Biometric checks for arrivals now in place at all US airports

CBP completes Simplified Arrival at all US airports

Biometric checks are now in place at all US airports for arriving international passengers.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has completed the rollout of of the facial comparison system to all international airports across the United States.

Called Simplified Arrival, the process uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks already required for admission.

The system takes a picture of the arriving passenger. It compares that picture with the one of the passenger already on the US government’s database. That picture could be from various sources like the passport or visa.

If the pictures match, a CBP officer interviews them to interviewed by a CBP establish the purpose and intent of travel, and determine admissibility.

If the system cannot match the faces, the passenger goes through the traditional inspection process.

Biometric facial comparison versus facial recognition

CBP calls the process biometric facial comparison – not facial recognition.

Facial comparison and facial recognition are different ways to use the same biometric technology.

  • Facial comparison assumes two images of the same person are being compared
  • Facial recognition at border control takes a picture of the passenger and compares that live picture with the one on the passport

Biometric checks at air, land and sea borders

The CBP is using biometric facial comparison at:

  • 238 airports, including all 14 CBP Preclearance locations
  • 32 airports for departure
  • 13 seaports for use by cruise lines

The CBP also uses the facial comparison system at virtually all pedestrian and bus processing facilities along the northern and southern land borders of the USA.

Numbers and accuracy

The use of biometrics comes from the 9/11 Commission Report which instructed CBP to biometrically confirm visitors in and out of the U.S.

CBP says the Simplified Arrival process is more than 98% accurate. From June 2017 through November 2021, CBP processed more than 117 million passengers using biometric facial comparison across the air, land and sea borders. Since September 2018, it has identified more than 1,450 impostors.

That also means that 2% are inaccurate. 2% of 171 million is 3.4 million. So almost 1 million passengers a year are inaccurate.

N.B. Image credit: CBP

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