Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
Official Text

Department of Homeland Security Unveils US-Visit Program

BG0325E | Date: 2003-12-15

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has unveiled the capability it will have in place at airports and seaports on December 31, 2003, to process visitors holding visas as they enter the United States.

The US-VISIT program -- United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology -- is a cornerstone of the Department goals to improve border management at our ports of entry. By capturing more complete arrival and departure data for those who require a visa to enter the United States, the US-VISIT program will enhance the security of our citizens and visitors while expediting legitimate travel and trade.

"We are moving rapidly to complete development and deploy the US-VISIT capability to meet the congressionally mandated deadline of December 31, 2003,"said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary of Border & Transportation Security of the Department of Homeland Security. "We are on target to achieve this first increment of US-VISIT," he said.

US-VISIT uses scanning equipment to collect "biometric identifiers," such as fingerprints, in an inkless process, along with a digital photograph of the visitor. Together with the standard information gathered from a visitor about their identity and travel, the new program will verify the visitor identity and compliance with visa and immigration policies. The new procedures are expected to add just seconds to the entry and exit process.

All data obtained from the visitor is securely stored as part of the visitor travel record. This information is made available only to authorized officials and selected law enforcement agencies responsible for ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens and foreign visitors.

At exit points, visitors will check out at kiosks by scanning their visa or passport and repeating the simple inkless fingerprinting process. The exit confirmation will be added to the visitor travel records to demonstrate compliance. Land border processing will be introduced in phases in 2005 and 2006.

"All of these entry and exit procedures address our critical need for tighter security and our commitment to expedite travel for the millions of legitimate visitors we welcome each year to conduct business, learn, see family or tour the country," said Under Secretary Hutchinson.

"The new program is designed to enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors, expedite legitimate travel and trade, ensure the integrity of the immigration system, and safeguard visitors' personal privacy," Hutchinson continued.

The law requires that an automated entry/exit system be implemented at air and seaports by December 31, 2003; the 50 most highly trafficked land ports of entry by December 31, 2004; and all ports of entry by December 31, 2005.

DHS is working closely with the air and sea industry to explain the requirements of the US-VISIT program. In addition, the US-VISIT Project Team will partner with industry to ensure the latest technologies available will be incorporated into US-VISIT. The request for proposal will be issued in November 2003.

The US-VISIT program received $380 million for fiscal year 2003 and was appropriated $330 million for fiscal year 2004.

For more information, visit





  • Enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors

  • Facilitate legitimate travel and trade

  • Ensure the integrity of the immigrations system

  • Safeguard the privacy of visitors to the U.S.

  • Protect the environment




  • Entry and exit procedures at land borders will be phased in throughout 2004 and 2005. The law requires that an automated entry-exit program be implemented at the 50 busiest land ports of entry by December 31, 2004, and at all 165 land ports by December 31, 2005.

  • The 50 largest land ports of entry process 94 percent of the foreign visitors who enter and exit the U.S. through land borders.

  • US-VISIT applies to most foreign nationals who require a visa to enter the United States. Residents of visa waiver countries are not subject to US-VISIT at this time. A list of visa waiver countries can be found at




  • The Department of Homeland Security is collaborating with the U.S. Department of State, building on the biographic and biometric collection that is already underway at consulates around the world. By October 2004, all 211 visa-issuing posts will be collecting biometric data from visa applicants.

  • Details of the physical layout, staffing and procedures at land borders are not identified at this time, but will be developed on a solid foundation supported by research and analysis.

  • The Department of Homeland Security is working in partnership with the private sector to identify the optimum set of solutions for land border processing. A Request for Proposal will be issued in November 2003 to engage private industry in the process.

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers will receive thorough US-VISIT training.

  • US-VISIT is part of a multi-layered homeland security system and will be continuously monitored and improved.




  • The addition of biometric identifiers, (fingerprints), makes our security system more effective than names databases alone.

  • Biometric identifiers also protect visitors to the U.S. by making it virtually impossible for anyone else to claim their identity should their travel documents be stolen or duplicated.

  • By combining these entry and exit processes, and by securely storing the travel records, we can account for visitors who require a visa for travel to the U.S.




  • The land border solution will be designed to be fast and easy. Both the President of the United States and the United States Congress mandated that border security enhancements not adversely affect legitimate travel and trade. In accordance with these mandates, US-VISIT is being designed to keep processing times to a minimum.




  • Travel data will be securely stored, and is made available only to authorized officials and selected law enforcement agencies on a need-to-know basis to help protect the nation against those who intend harm to U.S. citizens or visitors.

  • US-VISIT will comply with all environmental laws and regulations.