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Sep 14, 2017

Fixing the System for Visa Fees and Security

Tonight, we have more from the Senate Special Select Committee’s public hearings with Director of Immigration Diana Locke on Wednesday. The Auditor General’s Report cited multiple instances where fees for visas were waived or not collected at all.  But unlike passport or nationality fees which are legislated, visa fees are subject to the Department’s decisions. Director Locke noted that the issuance of visa stickers is tied to the monthly report on fees collected, which means every one must be accounted for, unlike those stickers that went missing from the Western Border and wound up in the possession of accountant turned immigration agent Patrick Tillett and used in Chinese passports. Security processes relating to visas have also improved, Locke said.

 

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“And what about visas, because we saw where there was some question as to whether fees had in fact been paid – the correct fees had been paid in some instances.”

 

Diana Locke, Director of Immigration

“I can’t speak to what happened before I got there, but I know since I’ve been there the visas that have been approved the appropriate fee, as legislated, has been collected.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“No; I’m asking what system has been put in place to ensure…”

 

Diana Locke

“There is a visa report that is submitted at the end of each month by every station and it indicates on those reports what fees are collected. Those are reviewed as the need arises, whenever there is a replenishment of the visa stickers, by the Finance Officer. That can be within a month or if not, within the month everybody is required to submit a report.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“And there is now a process for reconciling?”

 

Diana Locke

“Yes; the finance officer reconciles what is issued against what is reported.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“The Auditor General has also reported that there was a practice of poor management of the revenue form issue notes, and she also commented as to the storage and safekeeping of visa stubs; the accounting, the recording. As a matter of fact, that was one of the things that started this whole investigation, if you remember – the missing visa foils. And the failure to conduct checks on a regular basis; the system seemed to have fell down. What have you done, if anything to correct this type of event from happening again?”

 

Diana Locke

“Changes were instituted before I got to the Department; we continue to follow those guidelines put in place. Each of the stations have been issued with – within the last year – have been issued with safes. So, all the stickers are currently stored in safes. I think that there is a small portion that is released on a daily basis by each of the port commanders for use, and those are collected back in the evenings. And they are stored again in the safe. So, each of the stations have been outfitted with safes. As I indicated earlier, there is a system where the visas must be reported to the finance officer. She is required to do the checks, and I think those have been done, because, as far as I am aware, she has not released any stickers unless a report has been filed, and reconciled. The same occurs with the missions overseas. They’re supposed to send us monthly reports. They are not very consistent, but they do come, and they must come if the stickers are to be replenished.”

 

Locke also noted that the department now scans all documents used in filing for passports and saves them to a database to keep a record. It is standard for all new passport applications dating back to 2013, and may cause an inconvenience if original documents need to be brought back, but as Locke pointed out, it is for the safety of the applicant as well.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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