The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) serves to protect U.S. citizens who are abroad for business, study, travel or living purposes. The mission of CA is to keep the borders of the United States secure while encouraging proper and legal international exchange and travel. The Bureau of Consular Affairs links the U.S. Department of State with embassies and consulates overseas on visa matters. Travel documents are issued to United States citizens and legal immigrants who want to travel both across the globe and within the borders of the U.S.
The Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs was created within the Department of State after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 – which contains basic laws that govern immigration and naturalization – was enacted. At the time, the Bureau was responsible for issuing visas to immigrants seeking permanent U.S. citizenship, U.S. citizens interested in passports to travel outside of the country and non-immigrants seeking temporary stay. In 1979, the name was changed to the Bureau of Consular Affairs
Sept. 11, 2001, changed many details surrounding the duties and responsibilities of the Bureau and an additional 570 new positions were created. The Bureau also took charge of keeping U.S. citizens safe abroad and created a program to determine invalid and legitimate entry into the United States as well as a sophisticated automated system.
The Bureau supports people across the country and all over the globe, including about 8,000 people who work in more than 200 foreign consulates and embassies. Additionally, it overlooks 17 domestic Passport Agencies and two regional visa processing centers. The most notable responsibilities for the Bureau include issuing passports to U.S. citizens, issuing visas to foreign-born individuals, offering assistance and aid to travelers and serving those in serious danger.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs also provides up-to-date resources for travelers, including newsworthy events that may affect visa or immigration rights, travel alerts and travel warnings about unsafe regions. It also has online information regarding wait times for non-immigrant visa interviews, visa types for temporary stay, help for workers temporarily in the United States and students who come to the U.S. for educational purposes.
A free smartphone application is available for travelers who want to have information at their fingertips in case of emergency.