Homeland security to enhance its biometric tracking system for visa holders

indica News Bureau-

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans on implementing a new, improved system to track individuals who overstay their U.S. tourist or work visa. DHS plans to begin the program in the next few weeks, and the program will trace future immigrants— not those that are currently in the U.S.

The Visa Security Program Tracking System (VSPTS-Net) is a U.S. Immigration and Customs  Enforcement (ICE) system that supports the management of ICE’s Visa Security Program, which seeks to identify applicants for U.S. visas who are ineligible to enter the United States due to criminal history, terrorism associations, or other security-related grounds. ICE Special Agents use VSPTS-Net to record, track, and manage all visa security reviews performed by ICE. ICE conducted this PIA because VSPTS-Net collects personally identifiable information (PII) about individuals that have applied for U.S. visas.

The system will utilize biometrics, which is a type of technology that identifies individuals based on physical or behavioral characteristics. the Automated Biometric Identification System, is at the heart of the central Department of Homeland Security (DHS) system for storage, matching, and processing of biometric and associated biographic information.

The system is a common reference system for the U.S. government and collects in 115 airports, 15 seaports, 100 land border stations, and 211 visa offices worldwide.

Furthermore, checks against the database of all fingerprints collected at U.S. borders can identify whether the individual in question is using an alias and fraudulent identification documents.

Biometric data is also crucial for departures. Using only biographical information, such as names or passport numbers, provides no assurance that the person departing is the one whose original arrival was recorded.

It enhances the security of citizens and visitors, facilitates legitimate trade and travel, ensures the integrity of the immigration system, and protects the privacy of anyone entitled to enter the country.

DHS has been brainstorming ideas to deploy those who overstay their U.S. tourist or work visa ever since the terrorist attack of 9/11. According to reports, the goal of using biometrics for visa holders is to reduce terrorism attacks. The Associated Press reported that 36 individuals charged with terrorism were in the U.S. with visas that expired.

Although biometric measures will be employed to track visa holders, DHS will keep an even closer watch on those with criminal records.

“Unless they had some reason to believe an individual detained for some other offense was in fact an immigration violator, it would be rare that they would INS and ask them to do a TECS (Treasury Enforcement Communications System) check,” said John Cohen, DHS deputy counter-terrorism coordinator.

The Executive Order on Immigration and National Security, one issued January 27 and the revised version issued March 6, affirmed mandate for US-VISIT Exit by DHS (Customs and Border Protection) and stated: “The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States.”

As such, it marked the latest step forward for a program that has captured and stored biometric data from visiting foreign nationals since 2004 and lawful permanent residents of the country since 2009.