DHS about-faces on biometric exit process

The Homeland Security Department has pushed biometric exit procedures out of the pilot testing phase even though officials recently said they are not ready to be implemented.

Those exit procedures would allow foreign nationals to check out of the country using biometrics. The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program conducted the biometric exit pilot at 14 major airports across the country during the past three years.

The move goes against statements by US-VISIT officials, who said a biometric exit process would not be viable for implementation because of DHS’ move to a 10-finger scanning process. This technology could cause major delays for people leaving the country because the scanning procedure may currently be too slow.

Acting US-VISIT Director Robert Mocny said before a House Appropriations Committee meeting in March that not having biometric exit tracking would be a weakness.

A Government Accountability Office report released in March — one of a series of reports criticizing the program — notes that DHS should have submitted a biometric entry and exit plan to Congress in mid-2005.

DHS finally submitted its plan for the exit system in its US-VISIT 2007 Expenditure Plan in March.

The news follows US-VISIT’s decision to halt a pilot test of a radio frequency identification system for use at land-based exit points.

US-VISIT’s biometric entry screening capability currently operates at 115 airports, 14 seaports and 154 land-based points of entry.

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