Troubled US-VISIT Program Still Seeking Solutions
Reported by Stew Magnuson
Ensuring that foreign visitors actually leave the United States when their visa expires has been a long-time goal of the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.
Unlike European and Asian countries, U.S. airport and land border crossings do not have immigration lanes where agents stamp passports with the date of departure.
The director of the program, Robert Mocny, told attendees at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement conference that a solution will be in place by June 2009, which is when congressional mandates kick in.
At airports, he said DHS will ask airlines to take the information and report it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He acknowledged that the industry will not be happy with this proposed solution.
Having Transportation Security Administration baggage screeners carry out this function would slow down the already long lines at security checkpoints, he said.
DHS tried a pilot program with self-checkout kiosks, but that ended in failure because visitors couldn’t locate the machines. Airports nowadays are shopping malls, he said. Authorities did not allow the machines to be placed in conspicuous locations. They “didn’t want to give us valuable space that they could give to a Starbucks or a Cinnabon,” he said.
A 15-month pilot program at land border crossings also ended in failure. That used radio frequency chips in cards that were supposed to be read automatically as cars drove through crossings.
Along with technical difficulties, the system could not prevent a visitor from giving the card to someone else to take across the border. In other words, the card was leaving the country, but not necessarily the person, he said.
Please email your comments to SMagnuson@ndia.org