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CBP Reopens Comment Period Regarding Enhancements to Biometrics

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) comprehensive biometric entry and exit system comment period has reopened for an additional 30 days.

Originally published Nov. 19, 2020, the NPRM provides the public an opportunity to provide the U.S. government comments about the proposed amendments for non-U.S. citizens traveling to and from the United States. The comment period originally closed on Dec. 21, 2020. Based upon the comments received, CBP decided to re-open the comment period Feb. 10 – March 12, 2021.

“As a testament to CBP’s steadfast commitment to privacy principles and transparency, CBP reopened the comment period to the biometric entry and exit proposed rule for an additional 30 days,” said William A. Ferrara, Executive Assistant Commissioner of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “We welcome the public’s input to the rule as we work to further secure and enhance a touchless, seamless travel experience through facial biometrics.”

The proposed changes, entitled “Collection of Biometric Data from Aliens Upon Entry to and Departure from the United States,” would amend the DHS entry/exit regulations requiring foreign travelers to take photographs upon entry to and/or departure from the United States. The rule also proposes to amend the DHS entry/exit regulations to eliminate references to pilot programs and the port limitation to permit the collection of photographs or other biometrics from non-U.S. travelers departing from airports, land ports, seaports, or any other authorized point of departure. Under current regulations, CBP may only conduct pilot programs to collect biometrics at exit at a limited number of air and sea ports and may only collect biometrics from a limited population.

CBP has a clear authority and a responsibility to confirm the identity of all international travelers and verify that they are the authorized bearers of their travel documents, to include U.S. passports. CBP’s use of biometric facial comparison technology would occur only at specific times and locations where travelers are already required to present proof of identity. This enhanced process would automate the document checks that take place today and would further secure, streamline, and align with government and industry efforts to expand touchless travel of the future.

Foreign national travelers would be  required to take photographs when entering or exiting the United States while the process is voluntary for U.S. citizens. For those U.S. citizens who do not wish to participate in the facial biometric process, they simply notify a CBP officer or airline representative, request a manual document check, and are processed consistent with existing requirements for entry to and exit from the United States.

As authorized in several statutes and regulations, CBP is congressionally mandated to implement a biometric entry/exit system that matches records, including biographic data and biometrics of non-U.S. citizens entering and departing the United States. These statutes include the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act; the 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act;the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004; the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.

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