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CBP facial biometric technology detects impostor entering the U.S. in Blaine

Release Date: 
December 6, 2021

BLAINE, Wash. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers using Simplified Arrival at the Pacific Highway Port of Entry intercepted an impostor attempting to cross the border from Canada into the United States Nov. 26.

“The addition of facial biometric technology and the vigilance of our CBP officers helped intercept someone suspected of fraudulently using another individual’s passport and COVID-19 vaccination card to cross international borders,” said Brian J. Humphrey, Director, Field Operations, Seattle Field Office. “This advanced biometric technology, combined with skilled CBP officers, provides travelers with a secure, efficient, and touchless arrival process that strengthens border security.”

The incident occurred when an officer detected a facial mismatch while processing a passenger in the bus terminal. Upon further investigation, the woman admitted to using her sister’s U.S. passport and COVID-19 vaccination card because she had not been vaccinated.

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

The biometric facial comparison process occurs only at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When a traveler arrives at one of the pedestrian lanes or undergoes I-94 processing, he or she will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. A CBP officer will review and query the travel document, which will retrieve the traveler’s passport or visa photo from government holdings and compare it to the new photo.

This enhanced process using facial biometrics only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate. In addition, foreign travelers who have traveled to the United States previously may no longer need to provide fingerprints, as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial biometric 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 photo comparisons of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photo comparisons of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure U.S. Department of Homeland Security system.

U.S. travelers and foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics and wish to opt out of the new biometric process may notify a CBP officer as they approach the primary inspection point. These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by a CBP officer and will be processed consistent with long established processes for admission into the United States.

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. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival process, the traveler will proceed through the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for admission into the United States.

To date, more than 113 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison process at air, land, and seaports of entry. Since September 2018, CBP has leveraged facial biometrics to prevent more than 1,100 impostors from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people.

More information about CBP’s efforts to secure and streamline travel through facial biometrics can be found here.

Last modified: 
December 7, 2021