Airlines would collect fingerprints for US-VISIT

Homeland Security Department officials plan to require commercial airlines and cruise ship lines to collect biometric information from non-immigrant foreign travelers when they leave the United States by the beginning of next year.

For years, DHS has been collecting biometric data from such travelers when they arrive in the United States as part of the department's U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. However, DHS has had a hard time creating an exit system with similar capabilities because of logistical, technological and commercial problems. The exit program is a requirement of a major national security law Congress passed in 2007. After conducting a pilot program, DHS today announced the government’s plan to meet that obligation.

Under the proposed rule, federal authorities would reconcile the fingerprints that commercial carriers gather from passengers as they exit the country with biometric and biographical data collected on their arrival. That will allow authorities to determine whether visitors complied with their visa or visit limitations.

Commercial carriers are already required to send authorities passenger manifest information before they depart, via Customs and Border Protection’s Advanced Passenger Information System. Under the proposed rule, fingerprints must be transmitted to DHS no later than 24 hours after a plane or ship departs from the United States.

Airlines would send the biometric data in a message formatted in Extensible Markup Language. The message would contain a biometric image along with biographic data such as the person's first and last names, date of birth, and the date and time the fingerprints were taken.

DHS would use the data to create an exit record and verify the identity of the traveler against entry data stored in DHS’ Automated Biometric Identification System and the Arrival and Departure Information System.

Small aircraft and ships would be exempt from the requirements.

DHS’ notice of proposed rulemaking identifies unauthorized use of the biometric information collected by the carriers and identity theft as potential privacy risks for the visitor exit plan. However, officials say the risks are mitigated by the system’s technical, physical and administrative controls. For example, carriers would be required to ensure that their systems and transmission methods meet government standards.

The proposed rule does not require that fingerprints be collected from a specific place in the airports, but DHS suggests that airline officials minimize disruptions by making it part of normal business operations.

The proposed rule is open for public comment for 60 days. DHS officials plan to implement the program by January 2009.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1986, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group