WASHINGTON — The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology is a Department of Homeland Security program that uses biometric tools in a series of steps to identify those who enter the country without a U.S. passport or visa, analyzes the risk of having the international visitor cross the border, and shares the gathered data with government agencies.
“The US-VISIT program is the centerpiece of the U.S. government’s efforts to establish identity management capability that supports border management and immigration systems to meet the demands of the 21st century,” according to DHS’s website.
Created in 2004, the program helps determine whether international visitors pose a risk to the United States by matching biometric data of fingerprints and photographs to databases and watch lists. Biometric data looks at “physical characteristics that can be used for automated recognition,” according to the DHS US-VISIT web page on biometric services. “Unlike names and dates of birth, which can be changed, biometrics are unique and virtually impossible to forge.”
When visitors arrive in the United States, they must show their identification documents and entry forms. If the visitor is between the ages of 14 and 79 and lacks a U.S. passport or visa, the US-VISIT system is implemented in five steps, as stated by a guide DHS provides international visitors. The visitor has to scan all fingers for fingerprints, and then has his or her picture taken. Once the biometric data is taken, the officer at the gate will ask questions pertaining to the traveler’s trip, such as “What is the nature of your visit to the U.S.?”
This way, the system can “protect our nation by providing biometric identification services to federal, state and local government decision makers,” DHS’s US-VISIT website states.
US-VISIT is used by several government agencies, including the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Coast Guard, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Department of Justice and State and Local Law Enforcement, and the Department of State.
Finally, the DHS US-VISIT website on biometric services states that US-VISIT “has helped stop thousands of people who were ineligible to enter the United States,” and is now the go-to source for all biometric data needs.