11 March 2004
Dept. of Homeland Security Offers Overview of US-VISIT Program
Border security measures aim to facilitate legitimate travel
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a fact sheet
March 11 that provides a concise overview of the US-VISIT program
setting entry procedures for visitors to the United States.
Describing the US-VISIT program as "a continuum of security
measures" designed to facilitate "legitimate trade
and travel" across U.S. borders, the fact sheet explained
that "US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place
at 115 airports and 14 seaports" nationwide. During 2004,
the program also will be "expanded to the 50 busiest land
ports of entry" into the United States, according to the
Following is the text of the fact sheet, with further details:
(begin fact sheet)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
March 11, 2004
FACT SHEET: U.S. LAND BORDERS
-- Enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors
-- Facilitate legitimate travel and trade
-- Ensure the integrity of the immigration system
-- Safeguard the privacy of visitors to the U.S.
US-VISIT: AN OVERVIEW
US-VISIT is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security because it enhances security for our citizens and
visitors while facilitating legitimate travel and trade across
US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins before
an individual enters the United States and continues through
arrival and departure from the United States. It incorporates
eligibility determinations made by both the Department of Homeland
Security and the Department of State.
Using biometrics such as digital, inkless fingerscans and
digital photographs, the Department of Homeland Security is
able to determine whether the person applying for entry to
the United States is the same person who was issued the visa
by the Department of State. Additionally, the biometric and
biographic data are checked against watchlists, improving the
Department of Homeland Security's ability to make admissibility
decisions as well as the Department of State's ability to make
Should the traveler seek to adjust status or extend his/her
stay, US-VISIT would be updated with any modifications to the
US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports
and 14 seaports. This year, US-VISIT will be expanded to the
50 busiest land ports of entry.
US-VISIT: LAND BORDERS
The law requires that an automated entry-exit program be implemented
at the 50 busiest land ports of entry by December 31, 2004,
and at all ports of entry by December 31, 2005.
The 50 busiest land ports of entry process 94 percent of the
foreign visitors who enter and exit the United States through
land borders. A list of the 50 busiest land ports of entry
can be found in Appendix A.
US-VISIT currently applies to most foreign nationals who apply
for admission into the United States pursuant to a nonimmigrant
(temporary) visa. Visitors who are waived visa requirements
are not subject to US-VISIT at this time.
Today, most visitors with visas who cross our land borders
are referred to secondary inspection for processing. After
January 1, 2005, this secondary inspection will include US-VISIT
processing, collecting two index fingers scanned on an inkless
device and a digital photograph. This will allow the CBP officer
to match the visitor's information against the information
collected by the Department of State at visa issuance. We expect
US-VISIT procedures will take roughly 10-15 seconds during
the secondary inspection process as they do today at air and
Applicability to Mexican Citizens
The Department of Homeland Security is committed to developing
a solution for the processing of Border Crossing Card (BCC)
Most Mexican citizens who travel to and from the United States
regularly may apply for a multi-use travel document, B1/B2
Visa/BCC also known as a "laser visa", which serves
as either a BCC or a B1/B2 visa. Mexican citizens who use the
travel document only as a BCC will not initially be subject
to US-VISIT processing during primary inspection inasmuch as
their biometric data (fingerscans and photographs) is captured
during the BCC issuance process. This is an interim solution
for the land border while the Department explores the long
term solution to record the entry and exit of persons crossing
our land ports of entry.
When admitted under the BCC program, Mexican citizens may
stay in the United States for up to 72 hours and travel within
the "border zone" (within 25 miles of the border
in Texas, California and New Mexico, and 75 miles of the border
in Arizona). Approximately 6.8 million Mexican nationals today
utilize a BCC to make approximately 104 million crossings per
year when using the card as a BCC card only.
Prior to issuing a BCC to a Mexican citizen, the Department
of State conducts biographic and biometric checks on the individual.
The fingerscans and photograph of the Mexican citizen are then
embedded into the BCC. A holder of a BCC is inspected to determine
that he or she is the rightful bearer of the document when
crossing through a U.S. port of entry.
As the next phase of US-VISIT is implemented at southern land
ports of entry by the end of 2004, if a Mexican citizen chooses
to use the BCC as a B1/B2 visa (traveling outside the "border
zone" and/or staying longer than 72 hours in the U.S.),
he or she will undergo US-VISIT processing at the land border
secondary inspection areas.
In certain circumstances, Homeland Security's Customs and
Border Protection (CBP) officers may have reason to believe
the person presenting the BCC is not the person to whom it
was issued. At that point, the individual would be sent to
secondary inspection to determine if there are any problems
with the BCC, which could include running the BCC through a
biometric reader or processing the person through US-VISIT.
Readers for BCC's will be deployed at the 50 busiest land
ports of entry by the end of June 2004. The intent in the future
is to meld the BCC biometric check with the US-VISIT biometric
Applicability to Canadian Citizens
Since most Canadian citizens are visa-exempt, they are currently
not subject to the US-VISIT process.
Canadian citizens who are required to obtain a visa in order
to be admitted to the United States will be enrolled in US-VISIT
US-VISIT: USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES
The Department of Homeland Security is continuing to work
with the U.S. Department of State, building on the biographic
and biometric collection that is already underway at U.S. consulates
around the world. By October 2004, all 211 visa-issuing posts
overseas will be collecting biometric data from visa applicants.
Land ports across the northern and southern borders present
a unique challenge. The Department of Homeland Security is
working in partnership with the private sector to identify
the optimum set of solutions for land border processing.
We are currently looking at ways to use technology to facilitate
travel and collect entry and exit data. To that end, we are
planning to test Radio Frequency (RF) technology at select
primary entry and exit lanes of the 50 busiest land border
crossings. These plans are not part of the statutory mandate
for December 31, 2004.
US-VISIT: FACILITATING LEGITIMATE TRAVEL AND TRADE
The land border solution will be designed to be fast and easy,
but also secure. Both the President of the United States and
the United States Congress mandated that border security enhancements
not adversely affect legitimate travel and trade. The Department
is committed to meeting that mandate.
US-VISIT: RESPECTING PRIVACY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
US-VISIT has published a Privacy Impact Assessment that ensures
that personal information is used appropriately, protected
from misuse and improper disclosure, and destroyed when no
longer needed. This will be updated as necessary.
Personal data will be securely stored and is made available
only to authorized officials and selected law enforcement agencies
on a need-to-know basis to help protect the nation against
those who intend harm to U.S. citizens or visitors and to ensure
integrity in our immigration system.
US-VISIT will comply with all environmental laws and regulations.
For more information, including an appendix to this fact sheet
that lists the 50 busiest ports of entry into the United States,
please visit www.dhs.gov/us-visit
(end fact sheet)