[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 245 (Friday, December 19, 2008)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 77473-77491]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-30095]

Rules and Regulations
                                                Federal Register

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains regulatory documents 
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Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 245 / Friday, December 19, 2008 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 77473]]


8 CFR Parts 215 and 235

RIN 1601-AA35; RIN 1600-AA00

United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology 
Program (``US-VISIT''); Enrollment of Additional Aliens in US-VISIT; 
Authority To Collect Biometric Data From Additional Travelers and 
Expansion to the 50 Most Highly Trafficked Land Border Ports of Entry

AGENCY: National Protection and Programs Directorate, DHS.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the 
United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program 
(US-VISIT) in 2003 to verify the identities and travel documents of 
aliens. Aliens subject to US-VISIT may be required to provide 
fingerscans, photographs, or other biometric identifiers upon arrival 
at the United States. Currently, aliens arriving at a United States 
port of entry with a nonimmigrant visa, or those traveling without a 
visa as part of the Visa Waiver Program, are subject to US-VISIT 
requirements with certain limited exceptions. This final rule expands 
the population of aliens who will be subject to US-VISIT requirements 
to nearly all aliens, including lawful permanent residents. Exceptions 
include Canadian citizens seeking short-term admission for business or 
pleasure under B visas and individuals traveling on A and G visas, 
among others.
    On August 31, 2004, the Department promulgated an interim final 
rule that expanded the US-VISIT program to include aliens seeking 
admission under the Visa Waiver Program and travelers arriving at 
designated land border ports of entry. This rule also finalizes that 
interim final rule and addresses public comments received during that 
rulemaking action.

DATES: This final rule is effective January 18, 2009.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT: Helen deThomas, Senior Policy 
Analyst, US-VISIT, Department of Homeland Security, 1616 Fort Myer 
Drive, 18th Floor, Arlington, Virginia 22209, (202) 298-5200.


Table of Contents

I. Background
    A. Program Development
    B. Program Operation
    C. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
II. Comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
    A. Status of LPRs in US-VISIT
    1. Past Security Checks
    2. Relationship to United States Citizens
    3. Relationship to Canadian Citizens
    4. Travel Concerns in United States Air and Sea Ports
    5. Travel Concerns at Land Border Inspections
    6. Privacy Concerns of LPRs
    7. Ten-Print Enrollment
    B. Canadian Citizens
    1. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
    2. Preclearance Sites in Canada
    3. Canadians Requiring a Waiver of Inadmissibility
    4. Canadians in Transit through the United States
    5. Crew Members
    C. Mexican Citizens
    D. Operational Issues
    1. Clarification of Procedures for Returning Nonimmigrants
    2. REAL ID Act of 2005
    3. Advance Passenger Information System
    4. Connection to IDENT/IAFIS Interoperability
    5. Biometric Identifiers
    6. Age Restrictions
    7. Exemption of Individual Aliens
    E. Privacy and Information Retention
    F. International Conventions
    G. United States Citizen Voluntary Enrollment
    H. Economic Impact
    I. Attorney Representation
    J. Pacific Rim Issues
III. Comments on the August 31, 2004 Interim Rule
    A. General
    B. Outreach to the Affected Public
    C. Use of Interim Rules
    D. Facilities
    E. Interaction With Existing Programs
    G. Travel and Delays
    H. Health Risks
    I. Program Exemptions
    J. Privacy
    K. Fees
IV. Statutory and Regulatory Review
    A. Regulatory Flexibility Act
    B. Executive Order 12866--Regulatory Planning and Review
    C. Executive Order 13132--Federalism
    D. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act
    E. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act
    F. Trade Impact Assessment
    G. National Environmental Policy Act
    H. Paperwork Reduction Act
    I. Public Privacy Interests

I. Background

A. Program Development

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the United 
States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program (US-
VISIT) in accordance with several statutory mandates that collectively 
require DHS to create an integrated, automated biometric entry and exit 
system that records the arrival and departure of aliens; biometrically 
compares the identities of aliens; and authenticates travel documents 
presented by such aliens through the comparison of biometric 
identifiers. Aliens subject to US-VISIT may be required to provide 
fingerscans, photographs, or other biometric identifiers upon arrival 
in, or departure from, the United States. DHS views US-VISIT as a 
biometrically-driven program designed to enhance the security of United 
States citizens and visitors, while expediting legitimate travel and 
trade, ensuring the integrity of the immigration system, and protecting 
the privacy of our visitors' personal information.
    The statutes that authorize DHS to establish US-VISIT include, but 
are not limited to:
     Section 2(a) of the Immigration and Naturalization Service 
Data Management Improvement Act of 2000 (DMIA), Public Law 106-215, 114 
Stat. 337 (June 15, 2000);
     Section 205 of the Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act of 
2000, Public Law 106-396, 114 Stat. 1637, 1641 (Oct. 30, 2000);
     Section 414 of the Uniting and Strengthening America by 
Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct 
Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act), Public Law 107-56, 115 Stat. 
271, 353 (Oct. 26, 2001);
     Section 302 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry 
Reform Act of

[[Page 77474]]

2002 (Border Security Act) Public Law 107-173, 116 Stat. 543, 552 (May 
14, 2002);
     Section 7208 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism 
Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), Public Law 108-458, 118 Stat. 3638, 
3817 (December 17, 2004); and
     Section 711 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/
11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-52, 121 Stat. 266 (Aug. 3, 
    DHS provided detailed abstracts of the particular sections of the 
statutes that established and authorized the US-VISIT program in prior 
rulemakings and the proposed rule. See 69 FR 468 (Jan. 5, 2004); 69 FR 
53318 (Aug. 31, 2004); 71 FR 42605 (July 27, 2006); 73 FR 22065 (Apr. 
24, 2008).
    On January 5, 2004, DHS implemented the first phase of the US-VISIT 
biometric component by publishing an interim final rule in the Federal 
Register providing that aliens seeking admission into the United States 
through nonimmigrant visas must provide fingerprints, photographs, or 
other biometric identifiers upon arrival in, or departure from, the 
United States at air and sea ports of entry. 69 FR 468 (Jan. 5, 2004). 
Effective September 30, 2004, nonimmigrants seeking to enter the United 
States without visas under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) \1\ also are 
required to provide biometric information to US-VISIT. 69 FR 53318 
(Aug. 31, 2004). US-VISIT is now operational for entry at 115 airports, 
15 seaports, and 154 land border ports of entry. The following 
categories of aliens currently are expressly exempt from US-VISIT 
requirements by DHS regulations:

    \1\ Pursuant to section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality 
Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1187, the Secretary of Homeland Security (the 
Secretary), in consultation with the Secretary of State, may 
designate certain countries as Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries 
if certain requirements are met. Citizens and eligible nationals of 
VWP countries may apply for admission to the United States at a U.S. 
port of entry as nonimmigrant aliens for a period of ninety (90) 
days or less for business or pleasure without first obtaining a 
nonimmigrant visa, provided that they are otherwise eligible for 
admission under applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. 
The list of countries which currently are eligible to participate in 
VWP is set forth in 8 CFR 217.2(a).

     Aliens admitted on an A-1, A-2, C-3 (except for 
attendants, servants, or personal employees of accredited officials), 
G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 
     Children under the age of 14;
     Persons over the age of 79;
     Taiwan officials admitted on an E-1 visa and members of 
their immediate families admitted on E-1 visas.

8 CFR 235.1(f)(1)(iv).\2\ In addition, the Secretary of State and 
Secretary of Homeland Security may jointly exempt classes of aliens 
from US-VISIT. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, as well 
as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, also may exempt any 
individual from US-VISIT. 8 CFR 235.1(f)(1)(iv)(B).

    \2\ Effective January 23, 2007, 8 CFR 235(d)(1)(iv) was 
redesignated as 8 CFR 235.1(f)(1)(iv). 71 FR 68412 (Nov. 24, 2006).

B. Program Operation

    The US-VISIT program, through U.S. Customs and Border Protection 
(CBP) officers, collects biometrics (digital fingerprints and 
photographs) from aliens seeking admission to the United States. 73 FR 
22066. The US-VISIT program also receives biometric data collected by 
Department of State (DOS) consular offices in the visa application 
process. DHS checks biometric data on those applying for admission to 
the United States against government databases to identify suspected 
terrorists, known criminals, or individuals who have previously 
violated U.S. immigration laws. These procedures assist DHS in 
determining whether an alien seeking to enter the United States is, in 
fact, admissible to the United States under existing law. Biometric 
data collected by US-VISIT assists DOS consular officers in the 
verification of the identity of a visa applicant and the determination 
of the applicant's eligibility for a visa. DHS's ability to establish 
and verify the identity of an alien and to determine whether that alien 
is admissible to the United States is critical to the security of the 
United States and the enforcement of the laws of the United States. By 
linking the alien's biometric information with the alien's travel 
documents, DHS reduces the likelihood that another individual could 
assume the identity of an alien already recorded in US-VISIT or use an 
existing recorded identity to gain admission to the United States.
    From its inception on January 5, 2004 to the present, US-VISIT has 
biometrically screened more than 130 million aliens at the time they 
applied for admission to the United States. DHS has taken adverse 
action against more than 3,800 aliens based on information obtained 
through the US-VISIT biometric screening process. By ``adverse 
action,'' DHS means that the alien was:
     Arrested pursuant to a criminal arrest warrant;
     Denied admission, placed in expedited removal, or returned 
to the country of last departure; or
     Otherwise detained and denied admission to the United 
    In addition, by quickly verifying identity and validity of 
documents, US-VISIT has expedited the travel of millions of legitimate 
entrants. Expanding the population of aliens required subject to US-
VISIT requirements will allow DHS to identify additional aliens who are 
inadmissible or who otherwise may present security and criminal 
threats, including those who may be traveling improperly on previously 
established identities.

C. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    On July 27, 2006, DHS published a notice of proposed rulemaking 
(NPRM or proposed rule) proposing to expand the population of aliens 
subject to US-VISIT requirements. The NPRM proposed to require 
enrollment of any alien in US-VISIT, with the exception of those 
Canadian citizens applying for admission as B-1/B-2 visitors for 
business or pleasure, and those specifically exempted under DHS 
regulations. Under the proposed rule, the following classes of aliens, 
among others, would become subject to US-VISIT requirements:
     Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). \3\

    \3\ The authorizing statutes, which all refer to ``aliens'' 
without differentiation, support the inclusion of lawful permanent 
residents (LPRs) into the US-VISIT program. See section 101(a)(3) of 
the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, 8 U.S.C. 
1101(a)(3) (``The term `alien' means any person not a citizen or 
national of the United States'').

     Aliens seeking admission on immigrant visas.
     Refugees and asylees.
     Certain Canadian citizens who receive a Form I-94 at 
inspection or who require a waiver of inadmissibility.
     Aliens paroled into the United States.
     Aliens applying for admission under the Guam Visa Waiver 

DHS received 69 comments on the 2004 interim final rule during the 30-
day notice and comment period. DHS has considered the comments received 
in the development of this final rule. This final rule adopts the 
proposed rule without change.
    This rule also addresses comments received on the August 31, 2004, 
interim final rule and finalizes that rule. For ease of reference, DHS 
responds separately to the comments submitted on the interim rule and 
the proposed rule.

[[Page 77475]]

II. Comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    DHS received 71 comments on the July 27, 2006, notice of proposed 
rulemaking. Some comments were positive, while other comments were 
negative or asked that the regulation be withdrawn. The comments raised 
a number of issues, including the relationship with other DHS 
initiatives, suggesting that US-VISIT should not proceed until other 
initiatives have been completed. One commenter noted that there have 
been several GAO reports that have been critical of US-VISIT and DHS 
has addressed those concerns as discussed in the published reports. DHS 
continues to address all of these concerns and recommendations as US-
VISIT is developed. The most common issue raised by the comments was 
the inclusion of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in US-VISIT 
enrollment and verification.
    Some comments were very general, such as those suggesting that DHS 
concentrate on removing illegal aliens present in the United States. 
DHS believes that US-VISIT plays an important role in preventing 
illegal immigration in the first place by requiring biometric 
information from travelers seeking to enter the United States. DHS 
continues to concentrate on intercepting aliens who are in the United 
States without authorization. These priorities do not conflict.
    Similarly, a commenter asked how DHS is benchmarking or measuring 
the success of US-VISIT. DHS provides performance measures to the 
Executive Office of the President and to the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) using OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). Some of 
the factors included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 PART assessment were: 
Cumulative and annual percentage baseline cost and schedule overrun on 
US-VISIT Increment Development and Deployment, Reduction in Review Time 
for Privacy Redress, Ratio of Adverse Actions to Total Biometric Watch 
List Hits at Ports of Entry, Percentage of Exit Records Matched to 
Entry Records, and other factors. OMB rated US-VISIT as ``moderately 
effective.'' DHS accepts OMB's view on these performance measures and 
is taking steps to achieve better results. The comment, however, does 
not raise issues relating to the proposed rule.

A. Status of LPRs in US-VISIT

1. Past Security Checks
    Thirty-two commenters urged that LPRs be exempt from US-VISIT, 
based on their status as LPRs, because they have previously been 
subject to significant security checks in order to obtain LPR status. 
Similarly, some commenters stated that there is no evidence that LPRs 
pose a threat to the level that they ``should be grouped with'' 
nonimmigrants who are subject to US-VISIT. One commenter stated that 
DHS has a flawed process in that it is willing to trust in an LPR's 
first use of US-VISIT for initial capture of fingerprints, rather than 
compare against the records captured during the initial adjustment of 
status process.
    DHS agrees that LPRs receive an extensive background check to 
become LPRs, including a criminal background check using the 
applicant's fingerprints. United States Citizenship and Immigration 
Services (USCIS) conducts an extensive investigation prior to granting 
adjustment of status to that of an LPR, and the DOS undertakes 
significant investigation of an alien applying for an immigrant visa. 
Also, DHS agrees that there is not necessarily evidence to support the 
notion that LPRs--as a class--pose risks not posed by nonimmigrants--as 
a class.
    DHS does not, however, believe that this point is entirely relevant 
for the purposes of this rule for several significant reasons. DHS and 
DOJ continue to uncover significant immigration document fraud, 
particularly in relation to permanent resident cards (Form I-551). 
Common examples include giving or selling a permanent resident card to 
someone else, altering a lost permanent resident card, and using a 
fraudulently created permanent resident card. DHS has substantially 
increased the security features on permanent resident cards in recent 
years, but security features are not foolproof.
    The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), predecessor to a 
number of DHS functions, issued resident alien cards without expiration 
dates until 1989. Permanent resident cards issued after 1989 are valid 
only for ten years. Additionally, INS upgraded the Form I-551 
significantly, including more secure features, in September 1997. 62 FR 
44146 (Aug. 19, 1997). Many LPRs possess permanent resident cards that 
have limited security features and no expiration date. Trafficking in 
these cards is inhibited by the fact that the card must appear to be 
aged to the date of its issue, but otherwise these cards provide 
limited security from assumed identity. DHS is taking steps to recall 
all such cards. 72 FR 46922 (Aug. 22, 2007).
    Including LPRs within the scope of US-VISIT processing will enable 
DHS to detect, deter, and act against those who attempt fraud through 
the biometric match of the person presenting the Form I-551 against the 
record of the person to whom that card was issued. Accordingly, the 
inclusion of LPRs within US-VISIT is consistent with other security 
programs initiated by DHS.
    LPRs are still subject to entry, documentation, and removability 
requirements to the United States. LPRs are aliens. See sections 101, 
212, 237 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101, 1182, 1227) and 8 CFR 235.1(b), 
(f)(1)(i). Although LPRs are not technically regarded as seeking 
admission to the United States if they are returning from a stay of 
less than 180 days under section 101(a)(13)(C)(ii) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 
1101(a)(13)(C)(ii)), they remain subject to the admissibility 
requirements of section 212 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1182) because of their 
status as an alien and not a United States citizen. Accordingly, DHS 
must determine whether an LPR is admissible to the United States 
whenever the LPR arrives at a port of entry, as well as determine 
whether an LPR is removable from the United States based on intervening 
facts since the time LPR status was granted, and initial background 
checks conducted, which may have been many years ago. US-VISIT enables 
DHS to determine if an LPR seeking entry has been convicted of any 
crime that would render him or her subject to removal from the United 
States. In addition, DHS is concerned about attempts by terrorist and 
transnational criminal organizations to recruit LPRs, who are perceived 
to be subject to less scrutiny in travel. See section 101(a)(13)(C)(v) 
of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(13)(C)(v). Accordingly, the processing of 
LPRs through US-VISIT serves an important purpose: Identifying aliens 
who pose a security risk, have a disqualifying criminal or immigration 
violation, or are otherwise inadmissible at the time that they present 
themselves for entry into the United States as LPRs.
    DHS compares the fingerprints collected as part of the adjustment 
of status or immigrant visa process with the fingerscans of the LPR 
seeking entry, when those fingerprints are available in DHS's Automated 
Biometric Identification System (IDENT). The addition of data from 
adjustment of status and immigrant visa applications to the IDENT 
system will substantially reduce the initial enrollment of LPRs, but 
LPRs, as aliens, should be enrolled in US-VISIT.
    Finally, the statutes underlying the development of US-VISIT have 
never distinguished between immigrants and nonimmigrants. For the 
purpose of data collection and biometric comparison,

[[Page 77476]]

the law requires the collection of data from all aliens.
2. Relationship to United States Citizens
    Five commenters suggested that LPRs should not be subject to US-
VISIT because they are so similar to United States citizens, and United 
States citizens are not subject to US-VISIT by the terms of this rule. 
DHS does not agree that the difference between an LPR and a United 
States citizen is minor. The INA defines the term ``alien'' as ``any 
person not a citizen or national of the United States.'' See section 
101(a)(3) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(3)).
    Similarly, some commenters suggested that the distinction between 
LPRs and United States citizens in terms of US-VISIT processing should 
be ``all or nothing.'' In other words, these commenters stated that 
either both LPRs and United States citizens should be subject to US-
VISIT, or neither should. Generally, these comments tend to suggest 
that passports are just as likely to be used fraudulently as permanent 
resident cards and that there are no significant legal differences 
between LPRs and United States citizens. A corollary argument was made 
by other commenters: DHS should increase significantly the security 
features of the Form I-551 in order to make them equivalent to 
passports in terms of security.
    As a legal matter, LPRs, although allowed to stay and work in the 
United States permanently, are still ``aliens'' and subject to 
immigration law. Unlike United States citizens,
     The status of LPRs can be rescinded under section 246 of 
the INA (8 U.S.C. 1256) and LPRs can be removed from the United States 
under section 237 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1227); \4\

    \4\ Even after an LPR is naturalized as a United States citizen, 
such naturalization can be revoked under section 340 of the INA (8 
U.S.C. 1451). [Suggest adding language to make clear there are very 
limited bases for revocation. Otherwise, this may be misleading.]

     LPRs are required to acquire and carry evidence of their 
status (Form I-551) and replace it when it is lost or expires under 
section 264 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1304) and 8 CFR 264.5(b);
     LPRs must present specific documentation as a condition 
for admission and re-admission to the United States under section 211 
of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1181) and 8 CFR 211.1(a);
     LPRs must notify DHS of each change of address and new 
address within ten days of the date of the change of address under 
section 265(a) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1305(a)) and 8 CFR 265.1;
     LPRs may be deemed to have abandoned their status when 
outside of the United States for more than one year, unless they obtain 
a re-entry permit, in line with the documentary requirements at 8 CFR 
211.1(a) and (b)(3); and
     LPRs must apply for naturalization to obtain citizenship, 
demonstrating good moral character and at least five years of 
continuous residence under section 316 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1427), as 
well as an understanding of the English language and a knowledge and 
understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles 
and form of government of the United States under section 312 of the 
INA (8 U.S.C. 1423).
    These requirements, and others, clearly differentiate LPRs from 
United States citizens. Moreover, LPR status does not grant an alien a 
variety of benefits accorded to a citizen of the United States, 
including the most fundamental right to vote for federally elected 
officials. See 18 U.S.C. 611 (criminal penalties for alien voting). 
Aliens, whether immigrants or nonimmigrants, may not serve on a federal 
jury. See 28 U.S.C. 1861 (declaration of policy that citizens sit on 
juries), 1862 (discrimination against citizens on account of race, 
color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status prohibited 
for jury service), 1865(b)(1) (requirement of citizenship for jury 
service); 18 U.S.C. 243 (discrimination on basis of race or color 
against citizens prohibited in jury selection). Accordingly, obtaining 
LPR status is not equivalent to citizenship and DHS is not constrained 
to treat aliens in LPR status and citizens alike.
    Finally, DHS has a specific and unique responsibility with respect 
to ensuring that LPRs comply with the requirements of their status. DHS 
does not accept the argument that LPR status is so equivalent to United 
States citizenship that US-VISIT processing must be the same or similar 
for both. DHS recognizes that most LPRs do not pose a threat to the 
United States and do not commit crimes that would subject them to 
removal, and has accommodated the free flow of travel by LPRs by 
instructing them to seek inspection at airports by joining the ``United 
States Citizen'' inspection line. This accommodation does not mean that 
LPRs are, or will otherwise be treated as, United States citizens.
    DHS is taking steps to improve the security of permanent resident 
cards, but that does not necessarily mean that they should remain 
exempt from contemporaneous biometric identification under US-VISIT. As 
noted above, DHS has proposed to invalidate all permanent resident 
cards without an expiration date; this action will facilitate upgrading 
card security and evidence of LPR status legitimacy and security. 72 FR 
46922 (Aug. 22, 2007). US-VISIT is only one step in the ongoing efforts 
by DHS to improve the security of the United States and enforce the 
immigration laws of the United States.
    DHS believes that US-VISIT creates better protections against the 
fraudulent use of immigration documentation than does mere document 
examination, and does so in a way that is cost-effective. Using US-
VISIT, a CBP officer can match an LPR's biometric features against a 
database where those features are stored based on the processing done 
to obtain the benefit of LPR status (either an immigrant visa or an 
adjustment of status application). This greatly diminishes the 
possibility that a Form I-551 can be used fraudulently to obtain entry 
to the United States because there is an automated comparison to the 
biometric characteristics and an examination of the card itself. Thus, 
the security features on the Form I-551 itself are extremely helpful, 
but it is the biometric checks that provide the best security against 
immigration fraud, as this also prevents legitimate cards from being 
used by those to whom a card was not issued. DHS believes that because 
it has the biometric data collected for LPRs and the capability to 
technically, quickly, and easily compare those data to a person seeking 
to enter a port of entry, DHS has a responsibility to use those data to 
ensure that the person seeking admission is using his or her 
documentation legitimately.
3. Relationship to Canadian Citizens
    Twelve commenters suggested that it was unfair to exempt Canadian 
tourists from US-VISIT, but require LPRs to be enrolled and processed 
by US-VISIT. Another commenter opposed LPR enrollment in US-VISIT, but 
supported the enrollment of all Canadian citizens regardless of the 
purpose of their trip to the United States.
    DHS understands that the ``staged'' implementation of US-VISIT can 
carry the perception of unfairness. However, the distinction between 
LPRs and Canadian temporary visitors is not based on the notion that 
one is inherently more of a ``threat'' than the other. Logistical 
difficulties in implementation of biometric checks at primary 
inspection in the land border environment and foreign policy issues 
govern the continued exemption of

[[Page 77477]]

Canadians visitors for business or pleasure for the time being.
    All LPRs and Canadians arriving at land border ports of entry are 
treated the same--those who are sent to secondary inspection are 
processed through US-VISIT; those who are inspected at primary 
inspection are not. Aliens requiring a Form I-94 (select Canadians, in 
this case) will actually be referred to secondary inspection more often 
than LPRs, because they must secure a new Form I-94, in most cases, 
every six to eight months in addition to those instances where such 
referrals may be made for any other reason. In some instances, such as 
classifications with extended duration of status, a single Form I-94 
may be valid for an extended period, those aliens must renew their Form 
I-94 at least every six to eight months. This result is simply a 
function of the need for additional technological advancements in order 
to build an operational system that can function as a biometric entry 
system without significantly impairing the efficiency of inspections.
4. Travel Concerns in United States Air and Sea Ports
    Seven commenters mentioned the current structure of most United 
States airports and seaports, where ``United States Citizens/LPRs'' are 
directed into one inspection line and ``Visitors'' are directed to a 
different inspection line. They suggested that placing LPRs in the 
``Visitors'' line merely for the sake of US-VISIT processing would 
cause significant delays for them and could separate families traveling 
together. DHS has deployed US-VISIT equipment in virtually all lanes at 
United States airports and seaports where US-VISIT is functional. This 
deployment allows CBP the flexibility to quickly change ``Citizen/LPR'' 
lanes to ``Visitors'' lanes and vice versa, as there is a need to 
balance and rebalance the time spent in the queue and process all 
arrivals efficiently and effectively. Because of almost universal lane 
availability, DHS will be able to process LPRs and others in the 
existing lane determinations. LPRs will remain within the ``United 
States Citizen/LPR'' lanes and will not be shifted into the 
``Visitors'' lane unless such action could expedite processing. 
Additionally, LPRs are processed in the same lanes as United States 
citizen lanes, in many instances, to process entire families more 
expeditiously; DHS continues to recognize and attempt to accommodate 
families traveling together.
    One commenter stated that this would cause delays for United States 
citizens, as the lanes dedicated to LPRs and United States citizens 
will slow down. DHS will monitor delays in processing carefully, but 
does not believe that US-VISIT will add to such delays. The United 
States averages roughly 33 million air/sea port arriving United States 
citizen travelers per year and approximately 4.4 million air/sea port 
arriving LPR travelers per year. Further, many ports of entry use 
dedicated ``United States Passport only'' lanes even within the 
``United States Citizen/LPR'' lanes. DHS believes that the application 
of US-VISIT to LPRs will not impact United States citizens' travel to a 
significant degree.
    One commenter questioned whether, given that DHS does not currently 
possess electronically searchable fingerprints on all LPRs, LPRs would 
be required to provide a full set of ten fingerprints (or ``10 
prints'') through US-VISIT at the point in which US-VISIT transfers to 
10-print enrollment. DHS began transitioning to 10-print devices and 
capture at primary inspection in December 2007.
    The process for LPR enrollment and verification will be the same as 
for other aliens. If entering the United States at a port with 
available 10-print devices, LPRs will be enrolled though the 10-print 
enrollment process. Thus, an alien will need to submit 10 fingerprints 
only one time (whether at a port of entry or at a USCIS Application 
Support Center), and all subsequent times, in whatever environment, the 
alien will provide less than 10 fingerprints for verification. DHS will 
possess a higher percentage of 10 prints in its biometric database for 
LPRs, because LPRs generally must renew their permanent resident card 
every 10 years and are required to submit 10 fingerprints as part of 
the renewal process.
5. Travel Concerns at Land Border Inspections
    One commenter implied that the treatment of LPRs is unfair due to 
lack of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in the Form I-551. 
This comment refers to a DHS proof of concept program in which five 
land border ports of entry have used RFID technology to track exits and 
pre-position information on entry for nonimmigrants. See 70 FR 44934 
(Aug. 4, 2005). This proof of concept has now been concluded. While 
Form I-551 does not provide, at this time, an RFID chip, treatment of 
non-immigrants, immigrants, and citizens does not, and has never, 
required parity.
    DHS agrees that documentation issued to different aliens should be 
consistent to the extent practical and to the extent that consistency 
serves security and efficiency goals. DHS is examining integration of 
data processes to provide both better security and better efficiency. 
Accordingly, DHS will consider additional opportunities to include LPRs 
in these initiatives in addition to United States citizens and Canadian 
    LPRs at the land border, however, are less likely than nonimmigrant 
aliens to be referred to secondary inspection as discussed above. LPRs 
will be referred to secondary inspection only when a CBP officer in 
primary inspection determines that further investigation is required 
before admission, as is the current practice. There is no reason to 
believe that LPRs, as a result of the promulgation of this rule, will 
be referred to secondary inspection more frequently or will spend 
significantly more time while in secondary inspection. Nonimmigrant 
aliens, on the other hand, are referred to secondary inspection 
routinely at least every six to eight months to renew their Form I-94.
6. Privacy Concerns of LPRs
    Five commenters suggested that promulgation of the rule as proposed 
would violate, in a very generic way, the privacy rights of LPRs. One 
commenter objected to the retention of travel information on LPRs.
    DHS complies with the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a. In addition, the 
Homeland Security Act of 2002, in creating DHS, established a Privacy 
Officer who is tasked with assuring full compliance with the Privacy 
Act, advising the Secretary and DHS on the privacy of personal 
information, and conducting privacy impact assessments on DHS 
regulations. See Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296, 
tit. II, Sec.  222, 116 Stat. 2135, 2155 (Nov. 25, 2002) (as amended, 
found at 6 U.S.C. 142). DHS has published the privacy impact analysis 
for this rule. See 71 FR 42653. DHS continues to be concerned about the 
privacy of all persons in the United States and compliance with the 
laws affecting privacy.
    However, the US-VISIT programmatic statutes all refer to ``aliens'' 
without differentiation. DHS believes the intent of these statutes is 
clear: LPRs are to be included within US-VISIT as much as practical and 
consistent with other legal obligations relating to travel documents 
issued by the United States, including those issued by DHS and DOS. 
Most LPRs travel internationally on DHS-issued documents; therefore, 
LPRs are directly impacted by these requirements. Additionally, DHS has 
a legitimate need for maintaining some information on LPR travel. DHS 
has collected travel information on LPRs for many years, originally as 
part of the

[[Page 77478]]

Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) that was transferred 
to DHS in 2003. See 66 FR 52984, at 53029 (Notice of Privacy Act 
systems of record). Per DHS regulations, an LPR can be deemed to have 
abandoned his or her status if he or she stays outside of the United 
States for longer than one year. See 8 CFR 211.1(a), (b)(3) (imposing 
certain documentary requirements or waiver applications on LPRs only if 
returning from a temporary absence of less than a year).
7. Ten-Print Enrollment
    One commenter inquired whether LPRs for whom DHS has no electronic 
biometric record will have ten-print or two-print fingerscan enrollment 
upon being processed in US-VISIT in the primary lane. DHS began 
transitioning to a ten-print enrollment process in December 2007. These 
processes will not be limited to LPRs, however, and DHS is confident 
that it can use technology to minimize the potential for delay as a 
result of the change.

B. Canadian Citizens

1. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
    The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires that the 
Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of 
State, develop and implement a plan to require travelers entering the 
United States to present a passport, other document, or combination of 
documents which is ``deemed by the Secretary of Homeland Security to be 
sufficient to denote identity and citizenship'' by June 1, 2009. See 
section 7209 of IRTPA, Public Law 108-458, 118 Stat. at 3823, as 
amended by the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 
2007, Public Law 109-295, sec. 546, 120 Stat. 1355, 1386 (Oct. 4, 
2006), found at 8 U.S.C. 1185 note. DHS and DOS have implemented this 
requirement effective January 23, 2007, for air ports of entry. 70 FR 
52037 (Sept. 1, 2005) (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, ANPRM); 71 
FR 46155 (Aug. 11, 2006) (same, NPRM); 71 FR 68412 (Nov. 24, 2006) 
(same; air ports of entry; Final Rule).
    One commenter to this rule asked whether the Canadian border issues 
that have been addressed through WHTI were being taken into account in 
the promulgation of this rule. DHS has been working very closely with 
Canadian authorities in order to secure better the border between the 
United States and Canada without sacrificing the close ties between the 
two countries. In March 2005, the Administration launched the Security 
and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) as a trilateral effort with Canada and 
Mexico premised on the mutual reinforcement of our security and 
economic prosperity. See http://www.spp.gov/Security_Fact_Sheet.pdf. 
Through this effort and others, the United States and Canada are 
engaged in greater cooperation and information sharing, while being 
mindful of the privacy laws of each country. Together, the United 
States and Canada are exploring ways to facilitate legitimate travel 
and trade while assuring the security of our border. All of these 
efforts were considered in the promulgation of this rule.
    Another commenter suggested that the NPRM fails to consider the 
impact of WHTI and this US-VISIT expansion at the same time. This rule 
is being implemented on January 18, 2009, and the first phase of WHTI 
(requiring a passport or other document to demonstrate identity and 
citizenship at air ports of entry) began on January 23, 2007. The 
second phase of WHTI (land borders and sea ports) was published as a 
final rule on April 3, 2008, and will be effective June 1, 2009. 73 FR 
    This expansion of US-VISIT procedures deals with the type of 
immigration processing certain aliens will require at all ports of 
entry, with the differences described elsewhere based on the type of 
port of entry. One of the main reasons for exempting Canadians who do 
not require a separate admissibility determination through Form I-94 in 
this rulemaking is to coordinate the timing of the WHTI land border 
port of entry procedures, before DHS can determine what, if any, 
additional steps should be taken for US-VISIT processing of these 
aliens at land border ports of entry. DHS and DOS are carefully 
coordinating the implementation of multiple initiatives to improve the 
security of the United States and ensure efficient border management.
2. Preclearance Sites in Canada
    Three commenters expressed concern that the preclearance sites in 
Canada would see a dramatic increase in the numbers of aliens subject 
to US-VISIT and be unable to handle the increase in time and traffic. 
One commenter also noted that unlike the traditional environment of 
immigration processing where the flights have already landed, in the 
preclearance environment, persons are trying to board a flight before 
it is too late, and that, therefore, the delays would be much more 
    DHS acknowledges the concerns with preclearance flight locations in 
Canada. However, DHS notes that Canadians not requiring visas--which 
include those transiting the United States or applying for admission to 
the United States as visitors for business or pleasure--are not 
required to be processed in US-VISIT. Accordingly, the increased volume 
of preclearance travelers in US-VISIT may not be as high as the 
commenters suggest. Nonetheless, DHS has existing mitigation strategies 
in effect to respond to overcrowded inspection facilities. DHS will pay 
close attention to these preclearance locations to determine whether 
implementing these strategies is appropriate, especially during the 
first few weeks after this final rule becomes effective.
3. Canadians Requiring a Waiver of Inadmissibility
    One commenter expressed concern about Canadian B-1/B-2 travelers 
who frequently travel over the land border and require a waiver of 
inadmissibility under section 212 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1182) to be 
admitted to the United States. DHS is currently considering alternative 
administrative processes for simplified handling of waivers and their 
application to US-VISIT, but until DHS implements these processes, DHS 
will maintain the same procedures for Canadian B-1/B-2 travelers 
requiring a waiver of inadmissibility as it has with all Canadians 
requiring a waiver of inadmissibility and given a multiple entry Form 
I-94: US-VISIT secondary processing every six months or when sent to 
secondary by a CBP officer. Canadian B-1/B-2 applicants for admission 
requiring a waiver of admissibility will not be required to be 
processed in US-VISIT every time they cross a United States land 
4. Canadians in Transit Through the United States
    Three commenters raised concerns about Canadians in transit through 
the United States, two in the land context and one in the air context. 
In the air context, one commenter suggested that Canadian B-1/B-2 
travelers will be exempt from US-VISIT processing if flying to the 
United States, but not if they are flying through the United States. 
DHS agrees with the commenter that this would be an illogical result if 
this were in fact what had been proposed. The proposed rule provided 
that Canadians are subject to US-VISIT procedures only if they are 
required to obtain a visa or be issued a Form I-94. Typically, 
Canadians may transit through the United States by air without a visa 
and are not required to obtain a Form I-94. See 8 CFR 212.1(a)(1) (no 
visa required); 8 CFR 235.1(h)(1)(i) (no Form I-94 required). Canadians 
needing a waiver of inadmissibility are required to obtain a visa even 
if transiting the

[[Page 77479]]

United States. Thus, only these Canadians transiting the United States 
but needing such a waiver and visa are subject to US-VISIT as a result 
of publication of this final rule. Accordingly, the number of Canadians 
transiting the United States by air who will be subject to US-VISIT is 
    In the land context, another commenter suggested essentially the 
same point, explaining a scenario in which a Canadian truck driver 
entering the United States as a visitor for business (and who is thus 
visa-exempt) would not be subject to US-VISIT processing, but where the 
same person transiting through the United States to Mexico would be 
subject to US-VISIT processing. The commenter conceded that this was 
not currently a concern due to restrictions in hauling cargo between 
the three countries, but that it could be a concern in the future. DHS 
does not believe this scenario requires US-VISIT processing for the 
same reason as in the air environment. The driver in the scenario posed 
above--a truck driver taking cargo from Canada to Mexico--would not 
require a visa to enter the United States, nor would he be issued a 
Form I-94, regardless of whether he is ultimately driving to Mexico. 
Thus, transiting aliens who do not otherwise require US-VISIT 
processing would not be subject to US-VISIT processing as a result of 
this final rule.
5. Crew Members
    Two commenters suggested that Canadian airline crew members be 
exempt from US-VISIT requirements. These commenters stated that crew 
members are subject to significant levels of scrutiny to begin with, 
including checks made by Transport Canada and placement on the Master 
Crew lists provided to CBP 48 hours prior to departure. They also 
stated that the same reasoning applied to the continuing exemption for 
Canadian B1/B2 travelers appears to apply here, as each group is 
staying for a limited period of time. Finally, they said that any 
security benefits from these checks are insignificant compared to the 
costs that Canadian airlines would incur as a result of the inclusion 
of crew members in US-VISIT.
    In promulgating this final rule, DHS is attempting to treat all 
aliens as equally as operationally possible in US-VISIT processing. In 
other words, crew from all other foreign carriers (D visa holders) 
currently are required to be processed in US-VISIT, and in nearly all 
airports there is a special crew lane designated especially for air 
crew members' use. Based on observations from the four years that US-
VISIT has been operational, DHS does not believe that any delay for 
crew travel has been so significant as to justify continuing to not 
process airline crews through US-VISIT based on country of origin or 
nationality. Second, DHS does not believe that the connection to 
Canadian B1/B2 travelers is equivalent, as the exemption for those 
travelers is meant to account for the unique operational concerns of 
the land border environment. In addition, the extra checks that are 
mentioned by the commenter are biographic checks, and not the biometric 
checks that US-VISIT processing would provide.
    However, the commenter also identifies an inequity faced by 
Canadian crew with respect to biometric exit procedures. Because of the 
large number of United States preclearance sites in Canada, Canadian 
airlines often fly into United States domestic airport terminals. The 
commenter states that if one of these airlines were to fly into a 
United States airport where biometric exit processing were operational, 
the Canadian crewmember would be required to leave the domestic 
terminal, go to the international terminal, record his exit 
biometrically, and then return to the domestic terminal for the next 
    DHS agrees with the commenter that under these specific 
circumstances it may be unreasonable for Canadian airline crew members 
to biometrically register their departure. The exit pilot program has 
been terminated and, therefore, no pilots are being required to provide 
to register their departure.

C. Mexican Citizens

    Two commenters stated there should be no continued exemption for 
Mexican citizens, as the BCC and Form I-551 are the same. Currently, 
Mexican citizens who use a BCC to meet the documentary requirements of 
8 CFR 212.1, if staying in the United States for 72 hours or less 
within a specified distance from the United States/Mexico border, are 
not required to obtain Form I-94 and, therefore, are not subject to US-
VISIT. See 8 CFR 235.1(h)(1)(iii), (v). The commenter is correct that, 
from a security standpoint, BCCs are equivalent to Forms I-551 carried 
by LPRs. DHS anticipates that procedures for interacting with these two 
populations will be very similar. At air or sea ports of entry, both 
populations will be biometrically checked on every encounter. At land 
borders, under this final rule, LPRs and BCC holders will be checked as 
appropriate by CBP officers. This final rule adds LPRs to the list of 
travelers who, upon being referred to secondary inspection at land 
border ports of entry, will be processed in US-VISIT. Thus, this rule 
places LPRs and BCC holders in equivalent circumstances.

D. Operational Issues

1. Clarification of Procedures for Returning Nonimmigrants
    One commenter professed confusion with the proposed regulation's 
treatment of nonimmigrants returning through a land border port of 
entry, suggesting that DHS should clearly state whether it plans to 
conduct US-VISIT processing of all returning nonimmigrants arriving at 
a land port who, during primary inspection, present a valid visa and a 
current, multiple-entry Form I-94.
    Nonimmigrant visa holders have been subject to US-VISIT processing 
in secondary inspection at the 50 most trafficked land border ports of 
entry since December 2004, and at all land border ports of entry since 
December 2005. These procedures have been in place for three years, and 
the additional alien classifications added by this final rule do not 
change any existing land border procedures. Nonimmigrant aliens 
requiring completion of a Form I-94 may be referred to secondary 
inspection at any time at the discretion of the CBP officer at primary 
inspection, but at least every six to eight months for renewal of the 
Form I-94, regardless of the time remaining on the validity of the 
document or whether it is issued for duration of status (D/S). Forms I-
94 issued following US-VISIT processing are marked with the date on 
which the alien's period of admission expires (or duration of status, 
if applicable) and the date on which the person was processed in US-
VISIT. At primary inspection, the alien is referred to secondary 
inspection for US-VISIT processing if six to eight months have passed 
since the last time the alien was processed in US-VISIT (depending on 
the level of activity at the port of entry at that moment, the capacity 
to efficiently process the alien, and other factors). If no adverse 
information is found relating to that alien, the alien is admitted 
under the existing terms of the original Form I-94.
    The commenter characterizes this procedure as ``recurrent 
readjudication of previously approved nonimmigrant status.'' DHS does 
not agree with this characterization. Under the INA, each nonimmigrant 
alien applies for admission to the United States by approaching a port 
of entry and presenting identification for inspection, and DHS 
determines whether that nonimmigrant alien is admissible to the United 
States. See sections 101(a)(13),

[[Page 77480]]

212(a), 214, and 235(a)(3) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(13), 1182(a), 
1184, and 1225(a)(3). DHS is not persuaded that requiring some 
nonimmigrant aliens to undergo an abbreviated review every six to eight 
months at the land border ports of entry is somehow illegitimate or 
unfair to the nonimmigrant alien who is being inspected and admitted, 
or denied admission. The DHS policy of requiring the alien to be 
processed every six to eight months responds to the precise problem 
raised by the commenter--a CBP officer has a two-month ``gap'' in which 
to refer multiple entry aliens to secondary inspection for US-VISIT 
processing in order to best select a time that would be the least 
burdensome on the alien. DHS feels strongly that the balancing test 
here--the need for additional security and an additional tool to combat 
immigration fraud against what is, at worst, a minor inconvenience to 
the alien--favors the proposed policy.
    The commenter suggested also that the proposed regulation would 
inject uncertainty and inefficiency into the process, as a Canadian 
would need to carry the entire documentation for their visa 
classification, as well as payroll records and employment records to 
prove whatever the examining officer might decide is required to 
establish maintenance of status. DHS policy does not currently require 
such complex presentations on existing Forms I-94, nor does DHS 
anticipate changing this policy as a result of this final rule. 
Experience has established that the program is not being executed in 
the way the commenter fears. Under the INA, an alien may be required to 
present all of the appropriate evidence necessary to establish 
admissibility at any inspection or at any time. See e.g. section 264(e) 
of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1304(e).
2. Real ID Act of 2005
    One commenter suggested that the expansion of alien categories in 
US-VISIT, in conjunction with the REAL ID Act of 2005, would have an 
impact on the states' relationship with the federal government under 
Executive Order 13132 because the REAL ID Act will require states to 
issue driver's licenses with effective dates that do not exceed the 
time permitted on the alien's admission period on the Form I-94. DHS 
    The REAL ID Act of 2005 prohibits federal agencies from accepting a 
state driver's license or personal identification card for any 
``official purpose'' unless it has been issued by a state that has 
certified to, and been determined by DHS to meet, the minimum document 
requirements, minimum issuance standards, and other requirements of the 
REAL ID Act. See REAL ID Act of 2005, Public Law 109-13, Div. B, tit. 
II, section 202, 119 Stat. 231, 302, 312 (May 11, 2005) (49 U.S.C. 
30301 note). Nothing in the REAL ID Act or final rule pertains to the 
expansion of the population of persons subject to US-VISIT requirements 
under this final rule. The commenter's concern that under the REAL ID 
Act and implementing regulations, states will issue REAL-ID compliance 
licenses to aliens that track with period of the aliens lawful status 
in the United States is outside the scope of this rulemaking action. 
The present regulatory action to expand US-VISIT makes no regulatory 
change that has a direct impact on the states. See 72 FR 10819.
3. Advance Passenger Information System
    One commenter suggested that the proposed expansion of US-VISIT was 
inconsistent with previous DHS regulatory statements regarding the 
possible elimination of the Form I-94. DHS understands this concern and 
believes that it is pursuing a consistent long-term goal that may 
result in elimination of the Form I-94.
    DHS currently requires the electronic transmission of manifest 
information for passengers (passenger name record or ``PNR'') and crew 
members to CBP in advance of those flights. Electronic Transmission of 
Passenger and Crew Manifests for Vessels and Aircraft, 70 FR 17820 
(Apr. 7, 2005) (Advance Passenger Information System or ``APIS'' final 
rule); Advance Electronic Transmission of Passenger and Crew Member 
Manifests for Commercial Aircraft and Vessels, 72 FR 48320 (Aug. 23, 
2007) (``APIS Quick Query or ``AQQ'' final rule''). As noted in the 
APIS final rule, DHS continues to study whether, and the extent to 
which, the transmission of APIS data can replace the submission of 
paper forms. At that time, DHS indicated that preliminary analysis 
suggested that Forms I-94 and I-418 could be significantly reduced, if 
not eliminated. That evaluation is ongoing as DHS pursues a 
consolidated data analysis approach--beginning with applications for 
visas to the DOS and machine-readable passports, through advance 
passenger information, to inspection admission verification, and to 
exit verification. As technological capacity further develops, DHS 
believes that a unified system is possible and preferable. This 
expansion of US-VISIT is one step toward that unified and streamlined 
goal. As further steps become possible and are taken, appropriate 
regulatory changes will be adopted and obsolete forms eliminated.
4. Connection to IDENT/IAFIS Interoperability
    One commenter questioned the inter-connections between US-VISIT 
under the changes in the regulations as proposed and IDENT, and the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Integrated Automated 
Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The commenter expressed 
concern that IDENT database entries might be made available in the 
IAFIS database and opposed any plan to place civil immigration 
violations in a criminal database. Finally, the commenter requested an 
update on the ability of the systems to timely reflect changes and 
extensions of status. The commenter suggested that the proposal to 
expand US-VISIT to additional alien populations should wait for full 
IDENT/IAFIS integration.
    IDENT is a DHS-wide electronic record system for the collection and 
processing of biometric and limited biographic information in 
connection with the national security, law enforcement, immigration, 
intelligence, and other mission-related functions of DHS, as well as 
for any associated testing, training, management reporting, planning 
and analysis, or other administrative uses. See 71 FR 42651 (July 27, 
2006) (systems of records notice for IDENT).
    IAFIS is a national fingerprint and criminal history system 
maintained by the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division 
of the FBI. IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, 
latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic 
exchange of fingerprints and responses. As a result of submitting 
fingerprints electronically, agencies receive electronic responses to 
criminal ten-print fingerprint submissions within two hours and within 
24 hours for civil fingerprint submissions.
    DHS, DOJ, and DOS are collaborating to achieve interoperability 
between IAFlS and IDENT. See 71 FR 67884, 67885 (Nov. 24, 2006) 
(Interim Data Sharing Model). Interoperability is defined as the 
sharing of alien immigration history, criminal history, and terrorist 
information based on positive identification and the interoperable 
capabilities of IDENT and IAFIS. Interoperability between the two 
systems is expected by late 2009. DHS and FBI already share information 
for the most egregious offense data sets held by the FBI, including 
known or suspected terrorists, wanted persons,

[[Page 77481]]

and sex offenders, as well as serious immigration violators.
    It is unclear from the comments why the proposal to expand the 
classifications of aliens subject to US-VISIT should wait for full 
IDENT/IAFIS interoperability. DHS currently receives substantial 
benefits from screening without interoperability because US-VISIT 
identifies existing aliens requiring further review (e.g. criminal 
warrants, prior deportations, etc.).
    Whether immigration violations are made available to law 
enforcement officers through IAFIS is not germane to this final rule. 
As IDENT/IAFIS interoperability moves forward, any such determination 
will be discussed in the appropriate PIAs by the appropriate Department 
if and when contemplated.
    Finally, although not germane to the rulemaking, DHS notes that 
biographic data from USCIS are transmitted to the Arrival Departure 
Information System (ADIS) so that changes to immigration status are 
reflected in US-VISIT in near-real time. Accordingly, US-VISIT has the 
capability to ensure that aliens who are in lawful status are not 
determined to have stayed past their original periods of admission if 
that period has been extended by USCIS.
5. Biometric Identifiers
    One commenter inquired about the language in the proposed rule that 
reserves the ability for DHS to collect ``other biometric identifiers'' 
in addition to photograph and fingerprints. This language is 
prophylactic. At this time, DHS has no plans to collect biometric 
identifiers in addition to photographs and fingerprints. However, DHS 
also recognizes that historically, other biometric identifiers such as 
height, weight, color of hair, color of eyes, etc., have been recorded, 
and this language continues to reflect that historic fact. Moreover, 
technological development may provide the capacity for use of other 
biometric identifiers in the future. DHS will make, as appropriate, 
changes in Privacy Impact Assessments and Systems of Records Notices 
for these systems.
    Another commenter suggested that visual comparison of photographs 
is sufficient for identification. DHS disagrees. Document fraud, in 
some instances, has been effective in creating a false identity that 
defeats simple visual inspection of photographs with the face of the 
bearer. In addition, the commenter's suggestion overlooks the purpose 
of positive freezing of an identity with fingerscans to determine 
whether the individual is admissible to the United States or has 
committed criminal or terrorist acts that bar admission.
6. Age Restrictions
    One commenter stated that the age limitations on the requirement to 
be processed in US-VISIT were too narrow, saying the program should be 
applicable to no one over the age of 60 years old, as opposed to over 
the age of 79. Another commenter suggested the opposite, saying that 
the age range should be expanded to cover those between the ages of 10 
and 85.
    US-VISIT processing is currently required of aliens who are between 
the ages of 14 and 79 and otherwise required to enroll and be verified 
in US-VISIT. Technically, it is possible to include more individuals 
who are younger and older than these age limitations. However, this age 
range is consistent with longstanding DHS and legacy INS policy 
concerning the fingerprinting of those seeking immigration benefits, 
including adjustment of status to permanent resident and 
naturalization. DHS uses exemptions consistent with these limitations. 
DHS may reconsider these age ranges in the future, but does not do so 
as part of this regulation. The current exemptions will continue to 
apply equally to all of the aliens enrolled in US-VISIT.
7. Exemption of Individual Aliens
    One commenter objected to language in the proposed 8 CFR 
215.8(a)(2)(iv) and 8 CFR 235.1(f)(1)(iv)(D) that allows the Secretary 
of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, or the Director of 
Central Intelligence to exempt any individual alien from the biometric 
entry or exit processes. Each of these three departments has specific 
reasons why a particular person should be exempt from the biometric 
collection process that is integral for their core mission. The 
individualized decision to exempt an alien is based on the interests of 
the United States in managing its foreign and military affairs and 
poses no risk to the security of the United States.

E. Privacy and Information Retention

    Several commenters raised concerns relating to privacy, 
particularly the privacy of particular groups of aliens and DHS 
compliance with the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a.
    One commenter stated that DHS has not met its responsibilities 
under the Privacy Act by failing to publish a Privacy Impact Assessment 
(PIA). DHS has published a PIA. 71 FR 42653 (July 27, 2006). Though not 
legally required to do so because nonimmigrants are not covered by the 
Privacy Act, DHS, as a matter of policy, has considered all aliens 
subject to US-VISIT as warranting Privacy Act analysis. DHS has 
published numerous PIAs and System of Record Notices (SORNs) for the 
systems making up US-VISIT. The PIAs published by US-VISIT list the 
principal users for, and uses of, the data contained within US-VISIT/
DHS systems. The PIAs also identify the extent that the information may 
be shared with other law enforcement agencies of the United States, 
State, local, foreign or tribal governments, who, in accordance with 
their responsibilities, are lawfully engaged in collecting law 
enforcement intelligence information and/or investigating, prosecuting, 
enforcing or implementing civil and/or criminal laws, related rules, 
regulations, or orders. DHS has published the PIAs (www.dhs.gov/privacy) and provided links to the system of records notices for the 
US-VISIT program. See, e.g., 68 FR 69412 (Dec. 12, 2003); 68 FR 69414 
(Dec. 12, 2003); 69 FR 482 (Jan. 5, 2004); 69 FR 57036 (Sept. 23, 
2004); 70 FR 35110 (Jun. 16, 2005); 70 FR 38699 (July 5, 2005); 70 FR 
39300 (July 7, 2005); 71 FR 3873 (Jan. 24, 2006); 71 FR 13987 (Mar. 20, 
2006); 71 FR 42653 (July 27, 2006); 71 FR 42651 (July 27, 2006).
    One commenter objected to the data retention policies of the US-
VISIT system, stating that DHS does not have adequate justification for 
taking new photographs and fingerprints of aliens at each encounter. 
Another commenter questioned whether DHS should retain identification 
information perpetually, even if the alien later became a United States 
citizen. DHS is currently reviewing the retention policy for the 
Arrival Departure Information System (ADIS) and plans to adjust that 
policy to be consistent with the retention policy for IDENT, which is 
part of US-VISIT. IDENT is an encounter-based system compiling a 
complete travel history to permit DHS to prevent fraud and provide 
evidence of each particular encounter. DHS disagrees with the 
commenters' conclusion that insufficient justification exists for this 
    In addition, DHS uses the historical fingerscans to ensure that the 
best quality prints are matched against watchlists. This ``best print 
forward'' process involves evaluating the quality of the prints each 
time DHS encounters an alien and using the best quality print from that 
point on. DHS is less and less likely to receive a ``false positive,'' 
as the quality of prints will improve over a lifetime of encounters--
both because of this quality selection process and because of 
improvements in the

[[Page 77482]]

hardware and software used in the process.
    Another commenter questioned how many adverse actions were based on 
``false positives.'' None of the adverse actions were based on false 
positives. DHS is aware of the potential of false positive ``hits'' 
against immigration and criminal databases and has taken documented 
steps to address this potential. Currently, US-VISIT uses a series of 
matching algorithms and thresholds developed in consultation and 
testing with the United States National Institute of Standards and 
Technology (NIST). An automated fingerprint comparison establishes 
mathematical scores of matching and non-matching, and a non-conclusive 
score is checked manually by a fingerprint examiner located at the DHS 
Biometric Support Center. The Biometric Support Center manually 
determines whether any ``close'' match is a ``false positive'' on a 24-
hour, seven-day-per-week basis.
    Three commenters stated that what they perceived to be low numbers 
of ``adverse actions'' against those being matched against biometric 
databases provided evidence that the program should be scaled back 
instead of expanded. DHS does not agree and does not measure the 
success of the program solely by the specific number of adverse 
actions. Further, the number of adverse actions pertains to those in 
which the person was identified solely by biometric information. It 
also excludes those who were identified but ultimately admitted. 
Finally, it obviously does not include those who were deterred by the 
system in the first place. Overall, measuring a program's success by 
the detection of the things it is designed to prevent does not 
necessarily lead to significant conclusions.

F. International Conventions

    One commenter argued that the proposed rule would violate the 
obligations of the United States under Articles 10, 12, and 21 of the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966 
relating to detention, freedom to leave a country, and assembly. The 
commenter suggests that these provisions apply in the border management 
process when a person requests admission at a port of entry. [I sent 
question to Nina and Elizabeth]DHS disagrees. The ICCPR is not self-
executing and was ratified with limitations and understandings. See 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 
999 U.N.T.S. 171, 6 I.L.M. 368, as signed and submitted see Four 
Treaties Pertaining to Human Rights, Feb. 23, 1978, S. Exec. Docs. C, 
D, E, and F, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. (1978); as reported S. Exec. Rep. No. 
23, 102d Cong., 2d Sess. 2 (1992); as considered and ratified in the 
Senate 138 Cong. Rec. 8070--8071 (1992); see Multilateral Treaties 
Deposited with the Secretary-General: Status as of 31 Dec. 1995, at 
122, 130, U.N. Doc. ST/LEG/SER.E/14 (1996); Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 
542 U.S. 692, 734-35 (2004) (stating that the ICCPR is not self-
executing). The United States takes its international obligations 
seriously, and this rule violates no provision of the ICCPR.
    Article 10 of the ICPPR is not applicable to the border management 
process by definition--Article 10 applies to the detention of persons 
for violation of the criminal laws of a signatory country. Although the 
ICCPR does not apply to this rule, DHS also does not believe there is 
anything inherently degrading or inhuman about the current US-VISIT 
process. Moreover, individuals often provide pictures for the purpose 
of obtaining a benefit--most notably in the context of obtaining a 
driver's license, a passport, or some other form of identification and 
associated benefit. Photographs and fingerscans are common commercial 
identifying events.
    Article 12 permits freedom to depart a country and limits any 
restrictions to those that are provided by law; are necessary to 
protect national security, public order, public health or morals, or 
the rights and freedoms of others; and are consistent with the other 
rights recognized by the present ICCPR. US-VISIT does not unduly 
restrict departure from the United States--it merely records departure. 
Many signatory countries to the ICCPR use some exit registration, and 
exit registration is generally considered to be consistent with the 
    Article 21 provides for the right of peaceful assembly, except that 
restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right which are 
necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national 
security, public safety, public order, the protection of public health 
or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 
However, nearly all governments can, and do, inspect people traveling 
across their international borders, and they do so in every country 
every day. Accordingly, DHS does not believe this rule violates or 
impacts any of the obligations of the United States under the ICCPR.

G. United States Citizen Voluntary Enrollment

    Three commenters stated that US-VISIT should be applied to all 
travelers, regardless of citizenship, for security reasons. Three 
commenters stated explicitly that they were opposed to this in the 
context that application of US-VISIT to LPRs would mean the eventual 
application to United States citizens. One commenter stated that there 
should be provisions through which United States citizens could 
voluntarily be biometrically identified through US-VISIT as a means of 
getting through security faster at airports. On the first point, DHS is 
limited by statute and regulation to apply US-VISIT to aliens. On the 
second point, DHS is exploring several types of ``registered traveler'' 
programs which may accomplish the same goal. Overall, this objective 
could be accomplished in the future, and DHS is exploring it, just not 
through US-VISIT.

H. Economic Impact

    One commenter stated that DHS incorrectly certified that it was not 
required to conduct a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, as required by 5 
U.S.C. 603. In the NPRM, DHS did certify that such an analysis was not 
required, pursuant to the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 605(b), which provides 
that the requirement for an analysis does not apply if the head of the 
agency certifies that the rule will not have a substantial affect on 
small entities as that term is defined at 5 U.S.C. 601(6). See 71 FR at 
    The definitions for the Regulatory Flexibility Act provide that the 
term ``small entity'' is the composite of the terms ``small business,'' 
``small organization,'' and ``small governmental jurisdiction.'' 5 
U.S.C. 601(6). Normally a ``small business'' has the same meaning as 
the term ``small business concern'' under section 3 of the Small 
Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632. A ``small organization'' generally means 
any not-for-profit enterprise which is independently owned and operated 
and is not dominant in its field. And, finally, a ``small governmental 
jurisdiction'' generally means governments of cities, counties, towns, 
townships, villages, school districts, or special districts with a 
population of less than fifty thousand. Although the statute permits 
deviation from these terms by following an established statutory 
procedure, DHS does not apply any different definition for this 
purpose. 5 U.S.C. 601 (3), (4), (5).
    The Regulatory Flexibility Act applies to individuals only to the 
extent that

[[Page 77483]]

they are sole proprietors of businesses that are small entities; for 
example, an independent trucker. The Regulatory Flexibility Act does 
not apply to individuals, but to small businesses (for profit or not 
for profit), whether a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a 
corporation, and small governmental entities, not the individuals who 
may own or belong to those organizations.
    One commenter stated that DHS was incorrect to include in its 
Executive Order 12866 benefit/cost statements of the proposed rule that 
there are no potential costs or consequences associated with this rule 
that would impede the free flow of commerce and trade. The commenter 
suggests that Executive Order 12866 requires DHS to publish a thorough 
explanation as to how US-VISIT will benefit the efficient functioning 
of the economy and private markets and a full assessment of the costs 
    DHS believes that the commenter relies heavily on the notion that 
DHS plans to enact user fees to finance the US-VISIT program. As noted 
above, US-VISIT is funded by appropriations. DHS has no plans to charge 
a user fee to those seeking admission to the United States to finance 
    DHS is required to weigh the benefits and costs of the changes of 
this particular rule. US-VISIT has, by design, been implemented in 
stages--for technology, operational, and cost reasons. This expansion 
of the classifications is another step for the program, and one in 
which DHS has weighed the benefits and costs. First, as stated 
previously, no additional individuals will be processed as part of US-
VISIT at a land border without being sent to secondary inspection. The 
only aliens being added to land border secondary inspection under this 
rule are Canadian visa holders with a multiple entry Form I-94, and 
only once every six to eight months. In these instances, a Canadian 
being processed in secondary inspection may experience a fifteen second 
US-VISIT processing time, but this would be part of a several minute 
processing time in secondary inspection for reissuance of a Form I-94. 
Further, there is ample evidence, discussed in the proposed rule, that 
US-VISIT has actually reduced waiting times in the secondary 
environment at the land borders. DHS does not have any empirical 
evidence that the economies of land border communities will be 
adversely affected by expansion of US-VISIT. Moreover the commenters 
have not cited any empirical evidence supporting such an adverse 
    Additionally, commenters raised questions relating to staffing, 
space, security, and technology costs. As discussed above, in the 
proposed rule, and in previous rulemakings and notices, DHS has already 
deployed US-VISIT technological capability into virtually all primary 
lanes at air and sea ports of entry and in all secondary inspection 
environments in land border ports of entry. Therefore, the deployment 
costs, space, and technology issues are virtually nonexistent. 
Similarly, all CBP officers in air and sea primary inspection, and in 
secondary land inspection, are trained on the existing US-VISIT 
equipment and are already familiar with its use. Finally, DHS believes 
that expanding a biometric entry-exit system is more likely to increase 
security for the United States. Security, as the foundation for the US-
VISIT program, is a point made numerous times by the 9/11 Commission 
Report and Congress.

I. Attorney Representation

    One commenter suggests that attorneys should be permitted to 
represent applicants for admission to the United States in the 
inspection area. As an initial matter, this suggestion is not germane 
to the issues presented by the proposed rule. Any affirmative response 
to the comment would require substantial changes in regulations and 
procedures not addressed by the proposed rule to expand the 
implementation of US-VISIT. DHS, however, wishes to be responsive to 
the comment.
    DHS has considered this proposal in the past and will not implement 
this proposal because it is neither required by law nor good policy. 
Congress has specifically provided for the expedited removal of aliens 
seeking admission who are inadmissible to the United States because of 
misrepresentation or on deficient or non-existent documentation. 
Section 235(b) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(3). An applicant for 
admission to the United States may be permitted to withdraw his or her 
application for admission to the United States and depart immediately 
from the United States. Section 235(a)(4) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 
1225(a)(4). Removal proceedings for other aliens seeking admission to 
the United States are conducted before an immigration judge and the 
alien has the privilege of counsel during those proceedings. Sections 
292, 240(b)(4)(A) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1362, 1229a(b)(4)(A).
    The introduction of the concept of legal counsel into a secured 
international inspection area would severely disrupt the efficient 
processing of the vast majority of international travelers for little, 
if any, benefit. Inspection of aliens and accompanying luggage is 
conducted very rapidly in a secured inspection environment for a number 
of different purposes. Facilities for detailed questioning in secondary 
inspection are limited. No evidence has been presented to DHS that 
suggests that any benefit accrues from permitting counsel to consult 
with clients in this environment when they are free to consult prior to 
seeking admission to the United States or if they are placed in removal 
    Accordingly, DHS' regulations provide that:

[n]othing in this paragraph shall be construed to provide any 
applicant for admission in either primary or secondary inspection 
the right to representation, unless the applicant for admission has 
become the focus of a criminal investigation and has been taken into 

8 CFR 292.5(b).

    Additionally, DHS does not believe that the expansion of US-VISIT 
requires a change to the existing regulation because US-VISIT does not 
significantly alter the inspection or admission process for aliens. 
Accordingly, DHS declines to expand the privilege of counsel into the 
secure inspection environment.

J. Pacific Rim Issues

    A commenter expressed concern that the inclusion of those applying 
for admission under the Guam Visa Waiver Program could impair overall 
processing times at the Guam port of entry, noting that this specific 
inclusion affected a large number of individuals applying for admission 
in a port of entry that has limited capacity. The commenter suggested 
that DHS should be sure to adequately staff that port of entry and have 
a robust outreach strategy for those entering Guam.
    The Guam Visa Waiver Program was established by section 14 of the 
Omnibus Territories Act, Public Law 99-396, sec. 14(a), 100 Stat. 837, 
842 (Aug. 27, 1986) (adding section 212(l) to the INA, 8 U.S.C. 
1182(l)), and is reflected in the regulations at 8 CFR 212.1(e). 
Citizens of many Pacific nations are exempt from the requirement of a 
visa if they are entering Guam as a visitor for business or pleasure, 
are staying for 15 days or less, and waive the right to contest any 
removal decision. To date, those entering under the Guam Visa Waiver 
Program have not been required to be processed in US-VISIT.
    DHS shares the commenter's concern and understands that inclusion 
of those seeking admission to Guam under the Guam Visa Waiver Program 
will impact

[[Page 77484]]

that particular port disproportionately. DHS will make significant 
efforts to ensure that the outreach plan to nations in the Pacific is 
equivalent to the outreach when US-VISIT began and that the Guam port 
of entry has the resources it needs to process aliens in a timely 
manner. In addition, DHS has existing mitigation strategies in place 
for instances of excessively long wait times at immigration inspection 
and will monitor carefully the Guam port of entry to determine whether 
to invoke those procedures.
    Another commenter suggested that aliens from the Federated States 
of Micronesia need to be added to the US-VISIT program. DHS agrees; 
Micronesia nationals would be covered under the definition in 8 CFR 
235.1 in the proposed rule and in this final rule.

III. Comments on the August 31, 2004 Interim Rule

A. General

    DHS received a number of general comments on the US-VISIT program 
as a whole. These comments were mixed, and many expressed strong 
feelings about the program. Some commenters raised general immigration 
issues, such as whether the United States admitted the appropriate 
number of immigrants, whether treatment of Mexicans and Canadians was 
inequitable, and whether the program amounted to a stigma against the 
presumption of innocence. These comments are beyond the scope of the 
regulation and raise questions of whether Congress should alter the 
immigration laws of the United States.
    These comments, however, indicate a misunderstanding of some of the 
basic laws that underlie the regulations. Every person arriving at the 
border of the United States must be inspected and every alien's 
admissibility to the United States must be determined. Under the 
immigration laws of the United States, the person seeking admission to 
the United States must establish that they are a United States citizen 
or a foreign national eligible for admission. See sections 212, 235 of 
the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1182, 1225). 
Inspection and admissibility upon arrival to the United States involves 
verification of the identity of the alien and a determination that the 
alien is admissible to the United States, i.e., that the alien has 
established that the alien has permission to be admitted and is not 
ineligible for admission by reason of any of the disqualifying 
provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, as enacted and 
amended by Congress.
    The scope of the US-VISIT program, under the authorizing statutes 
discussed above, is, however, properly within the scope of the 
rulemaking. The 9/11 Commission pointed out that ``targeting travel is 
at least as powerful a weapon against terrorists as targeting their 
money'' and recommended a biometric entry-exit screening system as a 
result. T. Kean, et al., Final Report of the National Commission on 
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission Report) 
(Government Printing Office, 2004) at 389. In successive enactments 
before and after the 9/11 Commission Report, Congress has insisted that 
DHS establish a comprehensive entry-exit data entry system. 
Accordingly, DHS has established the US-VISIT program and will, as 
practicable and subject to certain limited exceptions, expand the 
program to record the entry of all aliens. DHS recognizes that many 
individuals perceive distinctions within the universe of non-U.S. 
citizens as unfair, but most of these distinctions are made by Congress 
as a matter of law and cannot be changed by DHS. Distinctions within 
the universe of non-United States citizens made by DHS in the US-VISIT 
program reflect assessments of risk and threat, practicality of 
implementation based on international relations, capacity to implement 
universal alien data capture, and technological and other limitations.

B. Outreach to the Affected Public

    Six commenters raised concerns about US-VISIT in terms of sharing 
information, most notably the concerns of the border communities. Three 
commenters raised the concerns of small businesses generally--that US-
VISIT would result in fewer travelers and tourism and hurt the economy 
(and small businesses) as a whole. These commenters encouraged outreach 
to the affected communities and suggested that substantial notice be 
given to the public before changes to the program take place.
    DHS disagrees with the notion that US-VISIT will result in fewer 
travelers and tourism. DHS is aware of no empirical evidence, and the 
comments have provided no empirical evidence, that the recordation of 
fingerscans in US-VISIT and verification of identities has an adverse 
impact on the number of travelers or tourists seeking admission to the 
United States, or that the development of US-VISIT will harm small 
businesses or the economy.
    DHS, though US-VISIT, is committed to ensuring effective outreach 
to all persons affected by the program. Since 2004, US-VISIT has 
implemented an ongoing strategy to facilitate dialogue with land border 
communities in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, engaging 
stakeholders in two-way discussions that allowed US-VISIT to learn and 
understand the specific issues and concerns related to border 
management in those communities. At the same time, this dialogue has 
created opportunities to educate stakeholders about the US-VISIT 
program, informing them of developments in program implementation, and 
gaining their assistance in reaching out to inform their own 
constituents about the program.
    Since February 2004, DHS has hosted or participated in over 100 
meetings with land border stakeholders in communities along the borders 
of, and in the interiors of, the United States, Mexico, and Canada. 
These meetings occurred in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, 
Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Maine. In 
Canada, outreach was coordinated in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, 
Windsor, Sarnia, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. In Mexico, outreach activities 
were held in Mexico City, Reynosa, Tijuana, Ciudad Jaurez, Monterrey, 
Nuevo Laredo, and Matamoros. DHS has placed numerous advertisements in 
publications serving border communities in the United States and Mexico 
to advise the public directly of the US-VISIT process.
    DHS and US-VISIT have coordinated extensively with Canada on issues 
relating to the approximately 5,500-mile mutual border, through forums 
such as the Bi-National Technical Working Group, the Security and 
Prosperity Partnership (SPP), and participation in the Shared Border 
Accord meetings. The SPP is a trilateral effort to increase security 
and enhance prosperity among the United States, Canada, and Mexico 
through greater cooperation and information sharing. Through SPP, the 
United States and Canada have explored options for lower-cost, secure 
proof of status and nationality documents to facilitate cross-border 
travel, and have tested technology and made recommendations to enhance 
the use of biometrics in screening travelers.
    DHS and US-VISIT have coordinated extensively with Mexico on issues 
relating to the 1,951-mile mutual border, including the Bi-National 
Technical Working Group. Mexico's National Institute of Immigration 
(INM) has helped to ensure that US-VISIT's education efforts are 
culturally appropriate so they can successfully reach, educate, and 
inform key population groups or communities in Mexico.

[[Page 77485]]

    The effort to educate and engage the diverse border communities 
contributed significantly to US-VISIT's ability to implement the 
program at the 50 most trafficked land border ports of entry in 2004 
and to deploy US-VISIT at the remaining 104 land border ports of entry 
where aliens are processed in 2005. The outreach efforts were critical 
to the smooth pilot testing and deployment of US-VISIT entry procedures 
at land border ports of entry.
    DHS and US-VISIT recognize that outreach benefits not just the 
public, but the government as well. The success of the US-VISIT program 
is contingent on effective outreach. DHS and US-VISIT are committed to 
continue this outreach effort for future steps in the program.

C. Use of Interim Rules

    Three commenters suggested that the use of interim rules by DHS in 
the previous two US-VISIT rules was inappropriate.
    DHS has used interim rules twice in the development of US-VISIT. In 
a January 5, 2004, interim rule, DHS implemented the first phase of US-
VISIT and provided that aliens seeking admission into the United States 
through nonimmigrant visas must provide fingerprints, photographs, or 
other biometric identifiers upon arrival in, or departure from, the 
United States at air and sea ports of entry. The rule exempted several 
groups of aliens:
     Those with diplomatic recognition (A-1, A-2, C-3 (except 
for attendants, servants or personal employees of accredited 
officials), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, 
or NATO-6 visas, unless the Secretary of State and the Secretary of 
Homeland Security jointly determine that a class of such aliens should 
be subject to the rule);
     Children under the age of 14;
     Persons over the age of 79;
     Classes of aliens the Secretary of Homeland Security and 
the Secretary of State jointly determine shall be exempt;
     And an individual alien whom the Secretary of Homeland 
Security, the Secretary of State, or the Director of Central 
Intelligence determines shall be exempt.

69 FR 468 (Jan. 5, 2004). At the same time, DHS published a notice in 
the Federal Register setting forth the classes of aliens subject to US-
VISIT and the air and sea ports where US-VISIT would be applicable. 69 
FR 482 (Jan. 5, 2004). DHS received 21 comments on that interim rule 
and responded to those comments in the August 31, 2004, interim rule. 
69 FR at 53323-53329.
    On August 31, 2004, DHS implemented the second phase of US-VISIT 
through an interim rule that expanded the US-VISIT program to land 
border ports of entry in the United States. That interim rule also 
further refined the population of aliens who are required to enroll in 
US-VISIT to include VWP travelers and ship crewmembers, and it exempted 
Mexican nationals who present a Border Crossing Card (Form DSP-150, or 
BCC), aliens who are not required to be issued a Form I-94 Arrival/
Departure Record, and certain officials of the Taipei Economic and 
Cultural Representative Office. This interim rule is being finalized in 
this final rule. Subsequently, DHS has published notices applying US-
VISIT to all land border ports of entry, implemented at secondary 
    DHS appreciates and understands the concern expressed by the 
commenters on the use of interim rules to implement the US-VISIT 
program. Consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, DHS 
publishes proposed rules for public notice and comment whenever 
possible. 5 U.S.C. 553. Where DHS determines that expedited 
promulgation of a rule is required and has good cause to publish and 
make effective an interim final rule before receiving and considering 
public comments because delay would be impractical, unnecessary, or 
contrary to the public interest, DHS provides a clear statement to that 
effect. 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). DHS is committed to providing the public 
with an opportunity to comment on its rules and to considering public 
comments in making final decisions in promulgating rules.
    One commenter questioned whether the August 31, 2004, interim rule 
contained sufficient information to permit the public comment on the 
second phase of US-VISIT. The scope and content of the comments 
received indicate that DHS provided ample information to support the 
interim rule, and DHS is responding to those comments in this final 
    That interim rule included a sixty-day comment period. 
Additionally, the comment period was extended to 90 days (expiring on 
December 1, 2004) to provide an opportunity for commenters to observe 
and comment on the land border implementation (which began November 15, 
2004). 69 FR 64477 (Nov. 5, 2004).
    DHS is committed to ensuring that the public is able to comment on 
all aspects of the US-VISIT program. DHS is also committed to providing 
as much information as possible to permit public comment on the 
implementation of rulemaking.

D. Facilities

    Five commenters suggested that existing inspection facilities could 
not handle, without significant delays, any broad changes to the 
existing inspection procedures. One commenter suggested the need to 
create expedited lanes for frequent travelers, believing that the 
existing infrastructure was inadequate to make these types of changes.
    To date, US-VISIT implementation at the land borders has not caused 
any significant delays and has actually decreased processing time at 
many ports due to the implementation of an automated Form I-94 issuance 
process at secondary inspection. As indicated in the proposed rule, US-
VISIT has significantly decreased entry timing at certain monitored 
land border ports of entry. 71 FR at 42609.
    While land border infrastructure is constrained, DHS has taken 
steps to alleviate congestion, such as implementing frequent traveler 
programs and dedicated lanes for their travel, where possible.
    One commenter specifically suggested that including a broad number 
of Canadians in US-VISIT would have a detrimental effect on northern 
border facilities. This final rule and the July 27, 2006, proposed rule 
describe how DHS will include some Canadians in US-VISIT processing at 
land border inspection. DHS agrees that there are significant 
technological difficulties associated with implementing US-VISIT at 
land borders for all aliens' entry and exit through primary inspection. 
Whether expansion of US-VISIT will include installation at all primary 
inspection booths is, at this point, unclear. This rule establishes 
that only a small number, and not all, Canadians will be processed in 
US-VISIT at secondary inspection. DHS, thus, believes that the impact 
on northern border facilities will be minimal.

E. Interaction With Existing Programs

    Ten comments discussed US-VISIT interoperability with other 
existing programs that collect biometric or biographic information, 
most often those that impact the land borders, such as the Secure 
Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), Free and 
Secure Trade (FAST), and NEXUS. Some commenters were concerned that 
multiple checks were repetitive and would not contribute to security, 
although they would slow down processing at the borders and airports. 
Other commenters noted that other programs have already vetted specific 
travelers and that further

[[Page 77486]]

security checks through US-VISIT are redundant.
    DHS is committed to ensuring that international travel is both 
secure and efficient, and, therefore, is exploring ways to 
appropriately integrate US-VISIT, SENTRI, FAST, NEXUS, and other border 
screening and credentialing programs. DHS acknowledges the validity of 
the commenters' concern that multiple systems can create unnecessary 
redundancy. DHS is committed to ensuring that any unnecessary 
redundancy and inefficiencies are not perpetuated and that all border 
crossing programs are appropriately integrated over time.

F. Staffing and Training

    Five commenters suggested that US-VISIT could have a negative 
impact if other areas of DHS did not support the program. For example, 
a few commenters stated that too few CBP officers were knowledgeable 
about issues surrounding US-VISIT and how it could affect 
    Following the initial rollout of US-VISIT, DHS has taken additional 
steps to address this issue. For example, DHS sent training teams to 
all 50 land border ports of entry to instruct officers about the 
process changes as a result of US-VISIT implementation. In addition, 
DHS set up a telephone call center through the rollout of the 50 
busiest ports of entry in November and December of 2004. In the Summer 
and Fall of 2005, other training steps were taken in conjunction with 
the rollout of the additional 104 land border ports of entry, including 
sending field trainers to each additional port implementing US-VISIT 
and providing on-line refresher courses on US-VISIT policies and 
procedures. US-VISIT procedures are implemented through the CBP 
management, training of officers, policy memoranda, and operational 

G. Travel and Delays

    Six commenters expressed concern over the waiting periods in the 
inspection process that they claimed were caused by US-VISIT. These 
comments covered both past events in the air and sea context and 
concerns over future land border processes, and attributed delays to 
too few inspection booths and the inability of scanners to read 
fingerprints on the first try. Other commenters acknowledged shortened 
processing times due to the increase in the number of CBP officers 
available, but noted delays attributed to fingerprints not always being 
effectively scanned on the first try.
    DHS is committed to ensuring that US-VISIT will be as least 
burdensome as possible while accomplishing its mission and understands 
that facilitating legitimate travel and trade is one of the program's 
core goals. DHS attempts to ensure that there are adequate numbers of 
CBP officers to clear flights as expeditiously as possible. While DHS 
believes that it largely succeeds in this mission, it acknowledges that 
there are times when international passengers are not inspected as 
quickly as they or DHS would like. DHS is responsible for ensuring that 
all international travelers seeking admission to the United States are 
who they claim to be and are eligible for admission. The balancing of 
these responsibilities can occasionally cause delays.
    DHS takes steps to increase CBP officer presence during peak hours. 
In addition, DHS has taken steps at various ports to attempt to improve 
the ability to read fingerprints quickly. For example, DHS has been 
experimenting with attaching a silicon film to the fingerscan reader to 
get more accurate readings, and this process has yielded good results 
thus far. DHS will continue to ensure that the US-VISIT process does 
not unduly delay the inspection process.
    At the land border ports of entry, the current process for land 
border inspection remains largely the same as it was prior to the 
implementation of US-VISIT. Aliens who must acquire Form I-94 as 
evidence of admission are referred to secondary inspection rather than 
being processed in the primary inspection lanes. This process will 
continue following the publication of this final rule.
    Another commenter raised the issue of implementing US-VISIT at the 
50 most highly trafficked land borders in November and December of 
2004, stating that this was the busiest time of the year due to the 
holidays, and suggested waiting until January 2005. DHS understands 
this concern, but DHS was required to implement US-VISIT at the 50 
busiest land borders by December 31, 2004. DHS sought to avoid this 
issue when expanding US-VISIT to all other land border ports of entry 
in 2005. See 70 FR 54398 (Sept. 14, 2005) (additional ports being added 
prior to December 31, 2005). In future expansions of US-VISIT, DHS 
plans to avoid implementing changes during the peak travel times of the 
year. However DHS must reserve the decision on timing of future 
implementation until decisions are made based on all requirements at 
that time.
    Two commenters raised concerns involving third-party nationals 
crossing at land borders, specifically the southern border. One 
suggested that a strict interpretation of the existing regulations 
would require an alien who is not Mexican, but who has a multiple-entry 
Form I-94 and is a frequent border crosser (such as a person living on 
one side of the border and working on the other), to be processed in 
US-VISIT for every entry. DHS has not implemented such a policy. Those 
with multiple-entry Forms I-94 are required to undergo US-VISIT 
processing upon the expiration of their existing Form I-94, or every 
six to eight months.

H. Health Risks

    Citing the United States Department of Health and Human Services' 
Bureau of Primary Health Care, two commenters suggested that southern 
border communities have a higher rate of communicable diseases, such as 
tuberculosis. The commenters suggested that biometric fingerprinting 
could exacerbate this incidence and create exposure to both the CBP 
officers working on the southern border and United States citizens 
living in the border communities. Another commenter raised similar 
health concerns regarding the US-VISIT process in the air and sea 
    DHS is aware of these health concerns and believes that they are 
not influenced by US-VISIT. Tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial 
infection transmitted by air, and to become infected, an individual 
must usually be exposed to an infection source for an extended period 
in a closed environment. In 2005, 14,097 tuberculosis (TB) cases were 
reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 
the fifty states and the District of Columbia. CDC, Reported 
Tuberculosis in the United States, 2005, Sept. 2006, at 3, available at 
DHS believes that fingerprint scans do not impact the chances of 
transmitting tuberculosis, as the disease is spread through the air and 
transmission requires an extended period of contact with a person 
carrying it, not the short period of time required for enrollment. 
Similarly, there is no risk that US-VISIT contacts will cause 
contraction or transmission of viral haemorhagic fevers (such as Ebola, 
Lassa, Marburg, Congo-Crimean), bioterrorism diseases (plague, anthrax, 
tularemia), bloodborne diseases (HIV, hepatitis B and C virus), soil-
transmitted diseases (worms, dermatophytes, sporeforming bacteria), or 
vectorborne diseases (malaria, dengue, leishamaniasis, trypansomiasis).

[[Page 77487]]

    CBP officers clean the fingerscan machines periodically using lint-
free wipes and rubbing alcohol to mitigate the public's legitimate 
health concerns. This periodic cleaning helps DHS capture better 
quality fingerscans on the first try and reduces inspection wait times.
    Finally, the DHS Chief Medical Officer (CMO) oversees and 
coordinates all medical activities of DHS to ensure appropriate 
preparation for, and response to, incidents having medical 
significance. The DHS CMO also coordinates the biodefense activities of 
DHS, including its pandemic influenza portfolio, and ensures that DHS 
has a unified approach to medical preparedness. Accordingly, any 
medical direction from the DHS CMO will be implemented to prevent 
transmission of pathogens through US-VISIT.

I. Program Exemptions

    DHS received many comments concerning the populations of aliens who 
were, or should be, included in US-VISIT. A few discussed issues that 
did not directly involve US-VISIT, such as extension of the time period 
per visit for holders of a B-1/B-2 visa or BCC, or more parity between 
Mexican and Canadian visitors. See 70 FR 52037 (Sept. 1, 2005) (Western 
Hemisphere Travel Initiative, ANPRM); 71 FR 46155 (Aug. 11, 2006) 
(same, NPRM); 71 FR 68412 (Nov. 24, 2006) (same; airports; Final Rule).
    Four commenters expressed support for the Canadian exemption and 
requested it be made permanent, whereas one commenter suggested 
eliminating the exemption. Creating a permanent US-VISIT exemption for 
applicants for admission from Mexico and Canada, or for some other 
nationality, is inconsistent with the statutory obligations of DHS to 
create a complete biometric entry-exit system. Moreover, no regulatory 
provision dealing with security can be considered permanent--
programmatic requirements and implementing regulatory requirements and 
limitations must be adjusted to respond as security requirements 
change. DOS security measures in the issuance of a BCC do not relieve 
DHS of its statutory obligations. However, DHS considers the impact of 
processing additional alien classifications in US-VISIT and attempts to 
minimize negative impacts prior to implementation. DHS understands the 
economic ramifications of transborder travel and commerce and will 
implement large-scale changes through technology and processes to 
minimize their overall impact.
    Another commenter focused specifically on the northern border with 
Canada, stating that there is not, in writing, a permanent exemption 
for Canadians. The comment is correct. No nationality was ever planned 
to be permanently exempt from US-VISIT.

J. Privacy

    Twelve commenters raised privacy concerns in the collection of US-
VISIT information, although these comments were about varying specific 
points of the program. DHS is required to protect the privacy of the 
individuals from whom DHS collects information through the US-VISIT 
process in accordance with the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a. As part of 
this responsibility, DHS has published a series of Privacy Impact 
Assessments (PIAs) to explain the program, changes to the program, 
risks that have been identified to privacy, and steps undertaken to 
mitigate that risk. The PIAs affecting US-VISIT list the principal 
users of the data within DHS and notes that the information may also be 
shared with other law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, 
local, foreign, or tribal level who, in accordance with their 
responsibilities, are lawfully engaged in collecting law enforcement 
intelligence information and/or investigating, prosecuting, enforcing, 
or implementing civil and/or criminal laws, related rules, regulations, 
or orders. DHS has made available several PIAs and revisions for the 
US-VISIT program and noted that availability on the public record. See 
71 FR 42653 (July 27, 2006); 71 FR 3873 (Jan. 24, 2006); 70 FR 39300 
(July 7, 2005); 70 FR 35110 (June 16, 2005); 70 FR 17857 (Apr. 7, 2005) 
(Advanced Passenger Information System); 69 FR 57036 (Sept. 23, 2004); 
69 FR 2608 (Jan. 16, 2004). All of the assessments and revisions are 
available on the DHS Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/us-visit. DHS 
continually considers the impact of US-VISIT on privacy interests and 
updates its assessments as the program is developed.
    Two comments raised the issue of ``scope creep'' or ``mission 
creep,'' stating fears that the information collected in US-VISIT will 
be used for purposes not connected to the program. DHS believes that 
the PIAs, which identify the specific purposes for which the 
information is being collected, the intended use of the information, 
with whom the information will be shared, and how the information will 
be secured, protect the public from ``mission creep.'' The PIA process 
is also a transparent one, with the public being able to access it and 
comment on it. As DHS further considers integrating its border security 
databases, DHS will reassess the privacy impact of such integration, 
and the public will be invited to provide further comment.
    One commenter stated, however, that the statements in the PIA on 
the purposes of information collection and to whom the information must 
be shared conflicted with the language of the August 31, 2004 interim 
rule, quoting that language where the interim rule stated:

the [collected] information may also be shared with other law 
enforcement agencies at the federal, state, local, foreign, or 
tribal level, who, in accordance with their responsibilities, are 
lawfully engaged in collecting law enforcement intelligence 
information and/or investigating, prosecuting, enforcing, or 
implementing civil and/or criminal laws, related rules, regulations, 
or orders.

69 FR at 53324. The relevant PIA, however, contains the same language 
(section 4, p. 7).
    The commenter also suggested that the purposes for which the PIA 
states that the information is being collected conflicts with the 
sharing of the data with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. 
One of the stated purposes of US-VISIT in the PIA is, however, to 
provide information on whether a person ``should be apprehended or 
detained for law enforcement action.'' DHS believes that this purpose 
is not inconsistent with sharing data with law enforcement entities. 
DHS also published a revised PIA prior to the interim rule becoming 
effective on September 30, 2004. 69 FR 57036 (Sept. 23, 2004). Further, 
DHS published additional PIAs as necessary for additional steps in the 
    Finally, the commenter stated that DHS should recognize a right of 
judicial review for individuals adversely affected by US-VISIT. DHS has 
interpreted ``adversely affected'' to refer to inaccurate or incorrect 
information maintained by US-VISIT or a determination of 
inadmissibility. These situations have been excluded from judicial 
review per DHS and Department of Justice (DOJ) policy for many years, 
and the implementation of US-VISIT does not warrant reopening this 
issue. Moreover, a determination that the alien is inadmissible is 
reviewable only pursuant to other statutory and regulatory provisions. 
See, e.g., section 240 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1229a) (removal proceedings 
to deciding inadmissibility).
    If an individual believes that there is an error in the information 
contained in DHS systems and collected through the US-VISIT process, 
US-VISIT has provided a three-step redress process to

[[Page 77488]]

have records reviewed and amended or corrected based on accuracy, 
relevancy, timeliness, or completeness. This process includes 
confirming that mismatches and other errors are not retained as part of 
an alien's record. The first opportunity for data correction occurs at 
the port of entry where the CBP officer has the ability to correct 
manually most biographic-related errors, such as name, date of birth, 
flight information, and document errors. All of this process occurs 
without any action required by the individual.
    If the individual still has questions about the travel record, he 
or she may contact the US-VISIT Privacy Officer. As of March 2007, US-
VISIT's Privacy Office has received 175 requests for redress from the 
more than 78.5 million encounters through the US-VISIT process. The US-
VISIT Privacy Officer will review the travel record, amend or correct 
it as necessary, and send a response to the traveler describing the 
action taken within 20 business days of receipt of the inquiry. If the 
individual is not satisfied with the action taken, he or she can appeal 
to the DHS Chief Privacy Officer, who will review the appeal, conduct 
an investigation, and make a final decision on the action to be taken. 
This redress policy is published on the DHS Web site at http://www.dhs.gov/us-visit. The US-VISIT Privacy Officer can also be 
contacted by e-mail at [email protected].
    One commenter suggested that aliens sent to secondary inspection 
for purposes related to US-VISIT be included in a line separate and 
apart from those sent to secondary for any other purpose. 
Unfortunately, this comment cannot be adopted. At the time a traveler 
is sent to secondary, the CBP officer does not know definitively 
whether the reason is a mismatched fingerprint (false positive) or some 
other reason, such as a passport substitution. Initial studies have 
determined, however, that the incidence of a traveler being identified 
incorrectly as a ``watchlist hit'' by US-VISIT and being referred to 
secondary as a result is low, less than one-tenth of one percent.
    Another commenter discussed the impact of ``false hits'' and the 
need to eliminate them. DHS is actively attempting to decrease the 
likelihood of a false match--where one alien is incorrectly matched to 
a watchlist hit--with frequent upgrades of our matching algorithms. 
Further, DHS is constantly seeking ways to reduce the incidence of 
false hits.

K. Fees

    One commenter stated that it would be inappropriate for DHS to 
raise traveler fees to fund the US-VISIT program because the commenter 
believed that US-VISIT provides no direct benefit to the international 
traveler at the time of inspection. This comment misapprehends the 
source of funding for US-VISIT. US-VISIT is funded through 
appropriations. See Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 
2007, Public Law 109-295, tit. II, 120 Stat. 1355, 1357 (Oct. 4, 2006). 
The commenter is correct in citing one of the factors in determining 
whether a fee should be charged under the Chief Financial Officers Act, 
31 U.S.C. 902(a)(8); the Independent Offices Appropriations Act, 1952, 
31 U.S.C. 9701; and Office of Management and Budget Circular A-25, User 
Charges (Revised), section 6, 58 FR 38142 (July 15, 1993). DHS is not, 
however, considering establishing a fee to support funding of US-VISIT 
at this time, and the proposed rule did not suggest that such a fee was 
being considered.

IV. Statutory and Regulatory Reviews

A. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), as amended 
by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996 
(SBREFA), requires an agency to prepare, and make available to the 
public, a regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the effect of 
the rule on small entities (i.e., small businesses, small 
organizations, and small governmental jurisdictions). DHS has 
considered the impact of this rule on small entities and certifies that 
this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. The individual aliens to whom this rule 
applies are not small entities as that term is defined in 5 U.S.C. 
601(6). There is no change expected in any process as a result of this 
rule that would have a direct effect, either positive or negative, on a 
small entity. Accordingly, this rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and DHS does 
not believe that US-VISIT processing will impede the free flow of 
travel and trade, especially travel and trade related to small 

B. Executive Order 12866--Regulatory Planning and Review

    Under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning 
and Review'' (58 FR 51735 (Sept. 30, 1993) (as amended), DHS has 
determined that this final rule is a ``significant regulatory action'' 
because there is a significant public interest in issues pertaining to 
national security, immigration policy, and international travel and 
trade related to this final rule. Accordingly, this rule has been 
submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and 
    DHS currently processes through US-VISIT, using biometrics, all 
aliens entering the United States with a nonimmigrant visa or under the 
VWP at any air, sea, or land port of entry. US-VISIT biometric 
screening has resulted in the ability of DHS to take adverse action 
against more than 3800 aliens who posed a security threat to the United 
States or whose prior criminal actions rendered them ineligible for 
admission. This final rule will strengthen the ability of CBP officers 
to identify and take action against persons whose conduct renders them 
a security threat and therefore ineligible for admission. For example, 
DHS expects that, just as 3,382 nonimmigrants have been intercepted by 
DHS using the biometric screening of US-VISIT, additional individuals 
applying for admission with permanent resident cards or reentry permits 
will be found, through the comparison of biometric identifiers, to have 
violated the terms of their permanent resident status. Such violations 
may be the result of the commission of various crimes, tampering with 
the actual permanent resident card, or attempting to gain entry by 
assuming the identity of another LPR. Such violations could ultimately 
result in the loss of permanent resident status and possible removal 
from the United States or the exclusion or removal of an individual 
from the United States for fraud. Based on the number of permanent 
resident cards that are seized by CBP officers at ports of entry 
(approximately 15,000 in FY 2005) and the number of DHS Forensic 
Document Laboratory analyses each month (approximately 250), DHS 
estimates that US-VISIT biometric screening has the potential to 
identify a significant number of aliens each month in need of 
additional investigation prior to being admitted to the United States. 
In addition, based on the numbers of refugee travel documents (519) and 
immigrant visas (2,287) that CBP officers intercepted in attempts to 
use the documents fraudulently by aliens during FY 2005, US-VISIT 
estimates that interception of fraudulently used documents will 
increase with the introduction of biometric verification of identity.
    DHS expects similar results--an increase in the number of aliens 
identified with possible admission-

[[Page 77489]]

related or immigration problems--by including the other groups of 
aliens highlighted in this final rule into the US-VISIT biometric 
screening protocol. For example, aliens holding immigrant visas have a 
six-month validity window from the date that the visa is issued to 
arrive in the United States. Events could occur during this time period 
that could result in the alien being found inadmissible to the United 
States, and such inadmissibility might only be discovered as the result 
of biometric comparisons. Over the last several years, over 365,000 
aliens have entered the United States annually on immigrant visas.
    Refugees and asylees--appearing before government officers in many 
instances without the benefit of even the most basic form of identity 
documentation--potentially pose a risk to public safety and security. 
In many instances, the United States Government is providing these 
individuals with a new identity. It is important to recognize that for 
refugees and asylees, US-VISIT will be verifying the identity of these 
aliens by comparing the biometrics collected at the time of an 
application for admission to the United States with the biometrics that 
were already collected during the initial refugee or asylee 
adjudication process.
    Similarly, aliens paroled into the United States warrant the 
additional screening derived by using US-VISIT. While the majority of 
these aliens have been screened overseas in order to determine whether 
a parole should be granted, it is in the security interests of the 
United States to verify that the individuals who arrive at the border 
are the same individuals originally screened for parole. Approximately 
150,000 aliens are granted parole into the United States each year.
    The costs associated with implementation of this final rule for 
select travelers not otherwise exempt from US-VISIT requirements 
include an increase of approximately 15 seconds in initial inspection 
processing time (additional biometric collection) per applicant over 
the current average inspection time. No significant difference is 
anticipated in the processing of an alien traveling with a visa or 
under the VWP, as compared to any other alien who is exempted from the 
visa requirements. These ports of entry handle over 99% of all air and 
sea border traffic and over 95% of all land border traffic for these 
alien classifications. DHS, through CBP, has carefully monitored the 
impact of US-VISIT biometric data collection on the inspection of 
applicants for admission at air, sea, and land borders. At air and sea 
ports, internal studies have established that the biometric collection 
adds no more than 15 seconds on average to the inspection processing 
time at primary inspection. At land border ports, internal studies have 
shown positive results, and in some ports of entry the amount of time 
to process an alien for admission using the US-VISIT process was 
actually shorter than it had been previously due to the automation of 
data collection and implementation of a standard process. A close 
examination of the first three land ports of entry to begin US-VISIT 
biometric collection as part of admission found that the average 
processing time for applicants requiring a Form I-94 or Form I-94W 
actually decreased and sometimes resulted in significantly reduced 
processing times.

                                   Average form I-94
                                    processing time    Average form I-94
          Port of entry                 before          processing time
                                   implementing US-   after implementing
                                         VISIT             US-VISIT
Port Huron, MI..................  11 minutes, 42      9 minutes, 58
                                   seconds.            seconds.
Douglas, AZ.....................  4 minutes, 16       3 minutes, 12
                                   seconds.            seconds.
Laredo, TX......................  12 minutes, 10      2 minutes, 18
                                   seconds.            seconds.

    Accordingly, DHS does not believe that US-VISIT processing impedes 
the free flow of travel and trade.
    In addition, over time, the efficiency with which the process is 
employed will increase, and the process can be expected to further 
improve. DHS will not apply this rule to all aliens crossing land 
borders until technological advancements are identified, tested, and 
implemented to ensure that the land border commerce and traffic 
concerns are significantly mitigated. DHS may choose to implement this 
rule in the air and sea environment before the land border environment. 
As mentioned in the August 31, 2004, rule, DHS has developed a number 
of mitigation strategies, not unlike those already available to CBP 
under other conditions to mitigate delays. DHS, while not anticipating 
significant delays for travelers, will nevertheless develop procedures 
and strategies to deal with any significant delays that may occur 
through unanticipated and unusually heavy travel periods.

C. Executive Order 13132--Federalism

    Executive Order 13132 requires DHS to develop a process to ensure 
``meaningful and timely input by State and local officials in the 
development of regulatory policies that have federalism implications.'' 
Such policies are defined in the Executive Order to include rules that 
have ``substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship 
between the national government and the States, or on the distribution 
of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.''
    DHS has analyzed this final rule in accordance with the principles 
and criteria in the Executive Order and has determined that this rule 
would not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the 
relationship between the national government and the States, or on the 
distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of 
government. Therefore, DHS has determined that this rule does not have 
federalism implications. This rule codifies procedures for the 
collection by the federal government of biometric identifiers from 
certain aliens seeking to enter or depart from the United States, for 
the purpose of improving the administration of federal immigration laws 
and for national security. States do not conduct activities with which 
the provisions of this specific rule would interfere.

D. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Section 202 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), 
Public Law 104-4, 109 Stat. 48 (March 22, 1995) (2 U.S.C. 1501 et 
seq.), requires federal agencies to prepare a written assessment of the 
costs, benefits, and other effects of proposed or final rules that 
include a federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by state, 
local, or tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private 
sector of more than $100 million in any one year (adjusted for 
inflation with 1995 base year). Before promulgating a rule for which a 
written statement is needed, section 205 of the UMRA requires DHS to 
identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives 
and to adopt the least costly, most cost-

[[Page 77490]]

effective, or least burdensome option that achieves the objective of 
the rule. Section 205 allows DHS to adopt an alternative, other than 
the least costly, most cost-effective, or least burdensome option if 
DHS publishes an explanation with the final rule. This final rule will 
not result in the expenditure, by state, local or tribal governments, 
or by the private sector, of more than $100 million annually. Thus, DHS 
is not required to prepare a written assessment under the UMRA.

E. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This final rule is not a major rule as defined by section 251 of 
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, 5 
U.S.C. 804, as this rule will not result in an annual effect on the 
economy of $100 million or more.

F. Trade Impact Assessment

    The Trade Agreement Act of 1979, Public Law 96-39, tit. IV, secs. 
401-403, 93 Stat. 144, 242 (July 26, 1979), as amended (19 U.S.C. 2531-
2533), prohibits federal agencies from engaging in any standards or 
related activities that create unnecessary obstacles to the foreign 
commerce of the United States. Legitimate domestic objectives, such as 
safety, are not considered unnecessary obstacles. The statute also 
requires consideration of international standards and, where 
appropriate, that they be the basis for United States standards. DHS 
has determined that this final rule will not create unnecessary 
obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United States and that any 
minimal impact on trade that may occur is legitimate in light of this 
rule's benefits for the national security and public safety interests 
of the United States. In addition, DHS notes that this effort considers 
and utilizes international standards concerning biometrics, and DHS 
will continue to consider these standards when monitoring and modifying 
the program.

G. National Environmental Policy Act

    DHS is required to analyze the proposed actions contained in this 
final rule for purposes of complying with the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., and Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, 40 CFR parts 1501-1508. An 
agency is not required to prepare either an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA) under NEPA if in fact 
the proposed action falls within a categorical exclusion, and no 
extraordinary circumstances preclude use of the categorical exclusion. 
40 CFR 1508.4. DHS analyzed the interim final rule published on August 
31, 2004, and concluded that there were no factors in the expansion of 
US-VISIT pursuant to this final rule that would limit the use of a 
categorical exclusion under 28 CFR part 61 App. C, as authorized under 
6 U.S.C. 552(a). In the July 27, 2006 NPRM, DHS stated that it would 
analyze the environmental impacts to conduct the appropriate level of 
analysis in accordance with NEPA. DHS has done such an analysis and has 
concluded that there are no factors in the expansion of US-VISIT that 
would limit the use of a categorical exclusion, for similar reasons--
that the impact to the land border ports of entry would be largely 
unnoticed since US-VISIT processing would take place in secondary 
inspection only. In addition, DHS will not implement US-VISIT 
processing at primary inspection locations at land border ports of 
entry without at least one additional round of notice and comment 
rulemaking. Since this final rule makes only minor changes to the 
existing regulations, and because DHS will not expand US-VISIT 
processing in the primary environment at land border ports of entry 
without additional notice and comment rulemaking, DHS finds that this 
final rule is also categorically excluded from further environmental 

H. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This final rule establishes the process by which DHS will require 
certain aliens who cross the borders of the United States to provide 
fingerprints, photograph(s), and potentially other biometric 
identifiers upon their arrival and departure at designated ports. These 
requirements constitute an information collection under the Paperwork 
Reduction Act (PRA), 44 U.S.C. 507 et seq. OMB, in accordance with the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, has previously approved this information 
collection for use. The OMB Control Number for this collection is 1600-
    Since this rule provides a mechanism for the addition of new aliens 
by Notice in the Federal Register who may be photographed and 
fingerprinted and who may be required to provide other biometric 
identifiers, DHS has submitted the required Paperwork Reduction Change 
Worksheet (OMB-83C) to OMB reflecting the increase in burden hours, and 
OMB has approved the changes.

I. Public Privacy Interests

    As discussed in the January 5, 2004 (69 FR 468) and August 31, 2004 
(69 FR 53318) interim final rules and the July 27, 2006 NPRM (71 FR 
42605), US-VISIT records will be protected consistent with all 
applicable privacy laws and regulations. See also Parts II.K and III.E. 
Personal information will be kept secure and confidential and will not 
be discussed with, nor disclosed to, any person within or outside US-
VISIT other than as authorized by law and as required for the 
performance of official duties. In addition, careful safeguards, 
including appropriate security controls, will ensure that the data are 
not used or accessed improperly. The DHS Chief Privacy Officer will 
review pertinent aspects of the program to ensure that these proper 
safeguards and security controls are in place. The information will 
also be protected in accordance with the DHS published privacy policy 
for US-VISIT. Affected persons will have a three-stage process for 
redress if there is concern about the accuracy of information. An 
individual may request a review or change, or a DHS officer may 
determine that an inaccuracy exists in a record. A DHS officer can 
modify the record. If the individual remains dissatisfied with this 
response, he or she can request assistance from the US-VISIT Privacy 
Officer and can ask that the DHS Privacy Officer review the record and 
address any remaining concerns.
    The DHS Privacy Office will advise US-VISIT to further ensure that 
the information collected and stored in IDENT and other systems 
associated with US-VISIT is being properly protected under privacy laws 
and guidance. US-VISIT also has a program-dedicated Privacy Officer to 
handle specific inquiries and to provide additional advice concerning 
the program.
    Finally, DHS will maintain secure computer systems that will ensure 
that the confidentiality of an individual's personal information is 
maintained. In doing so, DHS and its information technology personnel 
will comply with all laws and regulations applicable to government 
systems, such as the Federal Information Security Management Act of 
2002, Title X, Public Law 107-296, 116 Stat. 2259-2273 (Nov. 25, 2002) 
(codified in scattered sections of titles 6, 10, 15, 40, and 44 
U.S.C.); Information Management Technology Reform Act (Clinger-Cohen 
Act), 40 U.S.C. 11101 et seq.; Computer Security Act of 1987, 40 U.S.C. 
1441 et seq. (as amended); Government Paperwork Elimination Act, 44 
U.S.C. 101, 3504; and Electronic Freedom of Information Act of 1996, 5 
U.S.C. 552.

[[Page 77491]]

List of Subjects

8 CFR Part 215

    Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Travel restrictions.

8 CFR Part 235

    Aliens, Immigration, Registration, Reporting and recordkeeping 

Accordingly, chapter I of title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations is 
amended as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 215 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1104; 1184; 1185 (pursuant to E.O. 13323, 
published January 2, 2004), 1365a and note, 1379, 1731-32.

2. Section 215.8 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(1) to read as 

Sec.  215.8  Requirements for biometric identifiers from aliens on 
departure from the United States.

    (a)(1) The Secretary of Homeland Security, or his designee, may 
establish pilot programs at land border ports of entry, and at up to 
fifteen air or sea ports of entry, designated through notice in the 
Federal Register, through which the Secretary or his delegate may 
require an alien admitted to or paroled into the United States, other 
than aliens exempted under paragraph (a)(2) of this section or Canadian 
citizens under section 101(a)(15)(B) of the Act who were not otherwise 
required to present a visa or have been issued Form I-94 or Form I-95 
upon arrival at the United States, who departs the United States from a 
designated port of entry, to provide fingerprints, photograph(s) or 
other specified biometric identifiers, documentation of his or her 
immigration status in the United States, and such other evidence as may 
be requested to determine the alien's identity and whether he or she 
has properly maintained his or her status while in the United States.
* * * * *


3. The authority citation for part 235 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1101 and note, 1103, 1183, 1185 (pursuant to 
E.O. 13323 published on January 2, 2004), 1201, 1224, 1225, 1226, 
1228, 1365a note, 1379, 1731-32.

4. Section 235.1 is amended by revising paragraph (f)(1)(ii) to read as 

Sec.  235.1  Scope of examination.

* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ii) The Secretary of Homeland Security or his designee may require 
any alien seeking admission to or parole into the United States, other 
than aliens exempted under paragraph (f)(1)(iv) of this section or 
Canadian citizens under section 101(a)(15)(B) of the Act who are not 
otherwise required to present a visa or be issued Form I-94 or Form I-
95 for admission or parole into the United States, to provide 
fingerprints, photograph(s) or other specified biometric identifiers, 
documentation of his or her immigration status in the United States, 
and such other evidence as may be requested to determine the alien's 
identity and whether he or she has properly maintained his or her 
status while in the United States. The failure of an applicant for 
admission to comply with any requirement to provide biometric 
identifiers may result in a determination that the alien is 
inadmissible under section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality 
Act or any other law.
* * * * *

Paul A. Schneider,
Deputy Secretary.
[FR Doc. E8-30095 Filed 12-18-08; 8:45 am]