US-VISIT's use of biometrics has helped strengthen U.S. immigration and border security to a level that did not exist before.
Every day, 30,000 authorized federal, state and local government users query US-VISIT's data in order to accurately identify people and determine whether they pose a risk to the United States. US-VISIT supplies the technology for collecting and storing biometric data, provides analysis of the data to decision makers, and ensures the integrity of the data.
By using biometrics, US-VISIT is helping to prevent the use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identity theft and stop thousands of criminals and immigration violators from entering the country.
U.S . Immigration and Customs Enforcement receives information from US-VISIT to identify those who may have overstayed terms of their admission. US‑VISIT matches entry and exit records and provides this information to ICE. This enhanced information‑sharing process provides an increased capability to identify and apprehend overstays—a critical tool with which to manage the immigration and border system.
Before US-VISIT, international travelers who overstayed their authorized period of admission were only identified as a consequence of some other encounter with law enforcement.
U.S. Coast Guard uses US‑VISIT biometrics‑based services at sea to apprehend and prosecute illegal migrants and migrant smugglers. The Coast Guard uses mobile biometric collection devices—handheld scanners and cameras—to collect and compare migrants’ biometric information against information in the US‑VISIT database about criminals and immigration violators.
This capability is part of a pilot program to collect biometric information from migrants interdicted while attempting to illegally enter U.S. territory through the eastern Caribbean Sea, around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, known as the San Juan sector. The success of the program led the Coast Guard expand mobile biometric collection to the Florida Straits in 2008.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses US-VISIT's services to establish and verify the identities of people applying for immigration benefits, including asylum or refugee status.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses US-VISIT's services at U.S. ports of entry to help facilitate legitimate travel, protect travelers against identity theft, prevent fraudulent document use, and keep our visitors and citizens safe from harm.
CBP officers are responsible for screening all international travelers to the United States. As part of the screening process, CBP officers collect digital fingerprints and a digital photograph from international travelers. Using US‑VISIT’s services, officers quickly and accurately verify whether the person applying for entry is the same person to whom the visa was issued. And for all travelers, with or without a visa, officers use US‑VISIT’s services to verify that travelers are who they say they are and that they do not pose a threat to the United States.
Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community use biometric information about known or suspected terrorists on watch lists. US-VISIT is working across the federal government to promote intelligence efforts in identifying high-risk persons.
US‑VISIT biometric services also facilitate identification of terrorists by matching against latent fingerprints collected from terrorist safe houses and ongoing criminal investigations conducted around the world. The move to a 10‑fingerprint collection standard expands this capability by providing additional fingerprints against which to match latent fingerprints.
Department of Justice and State and Local Law Enforcement use US-VISIT's services to ensure that they have accurate immigration information about individuals they arrest.
US-VISIT is furthering integration, accessibility and interoperability with other law enforcement and intelligence systems. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are establishing interoperability between the US-VISIT program's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) fingerprint databases.
A crucial step in making IDENT and IAFIS interoperable is the transition from a two- to a 10-fingerprint collection standard for the US-VISIT and BioVisa programs.
US-VISIT and the FBI are testing the first stage of IDENT/IAFIS interoperability through pilot programs with state and local law enforcement. During these pilot programs, state and local law enforcement have access to immigration status information about immigration violators they arrest on other charges. At the same time, immigration officials receive automated notification when immigration violators are arrested, so they can take necessary action. With access to immigration violation information, law enforcement officers have more information with which to make decisions about subjects they arrest.
US-VISIT's Biometric Support Center (BSC) helps many federal, state and local agencies with their investigations. Every week, the highly-trained forensic analysts who verify biometrics 24 hours a day, seven days a week, help solve crimes, identify John or Jane Does and support terrorist investigations.
Department of State uses US-VISIT's services to establish and verify the identities of visa applicants at embassies and consulates around the world through its BioVisa program. Consular officers use this information in determining visa eligibility.
Secure Global Travel
The United States is not alone in using biometrics to enhance security and facilitate legitimate travel. The United Kingdom, Australia, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Mexico and others are implementing biometric identification programs to expedite travel and improve border security.
We are working with these countries to share best practices and move toward a consistent approach that provides for secure global travel. As countries continue developing compatible biometric systems, we will be able to more accurately identify dangerous people, making the world a place in which legitimate international travel will be convenient, predictable and secure, but difficult, unpredictable and intimidating for those who want to do us harm.