Visa Stamps Stolen in INS Break-In

In another black eye for the embattled Immigration and Naturalization Service, someone broke into the agency's inspection office in Tacoma, Wash., Sunday evening and made off with four stamps used to allow foreigners to enter the U.S.

Officials in Washington, D.C., confirmed on Monday that the four stamps were stolen from a locker inside the offices of the INS seaport inspections substation.

Investigators said they did not think the break-in was specifically designed to steal INS equipment. They said there was no forced entry into the offices themselves.

The four stolen stamps are used to:

• approve visas.
• approve visa extensions.
• grant shore leave to crewmen aboard ships.
• approve temporary green cards.

Sources said all INS stamps are numbered to specific agents, and an alert is transmitted nationwide when they are lost or stolen to invalidate documents that might be stamped after the equipment has vanished.

Investigators said they consider the damage minimal, because the stamps have already been rendered invalid. They admitted, however, that the stolen stamps could facilitate forgery.

The Tacoma office has four INS employees working in it, officials said.