The U.S. Department of State recently announced that it is developing the capability to issue digital visa authorizations (DVA) instead of the traditional visas that are printed and placed in applicants' passports. This development would streamline the travel authorization process by automating the transfer of data from visa application, to airline verification, to border inspection, and U.S. admission. Following unprecedented backlogs for visa interviews at U.S. consulates in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DVA pilot program appears to be part of a broader effort to develop a secure system for the electronic issuance and validation of U.S. travel documents.

Quick Hits

  • The State Department is developing digital visa authorizations to replace traditional visas and conducting the proof of concept at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Ireland.
  • If the project is successful, digital visa authorizations will be available for other visa classes and other consulates.

The initial proof of concept for the DVA technology is currently being tested with K-1 (fiancé(e)) visas at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Ireland. K-1 visas were selected because they are single-entry visas. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Dublin was selected in part due to the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-clearance procedures at Dublin Airport. Moreover, many of the airlines providing direct flights from Dublin to the United States are already enrolled in CBP's Document Validation Program. The State Department has indicated that it intends to offer DVAs for other visa classes and additional consulates in the future, provided the initial proof of concept is successful.

Once implemented, the DVA would likely improve efficiency and enhance security in the U.S. visa application process. For example, because the DVA would not need to be physically placed in travelers' passports, it could reduce the number of visa applicants who are required to attend consular interviews. Further, upon issuance of a DVA, a traveler's information would automatically be transmitted to CBP. This would allow CBP to digitally notify airlines as to whether an individual had valid travel credentials prior to boarding. The DVA potentially would enable greater automation while reducing the risk of errors to promote safe and secure international travel.

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