Document Screening for Applicants at U.S. Consulates07 Aug 2014
The process of applying for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas at U.S. consular posts abroad may raise questions of exactly what information is checked and how that information is gathered during the screening process. A June 2014 Congressional Research Service report provides an overview of the types of screening used at consulates, and how information collected from various sources is stored and used.
Biometric and Biographic Data
When an individual applies for a visa foil (commonly referred to as a visa “stamp”) at a U.S. consulate, the applicant is required to submit biometric and biographic data. This applies to both nonimmigrant (temporary) and immigrant (permanent) visa applications. The biographic data includes the applicant’s full name (and any other names used), gender, and the date and place of birth. The documents and other information that must be provided with a visa application depend upon the type of application, and are beyond the scope of this article. Information on requirements for different visa categories can be found in numerous articles on MurthyDotCom.
Records Stored and Reviewed on CCD
The main database utilized by U.S. consular posts is called the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD). This database holds over 143 million records relating to visa applications. Consular officers have access to outcome information regarding the applicant’s prior visa applications (if any) and internal comments made by other consular officers.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has made significant and continuing enhancements to the CCD. Over 75 million photographs are stored in the CCD electronically. The practice of electronically storing the photographs of visa applicants in the CCD began in February 2001. The CCD also stores the 10-finger scans of visa applicants, and has been doing so since 2007. The consulates also use facial recognition technology for screening against the CCD library of stored photographs of visa applicants, as well as a separate bank of terrorist watch list photos.
CCD Connected to Other Databases
To enable consular officers to identify potential areas of concern, the CCD is connected to other immigration and law enforcement-related databases. These links include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) results. Certain consular officers have access to the DHS Arrival Departure Information System (ADIS), which tracks the entry and exit of foreign national travelers. This can be used to determine whether an applicant has previously overstayed the time allotted during a visit to the United States.
Additionally, applicants are checked against the Consolidated Lookout and Support System (CLASS) databases. This “lookout” database contains records on individuals who pose a potential security threat to the U.S. The records in CLASS are from the DOS, DHS, as well as various enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Applicants may have to undergo additional, internal security screenings, depending upon what is revealed within the standard screening process.
Port of Entry / CBP Connection with Fingerprints on Entry
The fingerprints taken during the visa application process are transmitted from the DOS to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This allows for the matching of fingerprints when an individual seeks to enter the United States at a port of entry. The DHS Traveler Enforcement Compliance System (TECS) provides the CBP with access to the CCD.
The enhanced security measures used in visa screening are largely attributable to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as technological advancements that have made this type of screening feasible. It is important for visa applicants to provide accurate information throughout the application process, and applicants should realize that consular officers have a number of tools to verify the information provided.
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