Washington, DC – Senator Susan Collins today commended the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for meeting a major goal that it set for 2004, by implementing the US-VISIT entry-exit system at the 50 busiest land ports of entry. Congress mandated that DHS complete this phase of an entry-exit system by December 31, 2004. Senator Collins is the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over DHS.
“The first results indicate that US-VISIT at land border ports of entry are saving time for U.S. residents, foreign visitors, and those transporting goods who need to cross the border,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that DHS was able to meet this important goal for creating an advanced border and immigration management system. I am hopeful that we can continue to build on this success to create a fully integrated system that ensures a secure border while also allowing a free flow of tourism, trade, and other services that are so vital to Americans living along the Mexican and Canadian border.”
In many cases, the US-VISIT system begins overseas, at the U.S. consular offices issuing visas, where visitors’ biometrics – such as digital fingerscans and photographs – are collected and checked against a database of known criminals and suspected terrorists. When the visitor arrives at the port of entry, DHS uses the same biometrics to ascertain whether the person at the port of entry is the same person who received the visa. This type of identity matching helps U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers make better admissibility decisions and ensures the overall integrity of the country’s immigration system.
US-VISIT improves the efficiency of border crossings by expediting processing times for visitors who require a Form I-94 and are therefore subject to US-VISIT procedures. The system automates the I-94 procedures, which ultimately saves time for all travelers crossing the border.
“US-VISIT is expediting the processing time for those visitors who are subject to US-VISIT procedures at land ports of entry,” said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at DHS. “The effectiveness of US-VISIT has meant that we have been able to deploy the technology on schedule while meeting our goals of enhanced security and the facilitation of legitimate travel and trade.”
To date, the U.S. has been able to arrest or deny admission to 372 criminals or immigration violators because of US-VISIT. At the same time, more than 16.9 million legitimate foreign visitors have been processed through US VISIT without adversely impacting wait times.
In addition to the 50 busiest land ports of entry, US-VISIT is operational at 115 airports and 15 seaports. DHS expects the system to be expanded to all land ports of entry by December 31, 2005. For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/us-visit.