On December 19, 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a Final Rule in the Federal Register that expands the categories of non-U.S. citizens required to provide biometrics—digital fingerprints and a photograph—upon entry or re-entry to the United States through the US-VISIT Program, now the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM).
Currently, certain non-U.S. citizens arriving at U.S. air, land and sea ports of entry with nonimmigrant visas or those traveling without a visa as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are subject to these procedures. Under this final rule, all non-U.S. citizens, except Canadians applying for admission to the United States as B-1/B-2 visitors for business or pleasure and those specifically exempted, will experience OBIM procedures when entering the country.
Effective January 18, 2009, the following additional non-U.S. citizens will be required to provide biometrics when entering or re-entering the United States:
- Lawful permanent residents of the United States (LPRs);
- Persons entering the United States who seek admission on immigrant visas;
- Persons entering the United States who seek admission as refugees and asylees;
- Canadian citizens who are currently required to obtain a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) upon entry or who require a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the United States (this excludes most Canadian citizens entering the United States for purposes of shopping, visiting friends and family, vacation or short business trips);
- Persons paroled into the United States; and
- Persons applying for admission under the Guam VWP.
Including these additional non-U.S. citizens in OBIM processing is not expected to impact processing or wait times at U.S. ports of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will retain the discretion to refer travelers for secondary inspection.
The following is additional information regarding OBIM procedures and processing, as of January 18, 2009:
- Canadians applying for admission to the United States under a B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant classification for business or pleasure, which represents most Canadian travelers to the United States, are not required to enroll in OBIM at this time.
- Canadian citizens who must now enroll in OBIM are those issued a Form I-94 (Arrival Departure Record), including:
- Canadians applying for admission in the following nonimmigrant classifications: C, D, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, Q 1, Q 3, R, S, T, TN; and
- Canadians who are granted a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the United States.
- Canadians requiring issuance of Form I-94 are already referred to secondary inspection. Therefore, no additional wait time will be added.
- H-1B visa holders will follow existing protocols and will be screened through OBIM when applying for a new multiple entry Form I-94 or when referred to secondary inspection for other reasons.
- At seaports, LPRs returning from a closed loop cruise (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the United States) will be exempt from OBIM processing. LPRs returning to the United States from an “open” cruise will be subject to OBIM processing.
- Non-U.S. citizens entering or re-entering the United States at a land border port of entry will be processed somewhat differently, as follows, at the inspecting officer’s discretion:
- LPRs will provide biometrics only if they are referred to secondary inspection.
- All other non-U.S. citizens included in this final rule—unless specifically exempt—will experience OBIM procedures during secondary inspection, just as most non-U.S. citizens already subject to OBIM procedures currently do (e.g., those who require a Form I-94).
- Non-U.S. citizens who seek admission with Border Crossing Cards and who do not have a Form I-94 will still go through OBIM procedures, at the discretion of CBP officers.