Department of Homeland Security to Begin US-VISIT Biometric Exit Pilot at San Francisco International Airport

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 /PRNewswire/ — U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that beginning today, foreign visitors departing from San Francisco International Airport are required to follow check out procedures before departing on their flight. Visitors are asked to provide their two index fingerscans and hold for a photo as a part of a pilot program to test and evaluate an automated biometric exit process.

US-VISIT procedures apply to all visitors (with limited exemptions) entering the United States, regardless of country of origin or whether they are traveling on a visa. Most visitors experience US-VISIT’s biometric procedures — a digital, inkless fingerscan and digital photograph — upon entry to the United States. Now, if they leave from an airport or seaport that has an exit capability like San Francisco, they must check out.

The exit procedures being piloted at San Francisco require foreign visitors to go though one of the following processes.

— Under one alternative, visitors departing the United States will check
out of the country at exit stations located within the airport. As
with the process the visitors encounter upon entry at airports, their
travel documents are read, their two index fingers will be scanned at
the exit station, their digital picture will be taken, and they will
receive a printed receipt that verifies that they have checked out. A
workstation attendant will be available to assist with visitors’ check
out.

— The second alternative still uses the exit station but includes an
additional step — verifying — at the departure gate. Visitors will
be required to present the receipt at their departure gate to confirm
that they checked out at the exit station. The workstation attendant
will scan the receipt and then ask the visitor to place an index
finger on the scanning device. Once the person’s identity is matched
to the receipt, the workstation attendant will hand the visitor his or
her receipt back, and the visitor will board the airplane.

To help the process run smoothly, foreign visitors will receive a printed card explaining the exit process from a Customs and Border Protection officer when they arrive in the United States at one of the airports participating in the pilot. Also, directional map cards are distributed by the airlines and signs are strategically located throughout the airport directing the visitors to the exit stations.

The exit pilot program has been operating for a number of months in Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and the Miami International Cruise Line Terminal.

Exit procedures became operational at Newark Liberty International Airport and Luis Munoz International Airport in San Juan last week. Exit procedures will begin at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on January 28.

By testing and evaluating the exit processes, US-VISIT can analyze the benefits and challenges of each in order to develop a system that enhances security while facilitating legitimate travel and ensuring visitors’ privacy.

US-VISIT is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because it enhances security for our citizens and visitors while facilitating legitimate travel and trade across our borders. The goals of US-VISIT are to enhance the security of our citizens and visitors; facilitate legitimate travel and trade; ensure the integrity of our immigration system; and protect the privacy of our visitors.

US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports, 15 seaports and in the secondary inspection areas of the 50 busiest land ports of entry. By December 31, 2005, US VISIT entry procedures will be implemented in the secondary inspection areas of all remaining land ports of entry.

To date, more than 17.5 million foreign visitors have been processed through US-VISIT without adversely impacting wait times, and more than 407 criminals or immigration violators have been denied admission to the United States because of US-VISIT.

US-VISIT is helping us demonstrate that we remain a welcoming nation and that we can keep America’s doors open and our nation secure. For more information on US-VISIT, or to learn more about exit procedures, please visit the US-VISIT Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/us-visit .

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