DHS Announces Shift Away from Biometrics to "Enhanced Biographic Exit"

On Tuesday September 13th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a statement (in full, below) stating that they have been unable to develop a cost-effective method of implementing a biometric US-VISIT Exit system. DHS is exploring the option of rescinding the 2008 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would have implemented the biometric exit portion of US-VISIT. While the statement indicates they will continue to research possible biometric exit solutions, DHS is now focusing on enhancing their biographical exit capabilities and has developed a proposal which will be released in the next 6-12 months.

In speaking with DHS/CBP staff, ACI-NA has learned that the proposal should have minimal, if any, impact on airport IT or other infrastructure as most of it will fall on DHS to implement. CBP will begin to validate APIS information as it is supplied by the carriers. Carriers may need to update their systems in order to accept additional ESTA codes resulting from CBP’s evaluation of their APIS transmissions.

DHS/CBP Statement:


In late 2010, Secretary Napolitano directed DHS to implement an enhanced biographic exit program, while continuing to research opportunities to deploy a biometric exit program.

DHS has developed an enhanced biographic exit proposal which will improve the existing DHS biographic exit program.  The plan uses resources from a variety of DHS components and will provide benefits to CBP, ICE, USCIS, and NPPD/US-VISIT, as well the State Department, as adjudicators of visa applications.  The proposal will allow DHS to take action on overstays according to its priorities focusing on national security and public safety.

DHS has undertaken several pilots for a biometric exit program to correspond to our biometric entry program.  However, through analysis of the pilot efforts, DHS has concluded that the operational costs of a biometric program at this time would be inordinately expensive and the benefits not commensurate with the costs.

DHS, led by its Science & Technology Directorate, will continue to research opportunities to deploy biometric exit based on future technology enhancements that would lower the overall cost to DHS.  In the interim, however, DHS will enhance its existing biographic exit program.

The enhanced biographic exit program will significantly assist DHS in identifying those who overstay their lawful period of admission.  Additionally, it will provide us the capability to meet our requirement to report on overstays by country. As part of the enhanced biographic exit program, CBP will verify the authenticity of the information provided for each traveler departing the United States before a boarding pass is issued.  Validation of departure manifest submissions will significantly enhance DHS’ ability to match departures to arrivals already validated by CBP.

The DHS enhanced biographic exit proposal is expected to take 6-12 months to complete. DHS is exploring the option of withdrawing the 2008 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking based on the findings of the Science and Technology Directorate research. DHS is committed to development and deployment of a biometric exit program, but only when it is financially feasible and the benefits are commensurate with the costs.  All of the pilots we have taken to date have shown that deployment of biometric exit would be extremely expensive.  DHS will continue to research alternatives, as technologies improve, to determine when a less costly alternative can be found.


Thank you,

Kim Mills

Director, Traveler Entry Programs

Office of Field Operations

U.S. Customs and Border Protection