Report: U.S. Visit needs database integration to succeed

Report: U.S. Visit needs database integration to succeed

The Homeland Security Department is hampered in its efforts to verify the identities of visitors at U.S. borders by the need to check multiple databases, inspector general Richard Skinner says in a new report.

'The time-consuming process that the Customs and Border Protection officers must use to query multiple database systems to verify travelers' identities and identify potential criminals and terrorists is particularly problematic at land points of entry because of the limited time available to conduct the queries,' the report concluded.

Multiple databases need to be integrated so Customs and Border Protection officers at land points of entry can validate the identity of visitors trying to enter the country, the IG said in the report, which the department released to the public this week.

The department's biometric identity verification program, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology initially will enroll about 2.7 percent of foreign visitors entering at land ports, the report said. DHS began initial use of the system late last year.

Noting that U.S. Visit is 'evolving rapidly,' the IG said it would issue no recommendations to enhance the program's implementation because such advice would be 'short-lived or premature.'

But the report highlighted several areas that 'could inhibit the program's effectiveness if not addressed.'

In addition to the need for integration of databases, Skinner expressed concern about the small percentage of visitors to be enrolled in U.S. Visit and the large number of exempt visitors. The report advises that travelers from countries not required to issue travel visas remain enrolled in U.S. Visit until technologies for verifying their passports are integrated into the system.

In several instances, the program office countered in its response to the report's findings that it has taken action or plans to take action that will mitigate these concerns.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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