INS will roll out inspection kiosks at airports in fall
- By Peyman Pejman
- Sep 01, 1997
After four years of prototypes, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will roll
out the INS Passenger Accelerated Service System at selected airports by the end of the
INS officials expect INSPASS to decrease immigration inspectors' workloads because
low-risk passengers, such as frequent business travelers, will process their own
immigration clearances at system kiosks.
Using hand geometry data, INSPASS confirms the identity of travelers against an INS
database and clears them for exit. They never need to speak with an immigration inspector.
Stan Crocheron, project manager with INSPASS contractor Electronic Data Systems Corp.,
said the kiosks are built on 90-MHz Pentium PCs from Dell Computer Corp.
EDS used Microsoft Corp.'s Visual C++ to develop the INSPASS software that runs on the
kiosk PCs. Recognition Systems Inc. of Campbell, Calif., provided the hand geometry
reading devices. And card readers for each kiosk use software developed by Imaging
Automation Inc. of Merrimack, N.H.
INSPASS kiosks are connected via an Ethernet network to the Customs Service's data
center in Newington, Va. Customs maintains the INSPASS database on a Hitachi HDS Skyline
42 mainframe running Digital Equipment Corp.'s VMS and IBM Corp.'s DB2 database management
software, Customs officials said.
Tracy Day, INSPASS task manager at INS, said the agency is still testing nine kiosks at
Newark and John F. Kennedy airports, as well as at Pearson International Airport in
Toronto. Up to six more will be installed at Miami and Los Angeles airports starting this
So far, INS has spent $5 million on the program, and one agency official said another
$1 million might be needed.
INS officials acknowledge that they did not expect to run the INSPASS prototypes for
four years but blame the delay in rolling out the project on hardware and software
"The original system was designed in a hurry. The software code was wrong. The
hardware did not work, and the fingerprinting device that is now replaced with hand
geometry failed abysmally," Day said. INS officials said the agency had not set a
To use INSPASS, travelers must enroll in the program by applying in person at an INS
office. They must supply biographical information, and INS records their hand geometric
data. On approval, INS issues each traveler a magnetic-stripe card with a digital photo
and identification data on it. The cards are valid for one year and must be renewed
Enrollment is free now, but INS may charge a fee in the future, Day said.
At the airport, travelers insert the magnetic cards into the INSPASS kiosk card reader,
which checks the information on the cards. The travelers then put their hands on the
magnetic reader, which then verifies the travelers' identities against the INSPASS
Tracy Goebel, an assistant engineer with the INSPASS project office, said the software
attempts three times to register biometric information. If it fails, INSPASS refers a
traveler to an INS inspector.
Day said about 70,000 people from the United States and 20 other countries use INSPASS
now. The number is low because INS has chosen not to advertise the program until it is
fully operational, Day said. INS officials said potentially millions of passengers will
INS expects to install INSPASS kiosks at up to 20 more airports in the United States
and Canada. "This is mainly for airports that receive the greatest number of
travelers," Day said.
INSPASS would clear American travelers after checking information on the card and hand
geometry. Non-U.S. citizens will also be asked for airline name and flight number. INSPASS
will issue them an immigration slip which the traveler is supposed to hand back to
immigration inspectors on departure.