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  4. CBP Announces New Facial Biometric Comparison Technology at Calexico, CA

CBP Announces New Facial Biometric Comparison Technology at Calexico, CA

Release Date
Thu, 02/18/2021

Secure, seamless arrival process will support travel recovery efforts

CALEXICO, CA—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced today the implementation of Simplified Arrival at the pedestrian border crossing in Calexico, CA.

Simplified Arrival is an enhanced international arrival process that uses facial biometrics 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 Calexico Port of Entry is a land border crossing located in the Imperial Valley of California. It is divided into an east and west side, both crossing between Mexico and the United States. Calexico West is the fourth busiest pedestrian port of entry in the United States, processing nearly 2.5 million travelers in Fiscal Year 2020 and 3.7 million in FY 2019. Although Calexico East is the smaller of the two POEs, CBP still processed nearly 300,000 travelers in FY 2020 and more than 330,000 in FY 2019.

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 a traveler arrives at the pedestrian lanes or undergoes I-94 processing at Calexico, 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. The new photo of the traveler will be compared to the photo previously collected.

The facial comparison process only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate. In addition, foreign travelers who have traveled to the U.S. previously will no longer need to provide fingerprints, as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial biometric process.

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 entry into the United States.

To date, more than 62 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 400 imposters from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people. Twenty-one of those imposters were caught attempting to cross at Calexico.

“As part of our ongoing land border innovation efforts, CBP is developing a range of enhanced processes and services for travelers that are not only touchless and efficient, but provide an additional layer of security and protect the privacy of all travelers,” said Anne Maricich, Acting Director of Field Operations, San Diego Field Office at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “The safety and security of our nation is our highest priority, which is reflected in our ability to prevent imposters from entering into the United States while also providing a secure and streamlined travel experience for legitimate travelers using facial biometrics.

U.S. travelers and those 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 existing requirements for admission into the United States.

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.

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

Last Modified: Nov 15, 2021