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Press Release

U.S. Machine-Readable Non-Immigrant Visas Now Available Worldwide

PR9645E | Date: 1996-09-05

The U.S. 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. Approximately 5 million non-immigrant visas are issued each year. The American Institute in Taiwan has been processing machine-readable non-immigrant visas since February 17, 1995.

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 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.