U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s biometric exit plan

July 30, 2012 - 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano told a congressional panel during its July 19 House Judiciary Committee hearing that the DHS has submitted a plan to Congress for instituting a biometric exit system from the United States.

The plan submitted in May of this year contained details on how the biometric exit system could be rolled out.

While the United States has instituted, through US-VISIT, the systems to electronically capture biometrics data from incoming foreign travelers, it has not, however, set up a counter-part system for departing ones. Despite constraints in terms of cost and complexity of system, Secretary Napolitano however has that it could be deployed within the next four years.

The United States and Canada will be instituting “enhanced biographic” capability. It will match incoming US-VISIT data with incoming entry data from other countries like Canada.

As explained by Napolitano, “even if we don’t have a lane or an ability to mark our exit data at the land border, we will take their entry data and put it in our system.”

Napolitano, however, fielded questions on maritime cargo screening. Earlier this year, the United States reiterated the deadline for countries that import cargoes in the United States. These countries are asked to comply with the U.S. law in checking their cargoes and personnel by using biometrics technologies or screening cargoes. This is one way of securing sea and air ports in the U.S.

Napolitano said the department has taken “a good faith effort to comply with the law” mandating 100 percent screening of maritime cargo. However, DHS has said that screening every single container would be cost-prohibitive and not cost effective.

Earlier reports noted that DHS will “in all likelihood” seek an extension to a 2012 deadline for 100 percent screening imposed by the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007.

Will having a biometric exit system installed for departing travelers be helpful for the U.S.?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for BiometricUpdate.com. She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.