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U.S. Consulates Struggle to Update Tech and Improve Customer Experience

Jul 18, 2023

U.S. embassy

A new government report has shed light on the U.S. Department of State’s struggle to modernize and improve its technology to meet immigration demands.

The report, conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, takes a deep look at the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA)’s current IT systems and a recent initiative to modernize consular services, known as the Consular Systems Modernization (CSM) program. Here are the general goals of the CSM program, as well as the report’s key findings on how the program has performed:

Goals of the CSM Program

Overall, CA’s main responsibilities include facilitating U.S. travel and immigration, as well as issuing passports, visas, and other documents to citizens and foreign nationals. In order to assist both U.S. citizens and prospective immigrants, CA relies heavily on technology to communicate with applicants and help customers navigate the application process. The CSM program intended to:

  • Enhance the customer experience with a user-friendly website
  • Streamline operations and reduce paper filings by implementing a digital application process
  • Ensure consistency and ease of use across all functions with a cohesive and user-friendly interface
  • Empower users with comprehensive and accessible information
  • Enable flexible and efficient operations by offering reliable scalability options.

Key Report Findings

The report highlighted the following findings about the CSM program’s design and implementation:

  • Key flaws were found in the CSM program’s design and compliance with departmental guidelines.
  • The CSM program suffered from a lack of adequate oversight from key leaders and the appointment of unqualified project managers.
  • Internal systems exhibited several problems, including missing contractor reports, potential improper awarding of performance-based fees, and delayed completion of assessment reports.
  • Program flaws resulted in a significant delay of approximately 58 months in its implementation

As demand increases for U.S. travel and immigration, technology and innovation have become crucial to improving efficiency and tackling existing application backlogs and processing delays.

The Department of State and CA are not the only areas of the U.S. immigration system that are trying to modernize the application process and customer service. In recent years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has rolled out several new initiatives to digitize many of its forms and improve online customer support.

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