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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Upgraded Biometric Technology Facilitates Visitors' Entry to the United States

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that upgraded biometric technology is in place at major U.S. ports of entry, and most international visitors should expect to use the new technology when they enter the United States. DHS's US-VISIT program began upgrading its biometric technology from a two- to a 10-fingerprint collection standard in 2007 to make the entry process faster and more accurate, enabling DHS officials to focus their attention on people who may pose a risk to the United States, those officials say.

"Since 2004, biometrics have facilitated legitimate travel for millions of visitors entering the United States," says US-VISIT Director Robert Mocny. "The 10-fingerprint upgrade makes this proven system even more efficient and enhances the security of our nation."

For the last five years, U.S. Department of State consular officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have collected biometric information -- digital fingerprints and a photograph -- from all non-U.S. citizens between the ages of 14 and 79, with some exceptions, when they apply for visas or arrive at major U.S. ports of entry. State consular officers began collecting 10 fingerprints from visa applicants in 2007.

Collecting 10 fingerprints increases fingerprint matching accuracy and reduces the possibility that the system will misidentify an international visitor, DHS says. It also strengthens DHS's capability to check visitors' fingerprints against the FBI's criminal data and enables DHS to check visitors' fingerprints against latent fingerprints collected by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the FBI from known and unknown terrorists around the world, DHS says.

DHS's US-VISIT program, in cooperation with CBP, is leading the department's upgrade to 10-fingerprint collection. This upgrade is the result of an interagency partnership among DHS, FBI, DOD and State.

US-VISIT provides biometric identification services to agencies throughout federal, state and local government. The program's most visible service is the collection of biometrics from international visitors when they apply for visas and enter the United States. Since US-VISIT began in 2004, DHS's use of biometrics has helped prevent the use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identity theft, and stop thousands of criminals and immigration violators from entering the United States.

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