U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the implementation of Simplified Arrival at the international bridges within the Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry.
Simplified Arrival, an enhanced international arrival process that uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks that are already required for admission into the United States, provides travelers with a secure, touchless travel experience while fulfilling a longstanding Congressional mandate to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.
Located near McAllen, Texas, the Hidalgo Port of Entry crosses between Reynosa, Mexico and the United States. Hidalgo is one of the 10 busiest ports of entry in the United States, processing more than 1.6 million pedestrians and nearly 2.9 million vehicles in Fiscal Year 2020. It will be the third location in the Rio Grande Valley area to implement Simplified Arrival. Last year, it was deployed at the Progreso/Donna Port of Entry, located slightly downriver from Hidalgo, followed by the Brownsville Port of Entry located about an hour away.
Simplified Arrival only uses the biometric facial comparison process at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When travelers arrive at the pedestrian lanes or undergo I-94 processing at any bridge in Hidalgo, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. A CBP officer will review and query the travel document, which will retrieve the traveler’s passport or visa photo from government holdings. The new photo of the traveler will be compared to the photo previously collected.
The facial comparison process only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate. In addition, foreign travelers who have traveled to the U.S. previously may no longer need to provide fingerprints, as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial comparison process.
Simplified Arrival pairs one of the industry’s highest ranked facial comparison algorithms (as assessed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology) with trained CBP officers who are skilled at verifying the authenticity of travel documents. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival process, the traveler will proceed through the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States.
To date, more than 64 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison process at air, land and sea ports of entry. Since September 2018, CBP has leveraged facial biometrics to prevent more than 400 imposters from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people.
“The technological innovation that Simplified Arrival brings to our land border passenger processing environment at the Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry not only facilitates the movement of lawful travelers and protects their privacy, but also enhances our nation’s security,” said Randy J. Howe, Director, Field Operations, Laredo Field Office. “CBP has evaluated and fine-tuned the biometric facial comparison technology we have been testing at the Southwest Border since the summer of 2018 to deliver a secure, streamlined travel experience that will also support travel recovery efforts.”
U.S. travelers and those foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics and wish to opt out of the new biometric process may notify a CBP officer as they approach the primary inspection point. These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by a CBP officer and will be processed consistent with existing requirements for admission into the United States.
CBP is committed to its privacy obligations and has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process. New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system.
More information about CBP’s efforts to secure and streamline travel through facial biometrics can be found here.