VISA SERVICES: Safeguard U.S. borders through vigilance in adjudicating visa applications while simultaneously facilitating legitimate travel.
Analysis: The Department strives to promote legitimate travel while protecting U.S. borders. U.S. visas allow foreigners to visit the United States for a variety of reasons, including tourism, business, or study. In the case of immigrant visas, they are the first step in obtaining permission to reside permanently in the United States.
Collecting the biometric data of visa applicants is a central element in the Department’s efforts to keep America safe and illicit travels from entering the United States. In July 2005, the U.S. Government announced a 10-print biometric standard to ensure consistent screening of foreign nationals entering the United States. The Biometric Visa Program screens the 10 fingerprints of visa applicants against the fingerprint databases of both the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At ports of entry, Customs and Border Protection officers compare fingerprints of the arriving alien to verify the visa holder’s identity. The following graph shows that 26% of all currently valid visas meet these new biometric standards. This percentage will improve as older visas expire.
PASSPORT SERVICES: Provide American citizens with secure passports, delivered in a timely manner.
Analysis: The U.S. passport identifies the bearer as a U.S. citizen or national. It is a request to foreign governments to permit travel or temporary residence in their territories and provide access to all lawful, local aid and protection. It also allows bearers access to U.S. consular services and assistance while abroad and re-entry into the United States. As more Americans travel overseas, the percentage of Americans holding passports continues to grow.
The Department of State issued 13.5 million passports in 2009, a decrease of more than16% over 2008. In 2007, the U.S. Government began requiring Americans flying to the United States from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean region to carry a passport. Implementation of new travel rules under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative resulted in a record volume of passport applicants. Since 2007, the percentage of passports issued within the targeted timeframe (4-6 weeks) has increased to 99%.
SECURITY: Safeguard personnel from physical harm and national security information from compromise.
Analysis: The Department maintains dual efforts to safeguard national security information while allowing State personnel to be cleared in a timely manner to conduct the critical work of the Department. The Department forecasts the number of cases processed will increase 30% over the next two years, making improvements in the clearance process vital. In FY 2009, the Department showed progress on this strategic priority by significantly increasing the speed of its background investigations to an average of 55 days, from 67 days in FY 2008; this effort also exceed our target of 60 days for FY 2009.
FACILITIES: Provide safe, secure, and functional work facilities for overseas and domestic personnel.
Analysis: U.S. Embassies provide are the diplomatic platform for all agencies of the U.S. Government with overseas missions and official duty travel visits. The Department is responsible for providing and maintaining secure, safe, and functional facilities for U.S. personnel permanently assigned to overseas posts (as well as official travel visitors including members of Congress). In FY 2009, through capital security projects the Department moved 1,473 U.S. Government permanently assigned personnel to secure and safer facilities.