US-VISIT to hit all land ports

If all goes as planned, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program will encompass every land border crossing by the end of next year.

US-VISIT, designed to track foreign visitors, will be in place at all 165 land ports in the United States by Dec. 31, 2005, said Patricia Cogswell, the Homeland Security Department's chief strategist for the program. She spoke today at FCW Events' Homeland Security and Information Assurance Conference and Exhibition 2004.

DHS officials announced the first 50 US-VISIT land ports last month. They began implementing the program at those sites — the busiest points of entry into the United States — Nov. 15, and expect to complete the initial wave this year.

"To date, there has been no problem with wait times," Cogswell said.

US-VISIT workers use biometrics such as digital fingerprint scans and photographs to determine if a person applying for entry to the United States is someone to whom State Department officials issued a visa. The biometric and biographic data is also checked against terrorist watch lists.

By Oct. 22, biometric technology had helped border officials detect 1,300 people sought for various illegal activities, Cogswell said.

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