U.S. Border Security Technology Update and Action Points
In an effort to increase efficiency and enhance security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented changes to its inspection and admission process. These changes include using facial biometrics to verify identity and deploying technology to track admissions, while also eliminating the use of passport stamps.
CBP‘s Simplified Arrival program has been implemented at all 238 arriving airports, at 34 seaports, and at all southern pedestrian and most northern secondary land ports. Simplified Arrival is an enhanced international arrival process that uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks that are already required for admission into the United States. This process provides travelers with a secure, touchless travel experience while fulfilling a longstanding Congressional mandate to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.
The biometric facial comparison process occurs only at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When a traveler arrives at an international airport, he or she will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. A CBP officer will review and query the travel document, which will retrieve the traveler’s passport or visa photo from government holdings and compare it to the new photo. This enhanced process using facial biometrics only takes a few seconds and is more than 98% accurate. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival process, the traveler will proceed through the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States.
CBP has taken measures to safeguard the privacy of all travelers with new photos of U.S. citizens being deleted within 12 hours while photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure U.S. Department of Homeland Security system.
As part of the turnover to Simplified Arrival, CBP’s Automatic Passport Control kiosks have been removed from ports of entry and all other CBP apps will move to the consolidated CBPOne app by the end of 2023.
As part of Simplified Arrival, CBP expanded a pilot program to eliminate physical stamps in passports. The air ports of entry (POEs) where this has been implemented are San Francisco (SFO), Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, New York/Newark, Houston, Washington Dulles, Seattle, Los Angeles (LAX), and Dublin. The land POEs are Seattle, Buffalo, El Paso, Detroit, Laredo, San Diego, and Tucson.
On specific request, a CBP officer will issue a stamp in the passport however, anecdotally, this has proven challenging with some ports refusing to issue stamps. Therefore, it is more critical than ever that foreign nationals retrieve their Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Card (I-94) from CBP’s website or the CBPOne app and promptly take action to make any necessary corrections. As of March 2022, all current I-94s and history for land entries are now entered into the I-94 online system, and CBP has stopped issuing paper I-94s altogether.
Physical stamps as evidence of lawful admission to the U.S. in nonimmigrant status can be critical proof at the time of a future nonimmigrant petition as evidence regarding maintenance of status, H and L recapture issues, or L-1 intermittent work, to name a few. Additionally, the CBP I-94 online system is not always accurate, and an accurate record of international travel can be helpful for tax purposes to show “residence.” Therefore, since their passports will no longer be stamped upon admission to the U.S., foreign nationals should make an effort to retain documents showing their travel to the U.S.. This could include proof of departure and return flights or other forms of transport where applicable, flight status emails, hotel, and other travel receipts.
The cessation of physical stamps also poses a significant challenge to Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) as LPR entries are not tracked in the CBP I-94 online system. This can become an issue at the naturalization stage where LPRs have the burden of proof for documenting absences from the U.S. Currently, LPRs may request a physical stamp upon each admission to the United States however, as noted above, LPRs should make the same effort to retain documents showing their travel to the U.S., such as proof of departure and return flights or other forms of transport where applicable, flight status emails, hotel, and other travel receipts.