Border Control: USA Still Waiting on Biometric Exit Says IBIA

March 28, 2014 – by Peter B. Counter     

The Department of Homeland Security’s policy chief David Heyman explains simply: “The United States did not build its border, aviation and port infrastructure with exit screening in mind.”

The IBIA released a report this week detailing what it has dubbed as the unfulfilled mandate of biometric exit in the United States. The document is largely based on the discussions that came from the connect:ID conference in Washington DC last week, and outlines the history of biometric exit as well as the need for such a border control solution as a population management and national security tool for a government still fighting terrorism.

The ultimate goal of a biometric exit system, which would record the departure of foreign visitors to the United States, is to have an accurate and up to date list of people overstaying their visas while also – in conjunction with biometric entry – keeping track of terrorism watchlists. Essentially: making sure that the people entering the country are leaving when they are supposed to and that in both situations are exactly who they say they are.

Currently this is done with biographic data and travel documents, while the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division works on developing a biometric solution for US airports.

This is not enough of an explanation for some, who have been waiting for a very long time for biometric exit, which despite being constantly lobbied for, seems to be in a state of perpetual stalling. Cost remains a barrier here, as are operational issues.

The Department of Homeland Security’s policy chief David Heyman explains simply: “The United States did not build its border, aviation and port infrastructure with exit screening in mind.”

Not one to take no for an answer in terms of biometric capabilities, Kenneth Gantt, the acting deputy director of the Department of Homeland Securityʼs Office of Biometric Identity Management is quoted in the report with assurance.

“If we can do it for them coming in,” said Gantt, “How come we canʼt do it for them going out?

Gantt is a particularly welcome figure in this sort of discussion of the practicality of biometric deployments. He offers a pragmatic perspective to these sorts of issues and understands the questions that highlight the real obstacles in identity management. At the most recent Biometrics Consortium Conference (held in Tampa, Florida in September of 2013), Gantt spoke during the opening keynote, using the same sort of attitude to spur for biometric innovation.

Biometric border control is reaching a new peak in demand. According to new research from Acuity Market Intelligence, automated biometric solutions (particularly kiosks and eGates) are going to boom over the next five years globally. That alone, especially combined with the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370 with two passengers aboard holding forged travel documents is enough to hope that Mr. Gantt is correct when he assures: “Trust me, weʼre going to get this figured out.”

The full report form the IBIA is currently available in PDF format.