DHS Upgrades Fingerprint Standard in Atlanta, Collects More Digital Digits

The Department of Homeland Security has begun collecting additional fingerprints from international visitors arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The change is part of the DHS upgrade from two- to 10-fingerprint collection to enhance security and facilitate legitimate travel by more accurately and efficiently establishing and verifying visitors' identities. "Biometrics have revolutionized our ability to prevent dangerous people from entering the United States since 2004. Our upgrade to 10-fingerprint collection builds on our success, enabling us to focus more attention on stopping potential security risks," said Robert Mocny, director of US VISIT, a DHS program begun in 2004 that uses biometric identifiers to prevent use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identity theft, and stop criminals and immigration violators from entering the country.

For more than four years, the U.S. Department of State consular officers and Customs and Border Protection officers have been collecting biometrics--digital fingerprints and a photograph--from all non-U.S. citizens between the ages of 14 and 79, with some exceptions, when they apply for visas or arrive at U.S. ports of entry. "Quite simply, this change gives our officers a more accurate idea of who is in front of them. For legitimate visitors, the process becomes more efficient and their identities are better protected from theft. For those who may pose a risk, we will have greater insight into who they are," said Paul Morris, executive director of CBP's Admissibility Requirements and Migration Control, Office of Field Operations.

The US VISIT program currently checks a visitor's fingerprints against DHS records of immigration violators and FBI records of criminals and known or suspected terrorists. Checking biometrics against the watch list helps officers make visa determinations and admissibility decisions. Collecting 10 fingerprints also improves fingerprint matching accuracy and the department's ability to compare a visitor's fingerprints against latent fingerprints collected by the Department of Defense and the FBI from known and unknown terrorists all over the world. Additionally, visitors' fingerprints are checked against the FBI Criminal Master File.

On an average day at Hartsfield, 4,000 international visitors complete US VISIT biometric procedures. Since 2004, the program has stopped thousands of criminals and immigration violators from entering the United States, DHS says. Visitors from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Mexico comprise the largest numbers of international visitors arriving at Hartsfield, which is the second port of entry to begin the collection of 10 fingerprints from international visitors. Washington Dulles International Airport began 10-fingerprint collection on Nov. 29, 2007, and eight other ports of entry will begin collecting additional fingerprints during the next few months. The next ports scheduled are: Boston Logan International Airport; Chicago O'Hare International Airport; San Francisco International Airport; George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport; Miami International Airport; Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport; Orlando International Airport; and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The remaining air, sea, and land ports will transition to collecting 10 fingerprints by the end of 2008. US VISIT, in cooperation with CBP, is leading the transition to a 10-fingerprint collection standard. This upgrade is the result of an interagency partnership among DHS, FBI, DOD and DOS.

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