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CBP Expands Biometrics Facial Comparison at BWI Airport to Secure and Streamline International Travel

Release Date: 
March 24, 2021

BALTIMORE – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced today the implementation of Simplified Arrival at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

Simplified Arrival is an enhanced international arrivals process that uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks that are already required for admission into the United States. Simplified Arrival provides travelers with a secure, touchless travel experience and fulfills a longstanding Congressional mandate to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.

A traveler processes her admission using CBP's enhanced biometric facial comparison process at BWI Airport.
A traveler processes her admission using
CBP's enhanced biometric facial comparison
process at BWI Airport.

CBP officers processed about 430,000 international travelers at BWI Airport last year, and about 730,000 travelers during 2019, the last full year before the implementation of COVID-related travel restrictions.

Simplified Arrival only uses the biometric facial comparison process at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When travelers arrive from overseas, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. The photograph is compared to the traveler’s passport or visa photo.  

Simplified Arrival pairs one of the industry’s highest ranked facial comparison algorithms (as assessed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology) with trained CBP officers who are skilled at verifying the authenticity of travel documents. The facial comparison process only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate.

To date, more than 66 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison process at air, land and sea ports of entry. Since September 2018, CBP has leveraged facial biometrics to prevent more than 500 imposters from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people.

“Customs and Border Protection has deployed an innovative, efficient and secure passenger identity verification process that delivers a streamlined experience for travelers arriving to the United States while enhancing our nation’s security,” said Keith Fleming, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office. “CBP’s use of facial biometric technology ensures a safer, touchless travel experience while protecting the privacy of all travelers.”

Simplified Arrival is voluntary for U.S. citizens and for select foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics. Eligible travelers who wish to opt out of the new facial biometric process may notify a CBP officer when approaching the primary inspection point.

Travelers who opt out or who cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival process will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by a CBP officer and will be processed consistent with existing requirements for admission into the United States.

Foreign travelers who have traveled to the U.S. previously may not be required to provide fingerprints, as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial comparison process.

CBP is committed to its privacy obligations and has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process. New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system.

Read more about how CBP secures and streamlines international travel through facial biometrics.

CBP's border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations. CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.

Please visit CBP Ports of Entry to learn more about how CBP’s Office of Field Operations secures our nation’s borders. Learn more about CBP at www.CBP.gov.

Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore and on Instagram at @dfobaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos.

Last modified: 
March 24, 2021