Registered traveler goes international

The Homeland Security Department today published notice it will begin testing an International Registered Traveler program at three airports starting June 10 to expedite airport clearances for prescreened travelers.

Initially, the pilot program is available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The eventual goal is to coordinate with other international trusted traveler programs around the globe to allow pre-screened, low-risk foreign visitors to participate as well, according to the notice published today in the Federal Register.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will operate the six-month pilot program at JFK International in New York; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston; and at Washington Dulles. Applications to participate are due by May 12.

Under the program, travelers who are registered in the program may bypass passport control when returning to the United States. Instead, they may verify their identities at automated kiosks at the Federal Inspection Services area of each airport. The program will use fingerprint biometric technology for the verifications.

At the kiosk, the traveler will insert into a reader either their machine-readable passport or machine-readable permanent-resident card. Then, the traveler must provide fingerprints electronically, pose for a digital photograph and respond to questions on a touch-screen computer. Once the procedures are completed, the traveler receives a receipt enabling passage through exit control.

The travelers still will be required to declare certain articles being brought into the United States, and to go to customs inspection stations if they have such articles. They will be allowed to go to the head of the line at the nearest open passport control primary inspection station.

Currently, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be considered for participation in the pilot projects.

Eventually, the goal is to recognize comparable programs in other countries so that foreign visitors will be eligible for participation in International Registered Traveler, the notice states.

The DHS-sponsored domestic Registered Traveler has been an active field for contractors. The program is now operating at 16 airports. Volunteers pay an annual fee, undergo a background screening by the Transportation Security Administration and receive a biometric identification card. When arriving at participating airports, they use designated lanes to pass through security.

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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