Image Source | Flickr user Steven J

The US offers an array of sights and activities for tourists from around the world. While lucrative, tourism can also be a double-edged sword. When a foreign national comes here to enjoy the sights, they must apply for a tourist visa. However, some tourist visas are obtained by people coming for the wrong reasons, such as to work illegally or even to commit a crime. Tourism, as an important industry and the livelihood of many Americans, cannot cease because of this. Balancing the risks of fraudulent visas with the desire to keep our tourism industry strong is a difficult task, and it is a case where technology can be leveraged to create a rapid, scalable extreme vetting process.

The vetting process for a tourist visa isn’t nearly as stringent as the vetting process for a work or immigration visa. That’s probably why the tourist visa is the one most commonly abused types. It’s estimated that 500,000 of the individuals who came here on tourist visas in 2015 never left. Extreme vetting can be easier when someone wants to come permanently, as a thorough check is often expected, but when a visitor is just coming to vacation, that same vetting process may turn them off and lead them to opt to tour another country instead. Incorporating new and unique technology like Remote Risk Assessment (RRA) in extreme vetting processes, such as those for tourist visas, can ensure greater rapidity and accuracy.

The Problem With Tourist Visas

Tourist visas are much simpler to obtain than your standard immigration or work visa. In this case, the person simply fills out an application, gets fingerprinted, provides a photo, and may be asked to complete an interview. While this may work to streamline the process for true tourists, it also makes it an easy process to abuse.

All of the hijackers involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks were in the country on temporary visas with less stringent application screening. The temporary visa process focuses on how likely the person will be to overstay their approved period of time. The application requires the individual provide information to prove the following information:

  • Whether the trip is for pleasure or medical treatment
  • That the visitation period is limited, with a firm end date
  • That the applicant has enough money to cover them for their stay
  • Whether the applicant has ties to their home country that would make it unlikely that they’d overstay their visa, like a residence, job, school or close family ties to their home country

Most of the criteria are designed to ensure that someone doesn’t overstay their welcome. There’s also a check for criminal history, so some will see visas denied for certain crimes. But for the most part, the tourist visa process is fraught with loopholes. As a result, many have called for extreme vetting on these visa types.

But that extreme vetting comes at a cost. If the process for getting into the US becomes too unwieldy, we could see a serious impact to our economy. After all, foreign tourists bring upwards of $100 billion to the country on an annual basis. If extreme vetting is implemented, a significant portion of US revenue could be in jeopardy.

The Problems With and Solutions to Extreme Vetting

A primary issue with extreme vetting is that it takes a long time. Extreme vetting requires conducting deep background checks, interviewing acquaintances, and searching a wide range of databases and records to locate criminal histories. This is an expensive and prolonged process which could drive tourists to take their money to a country that’s easier to get into.

And traditional extreme vetting isn’t a guarantee. After all, like the September 11 hijackers, it can still be easy to get into the country with little to no problems because of a lack of verifiable criminal histories. If the records don’t exist, then the government can’t find the risk.

A solution could be technology like Remote Risk Reduction (RRA). RRA can streamline a vetting process for a tourist visa by using proprietary signal analysis processes to evaluate characteristics of the human voice to determine risk when an applicant answers pertinent questions about why they’re seeking a visa. It can also be implemented on an automated and scalable basis, allowing thousands of people to be screened and assessed at once, in under five minutes.

It works by creating a set of questions such as, “Have you made any plans to work while you’re in America?” Or, “Did you deliberately falsify any part of your Tourist Visa application?” These questions require a yes or no answer. The individual gives an answer and biometric measurements almost instantly determine whether the answer demonstrates risk. Those who do can be investigated on a deeper level, while those who don’t can be ushered more quickly through the rest of the process.

This type of technology allows us to proactively identify threats while at the same time ensuring that the visa process is not so cumbersome that it cuts into tourism profits. It’s a way of implementing better vetting to avoid fraud and other crimes, while simultaneously ensuring that the American economy stays strong.

Clearspeed offers this technology for a wide range of uses, from government immigration checks to pre-employment testing. It can be a valuable extreme vetting tool because it does what other tools cannot. It gives a clear indication of the risk of an individual, regardless of database or records. For more information on how you can use RRA as an extreme vetting tool, contact us today.