Department of Homeland Security to Begin Biometric Exit Pilot as Part of US-VISIT Program

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For Immediate ReleasePress OfficeContact: Anna Hinken 202-298-5200August 3, 2004

As a part of the border management system introduced at airports and seaportsearlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) todayannounced that it will pilot and evaluate US-VISIT automated biometric exitprocedures for foreign visitors.  

The exit pilot program will be expanded from its current locations, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Miamis International Cruise LineTerminal, to Chicago OHare International Airport beginning in August 2004. Itwill be piloted at the following airports and seaports in September 2004:

  • Atlanta, Georgia (William B. Hartsfield International Airport)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport)
  • Denver, Colorado (Denver International Airport)
  • Detroit, Michigan (Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport)
  • Newark, New Jersey (Newark International Airport)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia International Airport)
  • Phoenix, Arizona (Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)  
  • San Francisco, California (San Francisco International Airport)
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico (Luis Muoz Marin International Airport)
  • Seattle, Washington (Seattle/Tacoma International Airport
  • Los Angeles, California (San Pedro and Long Beach Seaports)

Any foreign visitor with a visa who leaves the United States through one ofthe pilot locations is required to comply with the exit procedure. AfterSeptember 30, 2004, visitors traveling under the VisaWaiver Program (VWP) will be required to comply.

We will begin testing processes that will make exiting quick for visitorsand effective for security, said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Borderand Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security. We mustimplement a straightforward exit process to ensure that individuals adhere tothe terms of their admission. This supports our efforts to strengthen homelandsecurity and ensure the integrity of our immigration system.

As this is a pilot program, US-VISIT will analyze the benefits and challengesof each exit process in order to better develop a system that enhances securitywhile facilitating legitimate travel and ensuring privacy.

The exit procedures being piloted require foreign visitors to check out at anautomated exit kiosk or with a US-VISIT exit attendant at the departure gate atthe port.  Foreign visitors will go though one of the following twoprocesses, depending on location.

Under one alternative, visitors departing the United States will check out ofthe country at exit kiosks located within the airport or seaport terminal.  As with the process the visitors encounter upon entry, their traveldocuments are read, their two index fingers will be digitally scanned at theexit kiosk, a digital picture will be taken and they will receive a printedreceipt that verifies that they have checked out. An exit workstation attendantwill be available to assist with visitors check out.  Visitors also maybe required to present the receipt at their departure gate to confirm that theychecked out at the exit kiosk.

Another alternative under the pilot program is a biometric check-out processwith a US-VISIT exit attendant stationed at visitors departure gates.

To help the process run smoothly, foreign visitors will receive a printedcard explaining the exit process from U.S. Customs and Border Protection whenthey arrive in the United States.  Also, directional signs arestrategically located throughout the airports and seaports.

US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins overseas andcontinues on through entry and exit at U.S. airports and seaports andeventually, at land border crossings. The US-VISIT program enhances the securityof U.S. citizens and visitors by matching theentity of visitors with theirtravel documents.  At the same time, it facilitates legitimate travel andtrade by leveraging technology and the evolving use of biometrics to expediteprocessing at our borders.

The first phase of US-VISIT launched on January 5, 2004, when DHS deployedthe new biometric entry capabilities at 115 airports and 14 seaports and begantesting a biometric departure confirmation system at two locations.  Sincethen, millions of foreign visitors have been processed without impacting waittimes and it is working. US-VISIT has helped to prevent hundreds of criminalsand immigration violators from entering the country.  Before the biometriccomponent of US-VISIT, these people might have gotten through our system andinto our country.

Biometric technology digital finger scans and digital photographs helps make US-VISIT simple and effective.  In fact, the use of biometricsforentification is fast becoming the standard, and much of the world isfollowing the trend.  

US-VISIT is helping us demonstrate that we remain a welcoming nation and thatwe can keep America's doors open and our nation secure.  For moreinformation on US-VISIT, or to learn more about the new exit procedures, please visitthe US-VISIT Web site at www.dhs.gov/us-visit.