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03 August 2004

Biometric Exit Procedure Expanded, Says Homeland Security

Pilot program expanded to 11 U.S. airports and seaports

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced August 3 the expansion of its automated US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) biometric exit procedure to additional U.S. airports and seaports.

"Any foreign visitor with a visa who leaves the United States through one of the pilot locations is required to comply with the exit procedure," the DHS press release said noting that after September 30, visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will also be required to comply.

According to the press release, the exit procedures require foreign visitors to check out at an automated exit kiosk or with a US-VISIT exit attendant at the departure gate at the port.

The entry component of US-VISIT, requiring most visitors traveling on visas to the United States to have two fingers scanned by an inkless device and a digital photograph taken by immigration officials upon entry, went into effect at 115 airports and 14 seaports in the United States January 5.

"US-VISIT is helping us demonstrate that we remain a welcoming nation and that we can keep America's doors open and our nation secure," the press release said.

Following is the text of the DHS press release:

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Press Release
August 3, 2004

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TO BEGIN BIOMETRIC EXIT PILOT AS PART OF US-VISIT PROGRAM

(Washington, DC) August 3, 2004 -- As a part of the border management system introduced at airports and seaports earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced that it will pilot and evaluate US-VISIT automated biometric exit procedures for foreign visitors.

The exit pilot program will be expanded from its current locations -- Baltimore -Washington International Airport and Miami's International Cruise Line Terminal -- to Chicago O'Hare International Airport beginning in August 2004. It will 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 Muņoz 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 of the pilot locations is required to comply with the exit procedure. After September 30, 2004, visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will be required to comply.

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

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

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

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

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

To help the process run smoothly, foreign visitors will receive a printed card explaining the exit process from U.S. Customs and Border Protection when they arrive in the United States. Also, directional signs are strategically located throughout the airports and seaports.

US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins overseas and continues on through entry and exit at U.S. airports and seaports and eventually, at land border crossings. The US-VISIT program enhances the security of U.S. citizens and visitors by matching the identity of visitors with their travel documents. At the same time, it facilitates legitimate travel and trade by leveraging technology and the evolving use of biometrics to expedite processing at our borders.

The first phase of US-VISIT launched on January 5, 2004, when DHS deployed the new biometric entry capabilities at 115 airports and 14 seaports and began testing a biometric departure confirmation system at two locations. Since then, millions of foreign visitors have been processed without impacting wait times and it is working. US-VISIT has helped to prevent hundreds of criminals and immigration violators from entering the country. Before the biometric component of US-VISIT, these people might have gotten through our system and into our country.

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

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

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