For Tracking Visitors to the U.S.
James A. Bach, Esq.
Copyright 2001 - 2009
May 19, 2003*
A new program has been announced by DHS to better track
visitors the United States. This program, called “US VISIT”, begins with the
visa application process in which the U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad will
collect information to confirm applicants’ identity, measure security risks and
assess the legitimacy of travel of visitors to the U.S. For people who require
visas, those visas will use biometric features that will identify the visitors
when they arrive at an airport or seaport and access the information about that
visitor. This information will be available at the ports of entry as well as
throughout the entire immigration enforcement system. This system will enable
the Bureau of Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) to know instantly who
violates entry requirements, overstays, or violates the terms of their stay, a
capability it does not now have.
By October 2004 those countries that participate in the
Visa Waiver program will be
required to use tamper-proof passports that include biometric identifiers.
Initially, visitors will have to prove their identity
through fingerprints and photographs; later, as the technology is perfected,
additional forms such as facial recognition or iris scans may be used as well.
By January 1, 2004 if a foreign visitor flies into an
international airport or arrives at another border port the visitor's travel
documents will be scanned. Then, once a photo and fingerprint are taken, the
person will then be checked against lists of those who should be denied entry
for any reason - terrorist connections, criminal violations, or past visa
violations. The information requested will include immigrant and citizenship
status; nationality; the country of residence; and the person's address while in
the United States.
In announcing this new system, DHS Secretary Hutchinson
stated that “in 99.9 percent of the cases, the visitor will simply be wished a
good day and sent on their way.”
Unlike the current system, when the visitor departs, ICE
will verify his or her identity and capture their departure information. That
will inform the Department of Homeland Security if a person entered illegally or
overstayed his or her authorized stay.
Congress has appropriated nearly $400 million for this year
alone to establish US VISIT at all U.S. airports and seaports.
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