Posted on: May 21st, 2013
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What is US-VISIT?

US-VISIT is part of an immigration system initiated in 2004 that tracks the millions of visitors to the Unites States through the use of biometrics.

What is the purpose of the program?

US-VISIT is intended to help secure US borders and facilitate the entry and exit process for foreign visitors, while enhancing the immigration system and respecting the privacy of foreign visitors.

When did US-VISIT go into effect?

On January 5, 2004, the US-VISIT program became operational at ten major airports and one major seaport nationwide. By September 2004, it will be operational at 115 US airports and the 14 seaports servicing major cruise lines.  The Department of Homeland security expects to have all the exit kiosks in place by September 2004.

Will the new program affect all foreign visitors?

Only those visitors who are required to have a US visa for travel must submit to the new screening process, or they will be denied entry into the US.  However, by September 30,2004, residents of Visa Waiver countries will also have to comply with US VISIT requirements.

What is required of entering foreign visitors?

Foreign visitors are required to submit two electronic copies of their fingerprints, through the use of inkless fingerprint scanners, and a digital photograph of their face to inspection officers at routine interviews at US ports of entry.  The submission of electronic fingerprints and a photograph is known as biometrics.

Will the program create longer lines at ports of entry?

According to officials, the entire process will add only fifteen seconds to the clearance process for entering visitors.  The Department of Homeland Security claims it is committed to not dramatically increasing wait times at ports of entry into the US.

What are the exit procedures?

Exiting visitors will not have to submit to an interview.  Foreign visitors leaving the US will check out of the country at electronic kiosks.  This exit confirmation will allow Homeland Security officials to monitor visitors who have overstayed their visas.  Visitors will be asked to scan their travel documents at the kiosk and repeat the fingerprinting process.

What are the consequences for a visitor who overstays his or her visa?

The consequences for overstaying vary.  Depending on the circumstances, a visitor who overstays his or her visa may face a review with immigration officials, removal from the US or a bar from future entry into the country.

Why are biometrics being used?

Biometric identifiers will protect visitors from identity theft if their travel documents are stolen or duplicated.  The addition of these identifiers will also make the security system more effective than a database of names alone. However, the Department of Homeland Security is probably most concerned with reducing visa fraud where people falsify their identity in order to gain entry to the US.

How will visitors’ privacy be protected?

According to DHS, visitors’ travel data is securely stored and made available only to authorized officials and law enforcement agencies on a need-to-know basis in order to protect US citizens and visitors from those who intend harm.

Which government agencies are involved with the program?

Within the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration are responsible for border security.  Outside of the DHS, the Department of Transportations, the Department of State and the General Services Administration are also involved in the program.

Who enforces US-VISIT?

The Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the program.  Within the DHS, The Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security is responsible for implementing the program.