David Donahue, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs

DAS Donahue participated in ACI-NA’s meeting with the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ambassador Jacobs on March 24.  Some of the points mentioned during our meeting were covered by DAS Donahue in his testimony.   A summary of the meeting was sent to the US International Air Service Program and US airports members of the ACI-NA Facilitation Committee on March 29.

Donahue’s testimony outlined Department of State efforts and ideas for dealing with increasing demand for US visas, particularly from China, Brazil, India and Mexico:

  • staffing:  created additional consular officer positions; moves existing positions from lower to higher priority posts; makes extensive use of temporary duty assignments
  • increased hours of operations at some consulates
  • established procedures for expediting visa processing for business and student travel
  • consolidated and improved outsourced services through its Global Support Strategy
  • increasing duration of visa validity on a reciprocal basis
  • electronic visa applications

As indicated in our meeting, Donahue stated that the Department is considering:

  • alternative staffing models e.g. non-career appointments for consular staff, targeted to individuals with foreign language skills.
  • using the Secretary of State’s authority, subject to limits, to waive the in-person interview requirement for selected low-risk groups on the basis of US national interest or unusual or emergency circumstances.  He stressed the State Department would only take such a step in consultation with its law enforcement partners and with support from Congress.

Donahue said that Consular Affairs has concluded that visa interviews by video link are impractical and raise security and productivity concerns.

He mentioned that the addition of several countries to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allowed Consular Affairs to shift staff to other posts.  However, countries have to meet several security and other standards under US law in order to be consider for participation in the VWP.  ACI-NA recently signed on to a travel industry letter to President Obama urging initiation of discussions with Brazil and Chile on creating a roadmap of steps needed for them to enter into the VWP.