DHS to expand US-VISIT biometric collection
The Homeland Security Department will soon begin collecting digital
fingerprints and photographs from lawful permanent residents of the
United States and people seeking to enter the country on an immigration
visa or as refugees.
The biometric data will be collected from
additional groups of those persons when they enter the U.S. starting
Jan. 18 as part of DHS’ U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator
Technology (US-VISIT), officials said Dec. 18. In a statement, DHS
officials called the expansion a “positive step forward in a process
designed to further improve public safety and national security while
ensuring the integrity of the immigration system.”
biometric data collected through US-VISIT program is used to conduct
security checks on the visitors and verify their identities. The
US-VISIT program already collects data from visitors entering on a
non-immigrant visa and through a program known as the Visa Waiver
The final rule published today in the Federal Register will expand US-VISIT to collect biometrics from:
• The U.S. lawful permanent residents or “green card” holders.
• People seeking admission on immigrant visas.
• People seeking admission as refugees and or seeking asylum.
• Some Canadian citizens.
• Those who apply for admission through the Guam Visa Waiver Program.
many cases, Canadians will still not be required to give their
biometrics when entering the U.S, nor will non-U.S. citizens under the
age of 14 and over the age of 79.
The final rule also makes
permanent an interim final rule that required the collection of
biometrics from foreign nationals who seek admission under the U.S.’
Visa Waiver Program and travelers arriving at some land entry points,
The policy change was criticized from the American
Immigration Lawyers Association. Charles Kuck, president of the group,
said the expansion of the program was premature and would harm the
"The idea that lawful permanent residents, immigrants
who have been living in the United States for years, will be subject to
finger scans and other biometric data collection procedures when
traveling to and from the U.S. is simply wrong and borders on the
absurd," he said.
However, DHS said in a statement, “Collection
and verification of biometric identifiers upon entry protects travelers
by making it virtually impossible for anyone else to attempt to use
their biometrically linked travel documents (such as a permanent
resident card), such as if their documents were stolen or duplicated.”
DHS noted that US-VISIT is now operational for entry at 115 airports, 15 seaports, and 154 land border ports of entry.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.