December 15, 2015 -
In a statement released today, the International Biometrics & Identification Association (IBIA) said that it strongly supports Congressional action to reform the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and congratulates the House for its work on H.R. 158, Visa Waiver Improvement Act of 2015.
The IBIA also said that the United States must immediately plan further strengthening of the VWP so that all VWP travelers undergo biometric screening prior to boarding all planes to the U.S.
Currently, fingerprints are collected from all VWP travelers upon arrival at U.S ports of entry and checked against the biometric databases of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. law enforcement, the military, the intelligence community and immigration records.
At points of departure though, current screening of VWP travelers is based only on biographic information collected under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The IBIA feels that this is inadequate. “… biometric screening prior to departure is critical to our national security and can be accomplished without compromising travel and trade,” says Tovah LaDier, IBIA Managing Director. “Screening of VWP passengers prior to departure provides substantial security benefits. This proactive practice helps to identify terrorists and other criminals as early in the process as possible, stops them from boarding planes bound for the U.S., and prevents attacks on U.S. bound planes,” she continued.
LaDier points out that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) already recognizes the benefits of passenger early screening in its own fact sheets about its Immigration Advisory Program (IAP) and its Preclearance program-that incorporates biometric screening of passengers at point of departure.
The IBIA believe that biometric screening can be accomplished without compromising travel and trade as CBP has staff, facilities, and equipment under its IAP in many VWP countries and is expanding the Preclearance program. CBP officers who are stationed abroad checking documents could pilot the collection of biometrics using mobile devices.
Furthermore, advance screening saves money for the government and airlines alike dealing with removal proceedings and transporting individuals back to the departure airport.
“Strengthening the VWP is a critical step in protecting our security along with the use of e-passports with biometric identifiers and a biometric exit system. IBIA looks forward to working with Congress and collaborating with all stakeholders to implement effective and practical programs that protects our security.”
Previously reported, the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA) also offered comments in support of the recent security improvements proposed for the Visa Waiver Program.