U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced today the expansion of biometric facial comparison technology to the pedestrian border crossings at Sweetgrass and Eastport, Idaho, as part of CBP’s land border innovation efforts.
“I am pleased to announce the deployment of biometric facial comparison technology to these additional border crossings along the Northern Border,” said Seattle Director of Field Operations Brian Humphrey. “This enhanced technology will further secure and streamline travel while providing a safe, touchless identification process for travelers.”
Simplified Arrival is 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. This process provides travelers with a secure, touchless travel experience while fulfilling a longstanding Congressional mandate to verify the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.
The biometric facial comparison process occurs only at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When a traveler arrives at one of the pedestrian lanes or undergoes I-94 processing, he or she 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 and compare it to the new photo.
This enhanced process using facial biometrics only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate. In addition, foreign travelers who have traveled to the United States previously may no longer need to provide fingerprints, as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial biometric process.
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 U.S. Department of Homeland Security database.
U.S. travelers and select foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics and wish to opt out of the new facial biometric process may simply notify a CBP officer as they approach the primary inspection point and request a manual inspection. These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by a CBP officer and will be processed consistent with long established processes for admission into the United States.
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 admission into the United States.
To date, more than 100 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison process at air, land, and seaports of entry. Since September 2018, CBP has leveraged facial biometrics to prevent more than 950 imposters from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people.