GAO reports that border registration of addresses unnecessary

News & Analysis
GAO reports that border registration of addresses unnecessary

The Government Accounting Office of the US government reports that creating a new system to keep track of the locations of aliens or visitors to the US is of 'questionable' value. This report, required by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002, reflects the challenges faced by INS when they were asked to identify the location of over 4000 individuals in the days after 11th September 2001.

Most of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents who were consulted in the writing of this report admitted that alien address reporting "would have limited utility in assisting them in locating nonimmigrant aliens" because these people are not likely to self-report their location changes if they do not want to be found. Instead, agents tend to rely on access to other databases such as those of benefits services, motor vehicle departments, internet search engines, court filings and credit bureaux.

This creates a problem for existing policy. Although up until September 2001 the U.S. was moving away from regular reporting of their locations, in developing the US-VISIT regulations, the requirement was reinstated that all non-immigrant aliens should re-register after 30 days and then anually.

While it is technically feasible to implement an annual nonimmigrant alien address reporting requirement, officials who were interviewed admitted that the amount of information to be processed is quite high (current statistics are that there are 550,000 change of address forms submitted every year). The costs incurrend in creating and maintaining such a system is too high for the benefits.

It was considered to include this within US-VISIT, but again it caused budget and technical problems.

The report is available in full on the GAO website.