DHS tests RFID technology for foot, vehicle traffic at entry points

The Homeland Security Department plans to install antennas in travel lanes at five locations to detect RFID chips embedded in travel documents carried by international visitors passing through ports of entry into the United States.

The biometric pilot program, which will run from Aug. 1 through March 2006, is designed to speed both vehicle and pedestrian traffic through the entry ports of Nogales East and Nogales West in Arizona, Alexandria Bay in New York and the Pacific Highway and Peace Arch in Washington state.

The land port-of-entry tests are part of a border management enterprise DHS is creating. “It helps to catch bad people and process good people,” said Jim Williams, director of DHS’ U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. The biometric pilot joins another for electronic passports containing chips with biographical data that is being tested for air travelers at Los Angeles International Airport

The travel-lane antennas at land ports will be able to recognize whether persons walking or driving up to an entry booth are carrying I-94 visa documents with an RFID chip encased within the card stock. I-94 documents are for visitors who require a visa, such as foreign students, and must be renewed every six months.

DHS digitizes these documents. The travel applicant provides biographical information for the document, two fingerprints and a photo to an attendant, who electronically scans the information and prints out a new RFID-enabled I-94 form.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection attendant at the port of entry will scan the document, which activates the chip and captures only a number which associates with names and biographical data in a watch list or database. No personal data is contained in the chip.

DHS plans eventually to deploy the antennas at all land crossings, Williams said.

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