The U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched
US-VISIT, a new program to enhance the nation's security while facilitating legitimate travel and trade through our borders. New entry procedures took effect Tuesday, January 6, 2004, for most foreign visitors with non-immigrant visas at 115 airports and cruise ship terminals at 14 seaports. The system utilizes biometrics, which are physical characteristics unique to each individual, to verify identity. Biometric technologies
are the basis of an extensive array of highly secure identification and personal verification solutions
US-VISIT requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the U.S. on a visa have their two index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity at the port of entry. The US-VISIT program will enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors by verifying the identity of visitors with visas. At the same time, it facilitates legitimate travel
and trade by leveraging technology and the evolving use of biometrics to expedite processing at our borders.
The Department of Homeland Security has been testing the new entry procedures since November 17 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
. The test showed that the new procedures add an average of 15 seconds to the entry process at primary inspection for foreign nationals traveling with visas. More than 20,000 passengers from Central and South America
and South Africa participated
in the voluntary test, which confirmed the program's ability to verify identity without adding significant time to the process.