 2003. On May 20 and 21, INS and the FBI, respectively, provided
additional information related to this matter. We were not able to
complete anlaysis of the data prior to the release of this report

due to the nature and volume of the data. The data could show that the
actual number of persons is higher or lower than 30.

8 The Attorney General*s Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering
Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations provide for graduated
levels of investigative activity by the FBI, allowing the bureau to act
well in advance of the commission of planned terrorist acts or other
federal crimes. The three levels of investigative activity defined in the
guidelines are (1) the prompt and extremely limited checking of initial
leads, (2) preliminary inquiries, and (3) full investigations. In this
report, we are not prescribing which level of investigative activity is
appropriate for persons with revoked visas who may be in the United
States.

9 We found no evidence of written procedures that define timeliness, but
State officials told us that they try to send notification to the Lookout
Unit the same day the revocation certificate is signed.

 In cases where the INS Lookout Unit could document that it received a
notification, it generally posted information on these revocations in its
lookout database within 1 day of receiving the notice. When the Lookout
Unit did not receive notification, it could not post information on these
individuals in its lookout database, precluding INS inspectors at ports of
entry from knowing that these individuals had had their visas revoked.
Moreover, the State Department neglected to enter the revocation action
for 64 of the 240 cases into its own watch list. As a result, these
individuals could apply at an overseas post for a new visa, and consular
officers would not necessarily know that their previous visas had been
revoked for terrorism concerns. FBI officials in mid- May 2003 had not
determined whether the agency*s Terrorist Watch and Warning Unit had
received any notice of visa revocations.

 Twenty- nine individuals entered the United States before their visas
were revoked and may still remain in the country. INS inspectors admitted
at least 4 other people after the visa revocation, 1 of whom may still
remain in the country. However, INS inspectors prevented at least 14
others from entering the country because the INS watch list

included information on the revocation action or had another lookout on
them.

 INS and the FBI did not routinely attempt to investigate or locate any
of the individuals who entered the United States either before or after
their visas were revoked and who may still remain in the country. Due to
congressional interest in specific cases, INS investigators located 4
individuals in the United States; however, they did not attempt to locate
other revoked visa holders who may have entered the country. INS

officials told us that they generally do not investigate these cases
because it would be challenging to remove these individuals unless they
were in violation of their immigration status even if the agency could
locate them. A visa revocation by itself is not a stated grounds for

removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 10 FBI officials
told us that they were not being alerted by State that persons with
revoked visas could be *possible terrorists.* As a result, the FBI did not

10 8 U. S. C. S: 1101 et seq. The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act has
been amended several times, more recently by the Illegal Immigration
Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (P. L. 104- 208), the
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required
to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001 (P. L. 107-
56), the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (P. L.
107- 173), and the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P. L. 107- 296).

routinely attempt to investigate and locate individuals with revoked visas
who may have entered the United States.

On March 1, 2003, the Secretary of Homeland Security became responsible
for issuing regulations and administering and enforcing provisions of U.
S. immigration law relating to visa issuance. 11 Therefore, we are making

recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with
the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, to ensure that when State
revokes a visa because of terrorism concerns, the appropriate units within
State, Homeland Security, and the FBI are notified immediately and that
the appropriate actions are taken. We provided a draft of this report to
the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice for their
comment. Homeland Security agreed that the visa revocation process should
be strengthened as an antiterrorism tool and said that it looked forward
to working with State and Justice to develop and revise current policies
and procedures that affect the interagency visa revocation process. State
and Justice did not comment on our recommendations.

Background Our nation*s border security process for controlling the entry
and visits of foreign visitors 12 consists of three primary functions: (1)
issuing visas; (2)

controlling entries through inspection of passports, visas, and other
travel documents as well as controlling exits; and (3) managing stays of
foreign visitors* that is, monitoring these individuals while they are in
the country. As shown in figure 1, the Departments of State, Homeland
Security, and Justice play key roles in this process.

11 See section 428 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. 12 For purposes
of this report, we define the term *foreign visitors* to mean nonimmigrant
visa holders.

Figure 1: Overview of the Border Security Process for Controlling Entries
and Visits of Foreign Visitors

Issuing visas Controlling entries Managing stays Department of State
Department of Homeland Security Department of Homeland Security Bureau of

INS Inspections Unit a INS National Security Unit b Consular Affairs
Overseas

Department of Justice consular posts

FBI Counterterrorism Division

Office of Intelligence National Joint Terrorism Task Force

Sources: GAO and Art Explosion. a Now within the Bureau of Customs and
Border Protection. b Now within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement.

The border security process begins at the State Department*s overseas
consular posts, where consular officers adjudicate visa applications for
foreign nationals who wish to temporarily enter the United States for
visits related to business, tourism, or other reasons. At the port of
entry, an INS inspector determines whether the visa holder is admitted to
the United States and, if so, how long he or she may remain in the
country. Until recently, after INS successfully screened and admitted
foreign visitors, these individuals were generally not monitored unless
they came under the scrutiny of INS or a law enforcement agency, such as
the FBI, for suspected immigration violations or other illegal activity.
13

13 The U. S. government has initiated a number of programs to register and
monitor some categories of nonimmigrants* including foreign students and
exchange visitors, as well as certain citizens of selected countries*
during their visits to the United States.

On March 1, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security assumed
responsibility for many elements of the border security process. For
example, the new department incorporated the INS Inspections Unit into its
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which will focus its operations
on the movement of goods and people across U. S. borders. It also folded
the INS National Security Unit into its Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, which is designed to enforce the full range of immigration
and customs laws within the United States. According to Department of
Homeland Security officials, the new department also gained broad
authority over the visa process under section 428 of the Homeland Security
Act, covering the development of policies, regulations, procedures, and
any other guidance that may affect visa issuance or revocation. 14 The
State Department remains responsible for managing the consular corps and
the function of issuing visas.

The FBI*s Counterterrorism Division, within the Justice Department, plays
a key role in the border security process. The division includes the
Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, which is now part of the FBI*s
Office of Intelligence. The mission of the task force, an interagency
group, is to (1) deny entry into the United States of aliens associated
with, suspected of being engaged in, or supporting terrorist activity and
(2) aid in supplying information to locate, detain, prosecute, or deport
any such aliens already present in the United States. The National Joint
Terrorism Task Force is comprised of 36 federal agencies co- located in
the Strategic Information and Operations Center at FBI headquarters. This
task force provides a central fusion point for terrorism information and
intelligence to the 66 Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which include state
and local law enforcement officers, federal agents, and other federal
personnel who work in the field to prevent and investigate acts of
terrorism.

14 According to Department of Homeland Security officials, the Departments
of State and Homeland Security are negotiating a memorandum of
understanding to address the scope of this authority and the manner in
which the two agencies will coordinate visa issuance.

At each stage of the process, the responsible departments and agencies
rely on terrorist or criminal watch list systems* sometimes referred to as
tipoff or lookout systems* in fulfilling their respective border security
missions. For example, State relies on its Consular Lookout and Support
System (CLASS) as the primary basis for identifying potential terrorists
among visa applicants. CLASS incorporates information on suspected
terrorists from State*s interagency terrorist watch list, known as TIPOFF,
as well as from the FBI, INS, and many other agencies. Further, INS
inspectors at ports of entry use the Interagency Border Inspection System
(IBIS) to check whether foreign nationals are inadmissible and should be
denied

entry into the United States. When a person enters the United States by
air or by sea, INS inspectors are required to check that person against
watch lists before the person is allowed to enter the country. INS
inspectors may check persons arriving at land borders against the watch
lists, but they are not required to do so. 15 The exception is for males
aged 16 or over from certain countries who are required to be checked.

Visa Revocation Our analysis indicates that the U. S. government has no
specific written Policies and

policy on the use of visa revocations as an antiterrorism tool and no
written procedures to guide State in notifying the relevant agencies of
visa Procedures

revocations on terrorism grounds. State and INS have written procedures
that guide some types of visa revocations; however, neither they nor the
FBI have written internal procedures for notifying their appropriate
personnel to take specific actions on visas revoked by the State
Department. State and INS officials could articulate their informal
policies and procedures for how and what purpose their agencies have used
the process as an antiterrorism tool to keep terrorists out of the United
States, but neither they nor FBI officials had policies or procedures that
covered investigating, locating, and taking appropriate action in cases
where the visa holder had already entered the country. We summarized how
information on visa revocations would ideally flow among and within these
three agencies on the basis of our interviews with officials from State,
Homeland Security, and the FBI and on our analysis of the current visa

revocation process. 15 For more information on the overall border security
process and the associated terrorist watch lists, see U. S. General
Accounting Office, Information Technology: Terrorist Watch Lists Should Be
Consolidated to Promote Better Integration and Sharing, GAO- 03- 322
(Washington, D. C.: Apr. 15, 2003).

Most Policies Are Informal According to State Department officials, the U.
S. government has no specific written policy on how agencies should use
visa revocations as an antiterrorism tool and no written procedures to
guide the interagency process for revoking visas on terrorism or other
grounds. These officials explained that prior to September 11, 2001, State
revoked only a small number of visas for terrorism- related reasons. This
relatively small number resulted in State and INS operating in an informal
manner when cooperating on denying admission to revoked visa holders at
ports of entry. State officials said that State and Justice had agreed to
informal

notification procedures between the two agencies and had crafted language
for the visa revocation certificates several years ago; however, the two
agencies did not develop formal written procedures. These officials said
that State did not coordinate its visa revocations with the FBI. In
commenting on a draft of this report, State said that the Visa Office
generally worked under the impression that, under long- standing practice,
INS was passing relevant information onto the FBI as appropriate. State
and INS officials articulated their agencies* policies on how

revocations help their agencies prevent suspected terrorists from entering
the United States. State officials told us that they envision the
revocation process as taking place before the visa holder enters the
country. This

would allow State and other agencies more time to investigate and
determine whether a suspected terrorist is in fact ineligible for a visa
on terrorism grounds before allowing the visa holder to enter the country.
As these officials explained, since the September 11 attacks, State*s
Bureau of Consular Affairs has been receiving a large volume of
information on suspected terrorists from the intelligence community, law
enforcement agencies, overseas posts, and other units within State. The
department reviews this information to determine if a suspected terrorist
has a U. S. visa. If the identifying information is incomplete, as is
often the case, State

may have difficulty in determining whether a visa holder with the same or
a similar name as a suspected terrorist is in fact the suspected
terrorist. The department may also lack sufficient proof of a specific act
that would render the suspected terrorist ineligible for a visa, as
required by the INA. 16 16 The Departments of State and Justice hold
different views on whether evidence of a

specific act of terrorism is required before a visa can be denied under
the INA*s terrorism provision (GAO- 03- 132NI). In July 2002, an Associate
Deputy Attorney General told us that (1) the State Department applies too
high a standard of evidence to deny a visa under that provision and (2)
name checks provide sufficient evidence to deny a visa to applicants.
According to Homeland Security officials, this dispute between the two
departments had not been resolved as of June 2003.

In these cases, State would revoke the person*s visa under the Secretary
of State*s discretionary authority, requiring the person to reapply for a
visa if he or she still intended to visit the United States. State would
then use the visa issuance process to obtain additional biographic and
other data on the visa applicant and make a determination on the person*s
eligibility.

INS officials viewed the process as a means of notifying INS inspectors to
deny suspected terrorists entry into the United States. These officials
did not view a visa revocation, even if based on terrorism concerns, as a
reason for investigating someone who had already entered the United
States. They said the INA does not specify visa revocation as a reason for
removing a person from the country. (App. II provides more information on
legal issues

associated with visa revocations.) According to Justice and FBI officials,
the FBI does not yet have a policy on how to use the visa revocation
process in its counterterrorism efforts. The FBI has not developed such a
policy because the visa revocation information State sends to the bureau
does not indicate that the FBI may want to take follow- up action in these
cases. For instance, the notice of visa revocation does not explicitly
state that the reason for revocation is terrorism- related.

State and INS had written policies that covered some aspects of visa
revocations. State*s policies and procedures, contained in the Foreign
Affairs Manual, specify when and for what reason a consular officer may or
may not revoke a visa, including for terrorism- related reasons. The
manual instructs consular officers to obtain a security advisory opinion
from the department before determining that a visa holder is ineligible
for a visa on terrorism grounds. In practice, according to State
officials, this means that department officials at headquarters acting
under the authority of the Secretary of State not the consular officers at
overseas posts revoke visas on the basis of terrorism concerns. State
Department officials told us that they follow specific, but unwritten,
operating procedures when the department revokes visas, as described in
more detail later in this report. INS has some general policies related to
the posting of lookouts for inadmissible aliens and for the revocation of
visas by immigration officers at ports of entry. However, these policies
do not call for specific actions by appropriate INS personnel with regard
to visas revoked by the State Department.

How the Visa Revocation Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
State has constantly

Process Should Work received new information on suspected terrorists from
the intelligence

community, law enforcement agencies, and overseas posts. In some cases,
State received this information after it had already issued visas to the
individuals in question; the department would then revoke these visas.
Under the INA, the Secretary of State has discretionary authority to
revoke

any visa that a consular officer has issued, including cases in which the
Secretary believes that the visa holder may be ineligible for a visa under
the INA*s terrorism provision. 17 According to State Department officials
and documents, State revoked visas held by 240 individuals from September
11, 2001, through December 31, 2002, on terrorism grounds. 18 All of these
visas were revoked as a prudent measure under the Secretary of State*s
discretionary authority because, as discussed earlier, State believed more
research on the individuals was necessary before they should be allowed to
enter the United States. Appendix III provides more information on these
visas and the persons who held them.

Figure 2 shows how information should flow if State were to notify the
appropriate homeland security agencies, that is, those agencies charged
with controlling entry into the United States and investigating
potentially dangerous terrorists, that the individual with the revoked
visa may attempt to enter, or may have already entered, the United States.
The diagram is

17 Section 221( i) of the INA gives the Secretary of State and consular
officers discretionary authority to revoke a visa. INA section 212( a)(
3)( B) contains the grounds that an alien can be deemed inadmissible to
the United States for terrorist- related activities. Consular officers may
revoke a visa in instances prescribed by regulation (22 CFR S: 41.122).
Such instances include if (1) the consular officer finds that the alien is
no longer entitled to nonimmigrant status specified in the visa; (2) the
alien has, since the time that the visa was issued, become ineligible to
receive a visa under the INA; or (3) the visa has been physically removed
from the passport in which it was issued. Moreover, regulations also allow

immigration officers to revoke visas under certain circumstances (22 CFR
S: 41.122). 18 In 105 of these 240 cases, the FBI did not complete a new
special clearance procedure for certain visa applicants in a timely
manner. The U. S. government instituted this new clearance procedure,
known as the Visas Condor name check, in late January 2002 as a means of
identifying and denying visas to suspected terrorists. In the 105 cases,
State had to revoke the visas because the consular officers had already
issued the visas before the FBI had indicated any interest in the cases.
In July 2002, the State Department and the FBI changed the Visas Condor
procedures to ensure that consular officers do not issue visas to the
Visas Condor applicants until the FBI clears them. See GAO- 03- 132NI for
more information on delays in, and changes to, the Visas Condor name check
procedures. In the remaining 135 cases, State revoked the visas based on
potentially derogatory intelligence information that might eventually lead
to a finding of inadmissibility under the INA, if that information was
found to pertain to the individual in question.

based on what officials from State, Homeland Security, and the FBI
described as the way the process should work, if all of the agencies
involved were fulfilling their roles.

Figure 2: Diagram of Visa Revocation Notification System That, If Fully
and Consistently Implemented, Would Provide Information to the Appropriate
Units at State, Homeland Security, and the FBI

Issuing visas Department of State

Department of State Overseas consular posts Bureau of

Consular Affairs revokes visas

Controlling entries Department of Homeland Security

INS Inspections Unit a Managing stays

Department of Homeland Security INS National Security Unit b

Department of Justice FBI Counterterrorism Division

Office of Intelligence

Information flow

National Joint Terrorism Task Force

Sources: GAO and Art Explosion. a Now within the Bureau of Customs and
Border Protection. b Now within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement.

As the diagram in figure 2 illustrates, State should notify its consular
officers at overseas posts, the Department of Homeland Security, and the
FBI at the time of visa revocation. State should notify its consular
officers so that they would ask for a security advisory opinion before
issuing a new visa to the person whose visa had been revoked. In addition,
State would have to provide notice of the revocation, along with
supporting evidence, to

Homeland Security and the FBI. This would allow Homeland Security to
notify its inspectors at ports of entry so that they could prevent the
individuals from entering the United States. 19 It also would allow
Homeland Security and the FBI to determine whether the person had already
entered the country and, if so, to investigate, locate, and take
appropriate action in each case. Depending on the results of the
investigations, appropriate actions could include clearing persons who
were wrongly suspected of terrorism, removing suspected terrorists from
the country, or prosecuting suspected terrorists on criminal charges.

Weaknesses Existed in We identified systemic weaknesses in the visa
revocation process, many of the Visa Revocation

which resulted from the informal policies and procedures governing actions
that State, INS, and the FBI take during the process. In our review
Process

of the 240 visa revocations, we found that (a) notification of revocations
did not always reach the appropriate unit within INS and the FBI; (b)
State did not consistently post lookouts on the individuals; (c) 30
individuals whose visas were revoked on terrorism grounds entered the
United States either before or after the revocation and may still remain
in the country; and (d) INS and the FBI were not consistently taking
action to investigate; locate; or, where appropriate, clear, prosecute, or
remove any of the people who had entered the country before or after their
visas were revoked.

Inconsistencies in There were weaknesses at several junctures of the
notification process that

Notification Procedures caused information on many visa revocations not to
be shared among units

that needed the information at State, INS, and the FBI. Some of these
weaknesses were due to a breakdown in the notification process from State
to INS and the FBI, and some were due to problems in the distribution of
notifications within these agencies to the appropriate unit.

19 It is possible for an individual to present to an immigration inspector
a revoked visa that appears to be valid, if the visa had not been
physically cancelled by writing or stamping across the face of the visa to
indicate that it had been revoked.

For 43 of the 240 revocations we reviewed, INS Lookout Unit officials said
that they did not receive any notification. In cases where they did
receive notification, some of them were not received at the Lookout Unit
in a timely manner because of slow intraagency distribution of the
notifications. FBI officials said that the agency*s main communications
center received the notifications, but the officials could not confirm if
the notifications were then distributed internally to the appropriate
investigative units at the FBI (see fig. 3).

Figure 3: Diagram of Gaps in the Visa Revocation Notification System
Issuing visas

Department of State Department of State

Overseas consular posts Bureau of

Consular Affairs revokes visas

Controlling entries Department of Homeland Security

INS Inspections Unit a Managing stays

Department of Homeland Security INS National Security Unit b

Department of Justice FBI Counterterrorism Division

Office of Intelligence

Inconsistent or incomplete information flow

National Joint Terrorism Task Force

No information flow Sources: GAO and Art Explosion. a Now within the
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. b Now within the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

State*s Procedures for Notifying State Department officials from the Visa
Office described the procedures

INS, the FBI, and Overseas Posts they use to notify INS, the FBI, and
State*s overseas posts of visas that are

of Revocations revoked by the department in Washington. According to State
officials,

once the Deputy Assistant Secretary signs a revocation certificate, the
department is supposed to take the following actions, as soon as possible
after the visa is revoked: (1) notify the INS Lookout Unit via a faxed
copy of the revocation certificate so that the unit can enter the
individual into the National Automated Immigration Lookout System, which
is uploaded into IBIS; (2) notify consular officers at all overseas post
that the individual may be a suspected terrorist by entering a lookout on
the person into State*s watch list, CLASS; and (3) notify the issuing post
via cable so that the post can attempt to contact the individual to
physically cancel his visa. Information- only copies of these cables,
which do not explicitly state that the reason for the revocation is
terrorism- related, are also sent to INS*s and FBI*s main communications
centers. State officials told us they rely on INS

and FBI internal distribution mechanisms to ensure that these cables are
routed to the appropriate units within the agencies. According to these
officials, they considered faxing the revocation certificate to be the
primary notification method for the INS Lookout Unit, but the cable was an
additional backup method. The cables were the only notification method
used to inform the FBI of the revocation.

The State Visa Office did not keep a central log of visas it revoked on
the basis of terrorism concerns, nor did it monitor whether notifications
were sent to other agencies. When we asked for a list of all revoked visas
between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2002, Visa Office officials
had to search through the office*s cable database to create such a list.
State Department officials said they did not have fax transmission
receipts to confirm that they sent revocation certificates for each of the
240 cases we reviewed. They were able to provide us with 238 revocation
cables, almost

all of which addressed informational copies to INS and the FBI. In
commenting on a draft of our report, State said that the Visa Office now
keeps a log of revocation cases and maintains all signed certificates in a
central file.

INS Lookout Unit Said It Did Not Officials from the INS Lookout Unit
provided us with documentation

Consistently Receive indicating that they received notification from the
State Department in 197

Notification of the 240 cases but did not receive notification in the
other 43 cases (see

fig. 4).

Figure 4: INS Lookout Unit Receipt of Revocation Notification for 240
Cases Cases in which the Lookout Unit received notification 197

via faxed revocation certificate 150 via revocation cable only 47

Cases in which the Lookout Unit did not receive notification 43

Source: GAO analysis of INS Lookout Unit documents.

Lookout Unit officials had documentation to show that 150 faxed revocation
certificates were received in the unit. These faxed certificates reached
the unit, on average, within 1 to 2 days of State enacting the revocation.
For 90 cases, however, the documentation provided to us did not indicate
that the Lookout Unit had received a fax. This was mitigated in 47 of
these cases by the receipt of a revocation cable, although this backup
method of notification was less timely than the fax. In cases where the

cable was the only notification received at the Lookout Unit, it took, on
average, 12 days for the Lookout Unit to receive the cable, although in 1
case it took 29 days. According to an official from the INS communications
center, because the cables were marked *information only,* they were
routed through the Inspections Division first, which then was supposed to
forward them to the Lookout Unit. He told us that if the cables had been
marked as *action* or *urgent,* they would have been sent immediately to
the Lookout Unit. See appendix IV for an example of a revocation cable.
The Assistant Chief Inspector at the Lookout Unit stressed the importance

of timeliness in receiving notification, noting that delays of even a few
days could increase the possibility that an individual with a revoked visa
would travel to the United States before INS inspectors were aware of the
revocation. The FBI Received Revocation

The State Department generally included the FBI as an addressee on the
Cables but May Not Have

visa revocation cables. FBI officials with whom we spoke were able to
Distributed Them Internally to verify that State*s revocation cables 20
were received electronically in the the Appropriate Investigative

FBI communications center, but they were not able to tell us whether this
Units

information was distributed to appropriate coordinating and investigative
20 In 228 cases, the State Department included the FBI as an addressee on
the revocation cable.

units. An FBI official said that after the cables arrived in the
communications center, they became part of the FBI*s Automated Case
Support database and a hard copy of the cable was sent to analysts in
relevant country desk units. The Assistant Director for the Office of

Intelligence told us that for the FBI to take action on the cables, they
would have to be directed to the bureau*s Counterterrorism Division. FBI
officials could not provide evidence that the revocation information
reached the Counterterrorism Division. Again, the cables did not specify
that the reason for the revocation was related to terrorism. The cables
were described by State as information only and did not request or specify
any action from the FBI.

Weaknesses Existed in Visa In our review of 240 revocations, we identified
weaknesses in the steps that

Revocation Watch List State, INS, and the FBI took to place these
individuals on watch lists as a

Procedures result of the revocation. The State Department did not
consistently post

lookouts on individuals in CLASS after revoking their visas. Moreover,
State had not started to use a new revocation code created in August 2002
that was designed to allow revocation lookouts to be shared between
State*s and INS*s watch lists. The INS Lookout Unit consistently posted
lookouts on its watch list but was only able to do so in cases where it
received notification of the revocation. Some of the lookouts posted by
the Lookout Unit did not contain accurate information due to
misinterpretation of State*s revocation certificates.

As of mid- May 2003, FBI officials could not determine which FBI unit, if
any, added lookouts to their watch lists on individuals with revoked visas
as a result of receiving the revocation notification from State.

State Did Not Consistently Post We reviewed CLASS records on all 240
individuals whose visas were Lookouts on Individuals with

revoked and found that the State Department did not post lookouts within
Revoked Visas

a 2- week period of the revocation on 64 of these individuals. Many of the
64 individuals had other lookouts posted on them on earlier or later
dates, but the department had not followed its informal policy of entering
a lookout at the time of the revocation. State officials said that they
post lookouts on individuals with revoked visas in CLASS so that, if the
individual attempts to get a new visa, consular officers at overseas posts
will know that they must request a security advisory opinion on the
individual before issuing a visa. Without a lookout, it is possible that a
new visa could be issued

without additional security screening.

According to State Department officials, State and INS agreed to create a
specific code for visa revocation lookouts, the VRVK code, which would be
picked up automatically by INS*s system, IBIS, in its real- time interface
with CLASS. 21 This new code would allow INS inspectors at ports of entry
to see revocation lookouts that State had posted. According to Department
of Homeland Security officials, this code should be State*s primary method

of notifying immigration inspectors at ports of entry that an individual*s
visa had been revoked, rather than the faxed revocation certificate. State
said that this code was required for all revocation lookouts as of August
15, 2002, yet in our review of CLASS records for the 240 visa revocations,
we saw no evidence that the department was using the VRVK code. The

department did not enter a lookout using the VRVK code for any of the 27
visas it revoked between August 15, 2002, and December 31, 2002. 22

INS Consistently Posted When the INS Lookout Unit received notification
from State, it consistently

Lookouts but Misread Some posted lookouts in IBIS 23 to indicate that
State had revoked the visa. The

Information on Revocation Lookout Unit had a policy to post lookouts in
IBIS the same day that it

Certificates received the notification. In the 43 cases for which Lookout
Unit officials

said they did not receive notification, they did not post a revocation
lookout in IBIS because the lookout unit did not have an independent basis
for posting a revocation absent a notification from State. In 21 of the
240 cases, Lookout Unit officials misread information on State*s

revocation certificate and, as a result, entered incorrect information in
IBIS on individuals who were born in one country but hold citizenship in
another. In 16 of these cases, the revocation certificates clearly listed
the individual*s date and place of birth or nationality, but the lookout
unit entered place of birth or other erroneous information into IBIS*s
nationality field. In the remaining 5 cases where the individuals* place
of birth data

21 Revocation lookouts posted by State officials in CLASS prior to August
15, 2002, were coded with either a *00* (indicating that a security
advisory opinion is required before a visa can be granted) or a *P3B*
(indicating that the individual might be refused a visa for terrorist
activities); IBIS did not pick up lookouts with either of these codes in
its interface with CLASS. State Department officials said that INS elected
not to receive P3B lookouts from CLASS. In commenting on this report,
Homeland Security officials told us that INS had not

asked for the P3B code to be uploaded into IBIS because State had never
told INS that it would be using the code to indicate that a visa had been
revoked on terrorism grounds. 22 The consular post in Jeddah made VRVK
entries in cases where it was notified by the

department that a visa issued at the post had been revoked. 23 The Lookout
Unit posts lookouts on its own watch list, the National Automated
Immigration Lookout System. These lookouts are then uploaded into IBIS
every evening.

were entered into the nationality field, the revocation certificate did
not clearly state that the country listed was the individuals* place of
birth. A Lookout Unit official confirmed that this error in the lookout
could hinder an inspector at the port of entry from detecting the person
since the individual*s passport would indicate a nationality different
from his place of birth. Lookout Unit officials said it would be helpful
if the State Department included more information on the revocation
certificates, including country of citizenship, passport numbers, visa
foil numbers, and intended itineraries and addresses in the United States
if they were listed in the visa application. See appendix V for a sample
revocation certificate. In commenting on a draft of this report, State
said that additional information is available to Homeland Security
officers at ports of entry through State*s shared Consular Consolidated
Database. The FBI Did Not Know If

FBI officials could not determine which unit, if any, received the
revocation Lookouts Were Posted on

cables or whether any unit posted lookouts on these individuals as a
result Individuals with Revoked Visas

of receiving notification of the revocation from State. In technical
comments on a draft of this report, the Department of Justice said that
the FBI maintains only one watch list, the Violent Gang and Terrorist
Organization File (VGTOF) that is accessed by local and state law
enforcement officials via the National Crime Information Center. To add a
person to that list, according to the comments, the following information
must be provided to the FBI: the person*s full name, complete date of
birth, physical descriptors, at least one numeric identifier, a contact
person with a telephone number, and VGTOF- specific classification
information.

Many Individuals with In our review of the 240 visa revocations, we found
that 30 individuals

Revoked Visas Entered the whose visas were revoked on terrorism grounds
entered the United States

either before or after the revocation and may still remain in the country.
24 United States before or after Our analysis of INS arrival and departure
information shows that many Revocation; Some Still

individuals had traveled to the United States before their visas were
Remain

revoked and had remained after the revocation. Several have subsequently
departed the country, but we determined that 29 of the individuals who
entered before the revocation may still remain in the country.

INS data also show that INS inspectors admitted at least 4 people after
their visas were revoked; 3 of these individuals have since departed but 1
may still remain in the country. In 1 of these 4 cases, the INS Lookout
Unit did not receive any revocation notice from State; thus, it did not
post a lookout in IBIS that could have alerted an inspector at a port of
entry to deny

admission to the individual. In another case, the unit received a
notification cable 4 days after State had signed the revocation
certificate, but the individual had already entered the country 2 days
earlier. In the third case, the unit had posted a lookout the day after
the revocation but had incorrectly entered the individual*s place of
birth, which differed from his

nationality, in the nationality field. In the last case, INS had received
a notification from State and had posted lookouts on the INS watch list
right after the revocation, but an INS inspector allowed the individual to
enter the United States 1 month later. INS officials could not explain how
an inspector could miss the lookout and allow this person into the
country.

Despite these problems, we noted cases where the visa revocation process
prevented possible terrorists from entering the country or cleared
individuals whose visas had been revoked. For example, INS inspectors
successfully prevented at least 14 of the 240 individuals from entering
the country because the INS watch list included information on the
revocation action or had other lookouts on them. In addition, State
records showed 24 We determined this number on the basis of INS data in
the Nonimmigrant Information

System (NIIS), which does not have complete arrival and departure records
for all non- U. S. citizens. NIIS records arrivals and departures of
foreign citizens through the collection of I94 forms. Some aliens are
required to fill out and turn in these forms to inspectors at air and
seaports of entries as well as at land borders. (Canadians and U. S.
permanent residents are not required to fill out I- 94 forms when they
enter the United States). NIIS does not have

departure data for aliens if they fail to turn in the bottom portion of
their I- 94 when they depart. In late May 2003, we received additional
data from INS and the FBI. We have not been able to fully analyze these
data due to the nature and volume of the information; however, the data
may indicate that the number is higher or lower than 30.

that a small number of people reapplied for a new visa after the
revocation. State used the visa issuance process to fully screen these
individuals and determined that they did not pose a security threat. In
one case, for example, the post took a set of fingerprints from an
individual whose name matched a record in an FBI database. The
individual*s fingerprints did not match those of the individual in the
database, so he was cleared and issued a new visa.

INS and the FBI Did Not The appropriate units in INS and the FBI did not
routinely investigate,

Routinely Take Action on locate, or take any action on individuals who
might have remained in the

Individuals with Revoked United States after their visas were revoked. INS
and FBI officials cited a

Visas Who Had Entered the variety of legal and procedural challenges to
their taking action in these

United States cases.

INS Did Not Routinely Attempt In cases where they received the revocation
notification from State, INS

to Locate Individuals with Lookout Unit officials said that they did not
routinely check to see whether

Revoked Visas these individuals had already entered the United States, nor
did they pass

information on visa revocations to investigators in the National Security
Unit. 25 The National Security Unit, unlike the Lookout Unit, did not
receive copies of the faxed revocation certificates or cables from the
State Department. Investigators in this unit said that the Lookout Unit
occasionally notified them about a revocation for an individual with a hit
in

TIPOFF, State*s interagency terrorist watch list, but that they were not
typically notified of other visa revocations.

National Security Unit investigators said that they generally did not
investigate or locate individuals whose visas were revoked for terrorism
concerns but who may still be in the United States. These investigators
said that even if they were to receive a revocation notice, the revocation
itself does not make it illegal for individuals with revoked visas to
remain in the United States. They said they could investigate the
individuals to determine if they were violating the terms of their
admission, for example, by overstaying the amount of time they were
granted to remain in the United

25 In May 2003, an official from the Lookout Unit said that her unit
recently established a procedure in which, upon receiving notification of
a revocation, she will query INS databases to determine if the individual
recently entered the country. She will then give this information to
investigators in the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

States, but the investigators believed that under the INA, the visa
revocation itself does not affect the alien*s legal status in the United
States.

This issue of whether a visa revocation, after an alien is admitted on
that visa, has the effect of rendering the individual out- of- status is
unresolved legally, according to officials in the Department of Homeland
Security*s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor to the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration

Services. These officials said that the language that the State Department
has been using on visa revocation certificates effectively forecloses the
U. S. government from litigating the issue. The revocation certificates
state that the revocation shall become effective immediately on the date
the certificate is signed unless the alien is present in the United States
at that time, in which case it will become effective immediately upon the
alien*s

departure from the United States (see app. V). Homeland Security officials
said that if State were to cease using the current language on the
revocation certificates, the government would no longer be effectively
barred from litigating the issue and, if a policy decision were made to
pursue an aggressive litigation strategy, could seek to remove aliens who
have been admitted but have subsequently had their visas revoked.

Attempting to remove these aliens on the underlying reason for the
revocation may not be possible for various reasons, according to INS
officials. First, INS officials stated that the State Department provides
very little information or evidence relating to the terrorist activities
when it sends the revocation notice to INS. Without sufficient evidence
linking the alien to any terrorist- related activities, INS cannot
institute removal proceedings on the basis of that charge. Second, even if
there is evidence, INS officials said, sometimes the agency that is the
source of the information will not authorize the release of that
information because it

could jeopardize ongoing investigations or reveal sources and methods.
Third, INS officials state that sometimes the evidence that is used to
support a discretionary revocation from the Secretary of State is not
sufficient to support a charge of removing an alien in immigration
proceedings before an immigration judge. (See app. II.) In commenting on a
draft of our report, State said that most of the time, the information on

which these revocations is based is classified. If an interested agency
seeks to review the information for immigration purposes, it is available
from State*s Bureau of Intelligence and Research or the source agency.

National Security Unit investigators told us that, because of
congressional interest, they had investigated and attempted to locate 7
individuals whose

visas were revoked as a result of delayed security checks and who had
entered the country. They found that 4 of the 7 individuals were in the
United States and in compliance with the terms of their admission. One
individual had departed to Canada; the remaining 2 individuals were not
located.

The FBI Did Not Routinely Although the FBI*s Foreign Terrorist Tracking
Task Force followed up on Investigate Individuals with

many cases in response to congressional interest, FBI officials told us
that Revoked Visas

the bureau was not routinely opening investigations as the result of visa
revocations on terrorism grounds. They said that State*s method of
notifying the FBI did not clearly indicate that visas had been revoked
because the visa holder was a possible terrorist. Further, the cables were
sent as *information only* and did not request specific follow- up action
from the FBI. State did not attempt to make other contact with the FBI
that would indicate any urgency in the matter. Moreover, the Department of
Homeland Security has not yet requested that the FBI take any action with

regards to visa revocations on terrorism grounds. In response to
congressional interest, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force in late
2002 and early 2003 followed up on the 105 cases of visas that were
revoked as a result of the Visas Condor name check procedures. In

February 2003, we asked the task force for information on these 105 cases.
The task force provided us with some information in a written response on
May 21, 2003. We did not have time to fully evaluate the response before
publication of this report because of the nature and volume of additional
information needed to do so.

Conclusions The visa process can be an important tool to keep potential
terrorists from entering the United States. Ideally, information on
suspected terrorists

would reach the State Department before it decides to issue a visa.
However, there will always be some cases when the information arrives too
late and State has already issued a visa. Revoking a visa can mitigate
this problem, but only if State promptly notifies the appropriate border
control and law enforcement agencies and if these agencies act quickly to
(1) notify border patrol agents and immigration inspectors to deny entry
to persons with a revoked visa and (2) investigate persons with revoked
visas who have entered the country. Currently there are major gaps in the
notification and investigation processes. One reason for this is that
there are no comprehensive written policies and procedures on how
notification of a visa revocation should take place and what agencies
should do when they

are notified. As a result, there is heightened risk that suspected
terrorists could enter the country with revoked visas or be allowed to
remain after their visas are revoked without undergoing investigation or
monitoring.

Recommendations for To strengthen the visa revocation process as an
antiterrorism tool, we

Executive Action recommend that the Secretary of Homeland Security, in
conjunction with

the Secretary of State and the Attorney General:  develop specific
policies and procedures for the interagency visa revocation process to
ensure that notification of visa revocations for

suspected terrorists and relevant supporting information is transmitted
from State to immigration and law enforcement agencies, and their
respective inspection and investigation units, in a timely manner;

 develop a specific policy on actions that immigration and law
enforcement agencies should take to investigate and locate individuals
whose visas have been revoked for terrorism concerns and who remain in the
United States after revocation; and

 determine if persons with visas revoked on terrorism grounds are in the
United States and, if so, whether they pose a security threat.

Agency Comments and We provided a draft of this report to the Departments
of Homeland Our Evaluation

Security, State, and Justice for their comment. The Department of Homeland
Security agreed that the visa revocation process should be strengthened as
an antiterrorism tool. It indicated that it looked forward to working with
State and Justice to develop and revise current policies and procedures
that affect the interagency visa revocation

process. Their written comments are in appendix VI. In addition, Homeland
Security provided technical comments which we have incorporated in the
report where appropriate.

The Department of State did not comment on our recommendations. Instead,
State said that the persons who hold visas that the department revoked on
terrorism grounds were not necessarily terrorists or suspected terrorists.
State noted that it had revoked the visas because some information had
surfaced that may disqualify the individual from a visa or from admission
to the United States, or that in any event warrants

reconsideration of the individual*s visa status. State cited the uncertain
nature of the information it receives from the intelligence and law
enforcement communities on which it must base its decision to revoke an
individual*s visa. State said that it revoked these visas as a
precautionary measure to preclude a person from gaining admission to this
country until his or her entitlement to a visa can be reestablished. Our
report recognizes that the visas were revoked as a precautionary

measure and that the persons whose visas were revoked may not be
terrorists. Although we have not reviewed the intelligence or law
enforcement data provided to State or reviewed by various agencies as part
of the security check process, there was enough concern that these 240
persons could pose a terrorism threat to cause State to revoke their
visas.

Our recommendations are designed to ensure that persons whose visas have
been revoked because of potential terrorism concerns be denied entry to
the United States and those who may already be in the United States be
investigated to determine if they pose a security threat. State*s comments
are reprinted in appendix VII. The State Department also provided
technical comments that we have incorporated in the report where
appropriate.

The Department of Justice did not provide official comments on the report.
However, it did make technical comments that we incorporated in the report
where appropriate.

We are sending copies of this report to other interested Members of
Congress. We are also sending copies to the Secretary of Homeland
Security, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General. We will make
copies available to others upon request. In addition, the report will be
available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http:// www. gao. gov.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
me at (202) 512- 4128. Key contributors to this report were John Brummet,
Judy McCloskey, Kate Brentzel, Mary Moutsos, and Janey Cohen.

Jess T. Ford Director, International Affairs and Trade

Appendi Appendi xes I x Scope and Methodology The scope of our work
covered the interagency process in place for visas revoked by the
Department of State headquarters and overseas consular officers on the
basis of terrorism concerns between September 11, 2001, and December 31,
2002. To assess the policies and procedures governing the visa revocation
process, we interviewed officials from State, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) and reviewed relevant documents.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the actual visa revocation process, we
relied on data provided by State*s Visa Office to determine the total
number of visa revocations from September 11, 2001, through December 31,
2002. Visa Office officials provided us with the names of 240 individuals
whose visas were revoked during that time. These officials were able to
provide documentation on the revocation for 238 of the 240 individuals.
They gave us database sheets from the Consular Consolidated Database,
which provided us with the individuals* names, biographic data such as
dates and places of birth, passport numbers, and visa information such as
issuing posts and types of visa. In 5 cases, the database sheets did not
indicate that the person held a valid visa at the time of revocation. We
kept these cases in our scope because State provided us with revocation
cables for these individuals, indicating that it had revoked at least one
visa for them. State*s Visa Office also provided us with 238 revocation
cables. We also compared information in the revocation cable with
information contained in revocation certificates.

To determine if, and when, State notified INS of the revocations, we asked
the Visa Office to provide us with documentation to show that either the
visa revocation was faxed to the INS Lookout Unit or that the revocation
cables were sent to INS. State did not have documentation that it had
faxed any of the certificates. Through examining the cables, we determined
which ones were addressed to INS and when they were sent. To determine if,
and when, INS received these notifications, we asked the INS Lookout Unit
for copies of the revocation certificates and cables it received for each
of the 240 cases. In cases where the Lookout Unit had received a faxed

copy of the revocation certificate, we collected copies of the
certificates and examined the time/ date stamp on these documents to
determine when State faxed it to INS. In cases where the Lookout Unit had
received a copy of the revocation cable, we collected copies of these
cables and examined handwritten notations on the cables that reflected
when they were received at the unit.

To determine if, and when, State notified the FBI of the revocations, we
examined copies of the revocation cables we received from State to
determine (1) if the FBI was included as an addressee on the cable and (2)
the date that the cable was sent. To determine whether the FBI had
received these cables, we interviewed FBI officials from the Office of
Intelligence, the National Namecheck Program, and the Counterterrorism
Division.

We obtained information from State, INS, and the FBI to determine if, and
when, they posted lookouts on the individuals with revoked visas on their
agencies* terrorist watch lists. We asked State to provide us with the
lookouts they posted for each individual in the Consular Lookout and
Support System (CLASS). A CLASS operator entered the individual*s name,
date and place of birth, and nationality in the same way that these data
were listed on the revocation cable or certificate and gave us the
printouts reflecting all of the CLASS records for that entry. We examined
the records to ascertain whether, and when, the department entered the
individual into CLASS and what refusal code was used.

To determine what steps INS took to post lookouts on the individuals with
revocations, we provided the Lookout Unit with the list of 240 individuals
and requested copies of the revocation lookouts from the Interagency
Border Inspection System (IBIS). We examined these records to assess
whether, and when, the INS Lookout Unit posted a lookout on the
individuals.

To assess the FBI*s action to post lookouts on these individuals, we
interviewed officials from the Office of Intelligence to determine whether
any units posted lookouts as a result of receiving notification of the
revocations.

To assess INS*s and the FBI*s actions to investigate; locate; and, where
appropriate, clear, remove, or prosecute the individuals who may have
entered the United States, we first reviewed INS entry/ exit data to
determine how many individuals entered the country, either before or after
revocation, and how many may still remain in the country. The INS Lookout
Unit provided us with all records available from the Nonimmigrant
Information System (NIIS) on each of the 240 individuals. This system

records arrivals of foreign citizens through the collection of an I- 94
form. Some aliens are required to fill out and turn in these forms to
inspectors at air and sea ports of entries, as well as at land borders.
Canadians and U. S. permanent residents are not required to fill out I- 94
forms when they enter

the United States. Aliens keep one section of the I- 94 with them during
their stay in the United States and are required to turn this in when they
depart the country. If aliens fail to turn in the bottom portion of their
I- 94s when they depart, NIIS will not have departure information for
them. Where available, we supplemented NIIS data with information
regarding certain cases from INS*s National Security Unit and from the
State Department*s CLASS records. We received additional arrival data on
the individuals in

late May 2003 but have not been able to fully evaluate them for this
report. We also interviewed INS and FBI officials to discuss what actions
they had taken to investigate; locate; and, where appropriate, clear,
remove, or prosecute those individuals who may remain in the United
States.

We attempted to review the evidence on which State based the revocations
for a subset of the 240 visa revocations. We could not do so, however,
because the sources of the information* the Central Intelligence Agency

and the FBI* did not grant us access to this information. We conducted our
work from December 2002 through May 2003, in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards.

Appendi I I x Legal Process for Visa Revocations Authority to Revoke The
legal process for revocations can begin either with the Secretary of Visas

State, the consular officer, or an immigration officer. Under the
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Secretary of State has the
discretionary authority to revoke a visa previously issued to an alien. 1
The

Secretary of State has delegated this discretionary authority to the
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services. According to State
officials, the department*s discretionary revocation authority is an
important and useful tool for State to use to send questionable aliens
back to the consulates to undergo more scrutiny as they reapply for new
visas. Consular officers may revoke a visa in instances prescribed by
regulation (22 CFR S: 41. 122). Such instances include if (1) the consular
officer finds

that the alien is no longer entitled to nonimmigrant status specified in
the visa; (2) the alien has, since the time that the visa was issued,
become ineligible to receive a visa under the INA; or (3) the visa has
been physically

removed from the passport in which it was issued. Moreover, regulations
also allow immigration officers to revoke visas under certain
circumstances (22 CFR S: 41. 122). For example, an immigration officer at
a port of entry may revoke a visa if the officer notifies the alien that
he or she

appears to be inadmissible to the United States and the alien requests and
is granted permission to withdraw the application for admission.

Timing and Effect of If an alien arrives at a port of entry in the United
States and learns that his

Visa Revocations visa has already been revoked, as was the case with some
of the

revocations that we reviewed, then the alien is deemed inadmissible and
the INS agent can deny the alien admission into the United States. The
authority to refuse admission to such aliens is done under the expedited
removal process allowed under section 235 of the INA. Under section 212(
a)( 7)( B) of the INA, an alien is inadmissible if he does not have a
valid passport, nonimmigrant visa, or border crossing identification card
at the time of application for admission. Under the INA*s expedited
removal process, if an alien is inadmissible under section 212( a)( 7),
the inspection officer may order the alien removed from the United States,
without further hearing or review, unless the alien can demonstrate a
credible fear of returning to his home country.

1 See INA S: 221( i) (8 U. S. C. S: 1201( i)).

If, however, the alien is already in the country when his visa is revoked,
then INS is not authorized to simply send the alien home, as it could have
done had the alien arrived at the port of entry with the revoked visa.
Rather, if INS determines that the alien falls within the class of aliens
who are removable on the grounds specified in the INA, 2 INS may institute
removal proceedings against the alien. Such proceedings could be based
either on an immigration violation after admission 3 or on the evidence
relating to the reason for the visa revocation, such as terrorist- related

activities. However, INS officials said that in many of these cases, INS
does not receive much evidence in support of the terrorist charge when
they receive a revocation from State. Without sufficient evidence, INS
cannot institute removal proceedings against these aliens.

Revocation of a visa is not a stated grounds for removal under the INA.
However, the issue of whether a visa revocation, after an alien is
admitted on that visa, has the effect of rendering the alien out- of-
status is unresolved legally, according to officials in the Department of
Homeland Security*s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor to the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration

Services. These officials said that the language that the State Department
has been using on visa revocation certificates effectively forecloses the
U. S. government from litigating the issue. The revocation certificates
state that the revocation shall become effective immediately on the date
the certificate is signed. However, if the alien is present in the United
States at

that time, it will become effective immediately upon the alien*s departure
from the United States. Homeland Security officials said that if State
were to cease using this language on the revocation certificates, the
government would no longer be effectively barred from litigating the
issue, and, if a policy decision were made to pursue an aggressive
litigation strategy, the government could seek to remove aliens who have
been admitted but have subsequently had their visas revoked.

2 See INA S: 237 (8 U. S. C. 1227). 3 One example of such an immigration
violation would be if an alien obtains a nonimmigrant visa and
subsequently engages in unauthorized work. Such activities would violate
the alien*s immigration status and render the alien removable under
section 237( a)( 1)( C) of the INA.

The Legal Process for If INS does receive sufficient evidence to support a
removal charge against

Removing an Alien an alien and chooses to initiate removal proceedings,
then the alien is

afforded certain due process rights under the INA. For example, section
Who Is Already in the

240 of the INA states that an immigration judge shall conduct proceedings
Country

to determine if an alien is removable. During such proceedings, the alien
is afforded rights that include being apprised of the charges against him
and the basis for them, having a reasonable opportunity to examine the
evidence against him, presenting evidence on his behalf, having the
opportunity to cross- examine witnesses presented by the government, and
filing administrative and judicial appeals. Moreover, during such removal
proceedings, once an alien establishes that he was admitted to the United
States as a nonimmigrant, the government has the burden of proof to

establish by clear and convincing evidence that the alien is removable. 4
Initiating such proceedings against an alien whose visa has been revoked
on the basis of terrorist- related activities can be challenging,
according to INS attorneys. At some point in the proceedings, either in
establishing that the alien is removable or at the time the alien requests
to be released on bond, the government could be called on to disclose any
classified or law enforcement sensitive information that serves as the
basis of the charges against the alien. According to INS attorneys, this
can be challenging since

many times the law enforcement or intelligence agencies that are the
source of the information may not authorize the release of that
information because it could jeopardize ongoing investigations or reveal
sources and methods.

In addition to the general removal proceedings, the INA also contains
special removal proceedings for alien terrorists. 5 These proceedings are
reserved for alien terrorists as described in section 237 (a)( 4)( B) of
the INA and take place before a special removal court comprised of federal
court judges. Such proceedings are triggered when the Attorney General
certifies to the removal court that the alien is a terrorist, that he is
physically present in the United States, and that using the normal removal
procedures of the INA would pose a risk to the national security of the
United States. If

4 This standard is different from the standard applied to aliens seeking
admission to the United States. Such aliens bear the burden of proof to
establish that they are clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted
to the United States and that they are not inadmissible under section 212
of the INA. See section 240 of the INA (8 U. S. C. 1229a).

5 See the INA, S:S: 501- 507 (8 U. S. C. S:S: 1531- 1537).

the court agrees to invoke the special removal procedures, then a hearing
is held before the removal court. Special provisions are made for the use
of classified information in such proceedings to minimize the risk of its
disclosure. However, similar to the removal proceedings under section 240,
the alien has the right to appeal a decision by the removal court.
According to INS officials, this court has never been used since its
inception in 1996.

Appendi I I I x Detailed Information on Revoked Visas This appendix
provides information on nonimmigrant visas that the State Department
revoked on terrorism grounds from September 11, 2001, through December 31,
2002* specifically, the nationality of the individuals whose visas were
revoked and the types of visas that were revoked. As shown in table 1, the
individuals holding visas that the State Department

revoked on terrorism grounds came from at least 39 countries. Five
countries* Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, and Lebanon* accounted for
53 percent of these individuals. Overall, most of the 240 people were
citizens of countries in the Near East and North Africa region.

Tabl e 1: Number of Individuals Whose Visas Were Revoked on Terrorism
Grounds, by Region and Nationality (Sept. 11, 2001, through Dec. 31, 2002)

Region/ Nationality Number of individuals Africa

Kenya 1 Sudan 2

Subtotal 3 East Asia and Pacific

Indonesia 8 Malaysia 3

Subtotal 11 Europe and Eurasia

Armenia 2 Austria 1 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 Croatia 1 Greece 1
Netherlands 3 Romania 2 United Kingdom

Subtotal 12

(Continued From Previous Page)

Region/ Nationality Number of individuals Near East and North Africa

Algeria 3 Bahrain 2 Egypt 21 Iran 22 Jordan 9 Kuwait 4 Lebanon 17 Morocco
6 Oman 2 Qatar 2 Saudi Arabia 50 Syria 7 Tunisia 1 United Arab Emirates 12
Ye me n 2

Subtotal 160 South Asia

Afghanistan 2 Bangladesh 3 India 3 Pakistan 18

Subtotal 26 Western Hemisphere

Brazil 2 Colombia 7 Cuba 2 El Salvador 1 Mexico 4 Panama 1 Paraguay 5
Uruguay 1

Subtotal 23 Unknown 5 Total 240

Table 2 provides information on the types of visas that the State
Department revoked on terrorism grounds. About 70 percent of the visas
were for temporary visits for business, pleasure, or both. Seven of these
visas were in the form of border crossing cards for Canada and Mexico.

Table 2: Number of Visa Revocations, by Class and Type of Visa Revoked
Number of Visa class Type of visa revocations

Business/ Pleasure

B1 Temporary visitor for business 5 B1/ B2 Temporary visitor for business
and pleasure 135 B1/ B2/ BBBCC Border crossing card (Mexico) 3 B2
Temporary visitor for pleasure 19 BCC Border crossing card (Canada) 4

Subtotal 166 Other

A1 Ambassador, public minister, or career 1 diplomat or consular officer,
immediate family

2 Other foreign government official or 2 employee, or immediate family C1/
D Combined transit and crewman visa 7

D Crewmember (sea or air) 7 E2 Treaty investor, spouse or child 3 F1
Student 26 H1B Alien in a specialty occupation (profession) 9 H3 Trainee 1
J- 1 Exchange visitor 5 L1 Intracompany transferee 1 L2 Spouse or child of
intracompany transferee 1 M1 Vocational or other nonacademic student 6 M2
Spouse or child of M- 1 1 P1 Internationally recognized athlete or 2

member of internationally recognized entertainment group

Subtotal 72 Unknown 2 Total 240

Example of a Revocation Cable the Department of State Sent to the INS and
the

Appendi V I x FBI

Sample of a Revocation Certificate the Department of State Sent to the
Immigration

Appendi V x and Naturalization Service Lookout Unit

Comments from the Department of Homeland

Appendi VI x Security

Appendi VI x I

Comments from the Department of State Note: GAO comments supplementing
those in the report text appear at the end of this appendix.

See comment 1. See comment 2. See comment 2.

See comment 3. See comment 4.

GAO Comments The following are GAO's comments on the Department of State*s
letter dated June 10, 2003.

1. The scope of our review covered all visas revoked on terrorism concerns
by the State Department, including headquarters officials and State*s
overseas consular officers, from September 11, 2001, through December 31,
2002. State Department officials determined that the total universe of
such revocations consisted of 240 cases during that period and provided
documentation for almost all of them. Headquarters officials, acting under
the authority of the Secretary of State, revoked the visas in all of the
cases. As noted in State*s comments, in none of the cases did State
believe that it had sufficient evidence to support a formal finding of
inadmissibility; thus, all of the revocations were done as a precautionary
measure.

2. Pages 10 and 11 of our report include information on this matter. 3. We
agree that these individuals may not be terrorists. However, the State
Department has revoked their visas because of terrorism concerns. Our
recommendations are designed to ensure that persons whose visas have been
revoked because of potential terrorism concerns be denied entry to the
United States and those that may already be in the United States be
investigated to determine if they pose a security threat.

4. The Departments of State and Homeland Security have different views on
this issue. Homeland Security believes that the language that the State
Department has been using on visa revocation certificates effectively
forecloses the U. S. government from litigating the issue of whether a
visa revocation has the effect of rendering the individual as out- of-
status (see p. 25 of our report). Our recommendations, if implemented,
would help resolve these conflicting views.

(320172)

a

GAO United States General Accounting Office

The U. S. government has no specific written policy on the use of visa
revocations as an antiterrorism tool and no written procedures to guide
State in notifying the relevant agencies of visa revocations on terrorism
grounds. Further, State, INS, and the FBI do not have written internal
procedures for notifying their appropriate personnel to take specific
actions on visas revoked by the State Department. State and INS officials
said they use the revocation process to prevent suspected terrorists from
entering the country, but none of the agencies has a policy that covers
investigating, locating, and taking action when a visa holder has already
entered.

This lack of formal written policies and procedures has contributed to
systemic weaknesses in the visa revocation process that increase the
possibility of a suspected terrorist entering or remaining in the United
States. In our review of 240 visa revocations, we found that

appropriate units within INS and the FBI did not always receive
notifications of all the revocations;

names were not consistently posted to the agencies* watch lists of
suspected terrorists;

30 individuals whose visas were revoked on terrorism grounds had entered
the United States either before or after revocation and may still remain;
and

INS and the FBI were not routinely taking actions to investigate, locate,
or resolve the cases of individuals who remained in the United States
after their visas were revoked.

Diagram of Gaps in the Visa Revocation Notification System Inconsistent or
incomplete information flow No information flow Sources: GAO and Art
Explosion.

Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs

revokes visas Department of Homeland Security a

Department of State Issuing visas

Managing stays Controlling entries

Department of Homeland Security a Department of Justice

a On March 1, 2003, INS*s various functions transferred to the Department
of Homeland Security. The National Strategy for Homeland Security calls
for

preventing the entry of foreign terrorists into our country and using all
legal means to identify; halt; and, where appropriate, prosecute or bring
immigration or other civil charges against terrorists in the United
States. GAO reported in October 2002 that the Department of State had

revoked visas of certain persons after it learned they might be suspected
terrorists, raising concerns that some of these individuals may have
entered the United States before or after State*s action. Congressional
requesters

asked GAO to (1) identify the policies and procedures of State, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) that

govern their respective visa revocation actions and (2) determine the
effectiveness of the process. GAO makes recommendations to

the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Departments
of State and Justice, to ensure that when State revokes a visa because of
terrorism concerns,

the appropriate units within State, INS, and the FBI are notified
immediately and that proper actions are taken. Homeland Security agreed
that the visa revocation process needed to be strengthened. State and
Justice did not comment on our

recommendations.

www. gao. gov/ cgi- bin/ getrpt? GAO- 03- 798. To view the full product,
including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more
information, contact Jess T. Ford at (202) 512- 4128 or [email protected] gao. gov.
Highlights of GAO- 03- 798, a report to the Subcommittee on National
Security,

Emerging Threats, and International Relations, House Committee on
Government Reform, and the Senate Committee on Finance

June 2003

BORDER SECURITY New Policies and Procedures Are Needed to Fill Gaps in the
Visa Revocation Process

Page i GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Contents

Contents

Page ii GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Page 1 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations United States
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Appendix I

Appendix I Scope and Methodology

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Appendix I Scope and Methodology

Page 32 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Page 33 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Appendix II

Appendix II Legal Process for Visa Revocations

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Appendix II Legal Process for Visa Revocations

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Appendix II Legal Process for Visa Revocations

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Appendix III

Appendix III Detailed Information on Revoked Visas

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Appendix III Detailed Information on Revoked Visas

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Appendix IV

Appendix IV Example of a Revocation Cable the Department of State Sent to
the INS and the FBI Page 41 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Page 42 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Appendix V

Page 43 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Appendix VI

Page 44 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Appendix VII

Appendix VII Comments from the Department of State

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Appendix VII Comments from the Department of State

Page 46 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

Appendix VII Comments from the Department of State Page 47 GAO- 03- 798
Border Security: Visa Revocations

Appendix VII Comments from the Department of State

Page 48 GAO- 03- 798 Border Security: Visa Revocations

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