State Department looks to biometrics for border security

Of all the technology initiatives the State Department’s Office of Consular Systems and Technology has launched since it began its IT modernization program, it believes none will have the impact on mission performance and border security that the Advanced Multi-Modal Biometrics initiative will have.

As an example of its potential effects, CST Director Kirit Amin points to the system the Bureau of Consular Affairs will be setting up through 2012 to keep tabs on who leaves the U.S.


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“We are putting lots of rigor and resources into identifying and authenticating who enters the country, but then we don’t seem to care if or when they leave,” he said. The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology “was chartered after 9/11 to do that, but nearly 10 years on we still don’t do it.”

Amin said he believes the CA/CST biometrics initiative will provide an answer. He recently went to Afghanistan and India to help establish a special immigrant visa system that uses iris scanning. Visa applicants will have their identities verified in those countries with iris image capture, and the same system will be used to detect when they leave the U.S.

“Iris scanning technology is so powerful today that someone can be scanned up to 6 feet away, so we can do iris scanning in motion,” he said. “If someone is in the database, we can put a scanner on the jetways at airports, and so we know when visa holders leave the country.”

Amin is now working to convince State’s visa office that, with this initiative and the modernization of the IT infrastructure at the CA, this is a way to automate visitor exits from the U.S. and to establish with more certainty who remains in the country illegally.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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