When Visa Screening Backlogs Lead To Big Mistakes In Extreme Vetting
Did you know someone who feels overworked can experience a 68% reduction in productivity? That’s a concerning statistic for any industry. When that industry is directly responsible for the safety of citizens, a reduction in productivity is a major problem. It’s something we’ve seen happen more than once, where backlogs have resulted in issues in the extreme vetting process—issues that may have allowed potentially dangerous people into the country.
New extreme vetting tools might be useful for assessing risk but they also put an additional burden on investigators. It’s more work for them to look into the background of the individuals they consider approving for visas. The only solution to minimizing this risk is to find ways to leverage technology in these extreme vetting investigations.
Lessons Learned From Backlogged Cases
Backlogs in the system can lead to people slipping through the cracks. Since 2001, the US has revoked 9500 visas from individuals that it believes have terrorist ties. Even more concerning is the fact that the whereabouts of these individuals are largely unknown. Keep in mind this isn’t just a matter of individuals overstaying visas. These are individuals who’ve already been permitted entry to the US and who had their visas revoked while here. In another instance, 600 individuals who were set to be deported from the US were instead granted citizenship—simply because their fingerprints weren’t on file. In both cases, there were some common themes;
- Important paperwork or documentation was missing – In many cases, individuals who had been denied entry to the US before simply applied under a different name. As no one took their fingerprints, the fraud was impossible to prove.
- Poorly run databases – It’s a sad fact that many government systems are behind the times, and there is a lag when it comes to locating and reviewing records.
- Slow or outdated tracking technology – While many digital fingerprint databases exist, these databases are frequently missing a large number of fingerprint cards due to them never being uploaded.
- Lack of proper resources – In one instance, it was noted that the average visa investigator would have to do approximately 120 interviews a day under new rules, a number which is bound to result in issues.
These issues are directly related to overwork. Someone doesn’t take fingerprints or put them in a system because they don’t have time. Poor interviews and investigations are conducted and as a result, dangerous people gain access to the US. In the case of the individuals who were wrongly granted citizenship, four were found to have received high-level aviation credentials while another got a job in law enforcement. It’s clear that something is happening here that is causing dangerous applicants to slip through the cracks. This is an area where tech should be leveraged to improve tracking methods.
How Tech Can Eliminate Dangerous Backlogs
Automating tasks can be the ideal way to improve the vetting process while eliminating backlogs. There are many emerging technologies which can be leveraged to improve vetting without the need for more personnel. Some include:
- Retinal scanning – The problem with fingerprinting is that it requires a lot of human involvement. The applicant must have their fingerprints taken by someone. Those fingerprints then need to be entered in a system by someone else. In addition, when the individual is being investigated, their fingerprints need to be taken yet again, uploaded to the system and compared to thousands of samples on file. However, retinal scanning, which treats the retina like a fingerprint, is simpler. A high-powered camera is used to take a photograph. The photograph is turned into data. When the person is being investigated, their retinal scan can be compared to other scans in the system to determine if they are a threat. This significantly reduces the steps needed to verify identity while also improving accuracy.
- Online databases – The cloud computing environment has given us a great opportunity to share records across borders so we can eliminate threats quickly. One such example is AFIS, which is used to track the fingerprints of millions of individuals. As this technology becomes more cloud-based, it will be easier for countries to share records and eliminate many of the errors that segmented record systems create.
- Remote Risk Assessment – The problem with traditional interviews is that they are only as good as the interviewer. It’s entirely up to the interviewer what questions to ask and what conclusions to draw. Remote Risk Assessment is a solution which allows agencies to automate the interview. It asks questions necessary to the investigation at hand and then uses biometric data to help assess risk. This improves the accuracy of interviews while minimizing the time needed to conduct them. RRA interviews generally take less than ten minutes to complete and are ideal for mass vetting.
These three tools provide a lot of opportunities to minimize the backlog in extreme vetting. The ability to reduce threats is dependent on the people who investigate cases. When they’re overworked, those investigations suffer.
Clearspeed offers RRA as a solution to agencies that need to improve vetting and efficiency at the same time. It can be quickly implemented and effectively used to minimize caseloads while offering a high accuracy rate. For more information, contact us.