US-VISIT, Western Hemisphere Initiative

May 26, 2005

US VISIT Program:

I just returned from a US-VISIT Program stakeholder forum with senior Department of Homeland Security and Department of State officials. US-VISIT is the DHS program that takes travelers’ biometrics (photographs, fingerprints) upon entering and leaving the U.S. US-VISIT entry procedures are in place at 115 airports, 15 seaports and in the secondary inspection areas of the 50 busiest land ports of entry.

As part of the US-VISIT program, DHS plans to test a new technology, Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) at several ports including Nogales East and Nogales West in Arizona. A RFI tag or bar code will be inserted into an I-94 card. RFI technology is expected to detect the visitor at a distance and provide the immigration inspector with the visitor’s biographic information. The RFI technology will also link the bar code information to the watch list databases.

Western Hemisphere Initiative:

According to a State Department official at the meeting, by the end of 2007 all U.S. citizens entering or leaving the U.S. will need a U.S. passport or another document “attesting to the person’s nationality.” The other type of documents that will be accepted are yet to be decided. There are rumors that DHS will allow SENTRI documents to be used for those traveling at the U.S.-Mexico border.

DHS and DOS have created the following deadlines for implementing the new initiative:
December 31, 2005: All U.S. travelers from the Caribbean will need a U.S. passport.
December 31, 2006: All U.S. travelers from Mexico and Canada will need a U.S. passport.
December 31, 2007: All borders and ports will be implementing the new program.

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