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19 May 2003

US VISIT Will Collect Biometric Data on Foreign Visitors

(Automated system intended to stop terrorists from entering country) (1060)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is setting up a new
electronic entry-exit system, called US VISIT, that will collect and
share information, including biometric identifiers, on visitors to the
United States, according to a department fact sheet released May 19.

Following is the text of the fact sheet:

(begin fact sheet)

Office of the Press Secretary
May 19, 2003


Pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of
the Department of State, is responsible for establishing an automated
entry/exit system. The Department of Homeland Security has made the
US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator
Technology) program one of its top priorities. The US-VISIT, the
Department's automated entry/exit system, will expedite legitimate
travelers, while making it more difficult for those intending to do us
harm to enter our nation. Specifically, the system will be designed

1. Collect, maintain, and share information, including biometric
identifiers, through a dynamic system, on foreign nationals to
determine whether the individual:
-- Should be prohibited from entering the U.S.;
-- Can receive, extend, change, or adjust immigration status;
-- Has overstayed their visa; and/or
-- Needs special protection/attention (i.e., refugees); and

2. Enhance traffic flow for individuals entering or exiting the U.S.
for legitimate purpose by:
-- Facilitating travel and commerce;
-- Respecting the environment;
-- Strengthening international cooperation; and
-- Respecting privacy laws and policies


The US-VISIT program has been appropriated $380 million for FY 2003.
Appropriations laws require that DHS meet certain conditions
concerning submission and approval of an appropriate spending plan by
Congress before we may obligate those funds. DHS is in the process of
complying with those conditions. $5 million has been allocated for
this purpose.


-- Secretary Ridge announced in April that the US-VISIT system will be
capable of capturing and reading a biometric identifier at air and sea
ports of entry before the end of 2003. We anticipate that the system
will be capable of scanning travel documents and taking fingerprints
and pictures of foreign nationals, which then could be checked against
databases to determine whether the individual should be detained or
questioned concerning possible terrorist or criminal involvement.

-- Biometric identifiers must be consistent with standards established
by the International Civil Aviation Organization ("ICAO"). The law
also requires that air and sea ports of entry have readers in place
capable of reading these documents.

-- The National Institute of Standards and Technology continues to
study the use of fingerprints and photographs with travel documents.
At a minimum, the US-VISIT system will utilize the existing
fingerprint and photographic technology. Other biometric identifiers,
such as facial recognition and iris scan, are still being studied.


-- The US-VISIT system will be implemented incrementally, but
eventually will collect information on the arrival and departure of
most foreign nationals such as: date; nationality; classification as
an immigrant or non-immigrant; complete name; date of birth;
citizenship; sex; passport number and country of issuance; country of
residence; U.S. visa number, date and place of issuance (where
applicable); alien registration number (where applicable); and
complete address while in the United States. The information will be
stored in databases maintained by DHS and the Department of State as
part of an individual's travel record.

-- The information in the US-VISIT system will be available to
inspectors at ports of entry, special agents in the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), adjudications staff at
immigration services offices, U.S. consular offices, and other law
enforcement agencies. This information will be made available only to
authorized officials for official duties including, identifying
non-immigrants who may have overstayed their visas or otherwise
violated the terms of their admission, assisting in the adjudication
of immigration benefits, and assisting other federal, state, and local
law enforcement agencies as necessary.


-- The Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act of 2000 directed the
collection of records of arrival and departure for every alien who
travels by sea or air and who is provided a waiver under the VWP. The
Act required that these air and sea VWP records be incorporated into
an automated entry exit system. As of October 1, 2002, passenger
arrival and departure information on individuals entering and leaving
the U.S. under the VWP has been electronically collected from airlines
and cruise lines, through the Bureau of Customs and Border
Protection's (CBP) Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS)
system, and no visa waiver may be granted to an alien if the carrier
does not submit such data electronically.

-- APIS sends this data to ICE's Arrival and Departure Information
System (ADIS) for matching arrivals and departures and reporting
purposes. The ADIS sends all arrival information on students to the
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) which enables
ICE to notify the schools that a new foreign student has arrived and
should be arriving at their school within 30 days.

-- Currently, inspectors collect the following information contained
on a travel document: name, date of birth, nationality, gender,
passport number, document number, document type (passport, visa),
country of issuance. In addition, APIS collects carrier information
such as flight number, airport of departure and other data.


-- NSEERS was a pilot project focusing on a smaller segment of the
nonimmigrant alien population deemed to be of risk to national
security. Inspectors at ports of entry have the discretion, based on
national security criteria and intelligence reports, to refer an
individual from any country to a more detailed secondary inspection.
Also, under NSEERS, males born on or before November 15, 1986, and who
are nationals of designated countries, were required to register at a
local district immigration office. The process included an interview
by an immigration inspector or adjudicator and the collection of
fingerprints and a photograph.

-- When the US-VISIT system is fully implemented, it will provide the
information necessary to account for nearly all temporary foreign
visitors in the United States. Any remaining elements of NSEERS, such
as port of entry arrival registration, will become part of the
US-VISIT system.

(end fact sheet)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)