Visitors requiring visas to enter the United States will have each index finger scanned by a matchbox-size reader from Cross Match Technologies Inc. Digitized data will be linked via a private Homeland Security communications network to a database repository housed at an undisclosed location using Cogent Systems Inc.'s fingerprint technologies. Fingerprints will be cross-checked with existing prints of suspected terrorists or criminals, and agents will be immediately notified if the visitor is on a watch list. The data also will be made available to authorized Homeland Security, State Department, and law-enforcement personnel.
Border agents will also digitally photograph visitors, checking the entry photo against the picture found on the visa. "These digital photos are by no means the type or quality to do the same kind of analysis we'll be doing with the biometric fingerprint," a Homeland Security spokesman says. "The purpose of the digital photos are for visual inspection. It's an additional piece of information available to inspectors."
A screening process will occur upon departure as well, starting next year. Visitors will use self-service kiosks where they'll scan their travel documents and repeat the fingerprinting process on the inkless device. The exit confirmation will be added to the visitor's travel records, which will be available to border agents when the individual next visits the United States.
The entry requirements will take place at 115 airports and 14 major seaports by year's end or early 2004. Land border processing will be introduced in phases in 2005 and 2006.