Biometric Checks Expanding to New U.S. Ports of Entry

Washington - Visitors to the United States are subject to biometric screening at a new point of entry in California, and soon will undergo the same scrutiny in Louisiana, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

As of August 15 biometric measures are being used at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport in Fresno, California, and are scheduled to begin not later than October 15 at the recently constructed Erato Street Cruise Terminal in New Orleans. Homeland Security also plans to introduce biometric screening at the new pre-flight inspection center at Halifax International Airport in Halifax, Canada, on or before October 1.

Biometric entry procedures to the United States were mandated in 2004 under US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) program to increase border security yet “keep America’s doors open,” according to the programs motto. (See related article.)

The procedures consist of digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs as a routine, primary inspection process at airports and seaports with international arrivals, in the secondary inspection areas of U.S. land border ports of entry, and at U.S. consulates around the world.

US-VISIT program is designed to allow border officials quickly to establish if a particular visitor should be prohibited from entering the United States; whether the visitor can receive, extend, change or adjust immigration status; whether the visitor has overstayed the visa; and whether he or she needs special protection.

For those entering the United States for legitimate purposes and with proper documents, the system is designed to facilitate their travel while respecting privacy laws and policies, the department said.

US-VISIT currently applies to most visitors entering the United States regardless of country of origin or whether they are traveling with or without a visa. However, US-VISIT does not apply to most Canadian travelers.

In most cases, biometric screening has in fact decreased processing time at U.S. borders, according to Homeland Security officials. Since the program’s inception, more than 62 million people have been processed through US-VISIT. The program helped to stop over 1,200 criminals and immigration violators from entering the United States, DHS says.

The full text of the official announcement is available on the Government Printing Office Web site.

For more in formation on entering the United States, see Immigration Reform.