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U.S. Department of State
96/08/23 Statement: Machine-Readable Visas Worldwide
Office of the Spokesman
Press Statement by Glyn Davies/Acting Spokesman
August 23, 1996
Machine-Readable Visas Available Worldwide
The State Department has reached another important milestone in meeting
the Administration's goals in improving border security.
On August 23, the U.S. Consulate General in Perth, Australia became the
final U.S. consular post to begin issuing machine-readable non-immigrant
visas, which are now available at all 221 U.S. visa-issuing posts
throughout the world. These computer-generated visas enhance U.S.
security and accelerate visa processing at U.S. ports of entry.
The new machine-readable visas have enhanced security features and are
created and read by customized software at the issuing posts and ports
of entry. The visa includes a computer-generated photo of the passport
holder which helps eliminate several kinds of visa fraud. The software
and visa were designed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs with various
security features to prevent terrorists and others ineligible for a visa
from entering the United States. The software includes a comprehensive
automated check of the applicant's name against a database of more than
four million aliens who are potentially ineligible to enter the United
The machine-readable visa also helps improve border security and service
to travelers at U.S. ports of entry by reducing processing time.
Immigration officers can scan information directly from the machine-
readable visa, which will speed up the clearance process for persons
arriving in the United States.
As part of the President's Initiative on Immigration, the Department of
State was tasked with tightening our border security by upgrading our
automation. Creating machine-readable visas is part of a large
modernization effort by Consular Affairs. In the next few years,
Consular Affairs will launch a series of new computer systems to improve
border security, enhance services to U.S. citizens abroad, and increase
productivity in issuing visas.
Approximately 5 million non-immigrant visas are issued each year.
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