The Department of Homeland Security has released a final rule, with targeted effective date of January 18, 2009, which would dramatically expand the number of aliens who are subject to the US-VISIT program biometric requirements.
About the US-VISIT Program. The US-VISIT program was established in 2003 to verify the identities and travel documents of visitors. US-VISIT automates this verification by comparing biometric identifiers, and by comparing biometric identifiers with information drawn from intelligence and law enforcement watch lists and databases. Visitors subject to US-VISIT may be required to provide fingerscans, photographs, or other biometric identifiers upon arrival at, or departure from, the United States. Currently, people entering the United States pursuant to 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.
The New Rule. The new rule, which goes into effect on January 18, 2009, will subject legal permanent residents (LPRs or green card holders) to the fingerprinting and digital photos procedure which is currently applied to other non-immigrants entering the U.S. The new rule has some very minor exceptions, so all green card holders between the age of 14 and 79 entering the U.S. after January 18, 2009, should expect to be subject to the US-VISIT biometric processing. Opponents of the new rule cite privacy and lengthy border processing delays as some of the negative consequences of the new rule. Although the new processing requirements will certainly slow down LPRs at their border inspection, regardless of whether they travel by land or by air, one piece of good news is that LPRs can still be processed in the faster “Citizens/LPRs” line on most airports and points of entry into the U.S.