DHS to begin full fingerprint scans for visitors

The Homeland Security Department intends to begin scanning all 10 fingerprints for foreign visitors starting Nov. 29 at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, department officials said Tuesday.

Foreigners visiting the United States on visas must have a digital photograph taken and a scan of their two index fingers under the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. DHS has built a database of 90 million fingerprints in the four years the program has been in operation.

Expansion to 10-finger scans, which has been in the planning stages for several years, is now beginning, Robert Mocny, U.S. Visit director, told journalists at the Foreign Press Center in Washington yesterday.

The 10-finger U.S. Visit scans are being rolled out at U.S. airports and at all land and sea border crossings, with a goal of being fully operational by the end of 2008, according to press reports of the briefing.

Officials in the Bush administration have said the purpose of scanning more fingers is to increase accuracy and reduce false matches. But there are concerns about the greater length of time needed to scan 10 fingers.

DHS proposes a substantial investment to implement the 10-fingerprint system. In the White House budget request for fiscal 2008, which was approved by Congress, U.S. Visit would increase its funding to $462 million, up $99 million over last year, to support the expansion from two fingerprints.

Much of the new funding will go to federal information technology contractors providing goods and services including scanners, biometric storage and integration and networking services.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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