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CBP, cruise lines partner to modernize entry process with facial biometrics

Release Date: 
August 5, 2021

WASHINGTON— As cruise travel resumes this summer following suspension due to COVID-19, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is working with the cruise industry to make travel safer and more efficient.

biometric inspection on cruise
A traveler pauses for a photo to verify identity before
departing on a Norwegian Cruise Line vessel. The
biometric facial comparison process adds an extra layer
of security and streamlines travel into the United States 
by replacing the manual inspection of travel documents.

As a model of CBP's successful public-private partnerships, CBP worked closely with major cruise lines to implement facial biometric comparison technology in the arrival process at select seaports to further secure and enhance the inspection process for passengers returning to the United States at the end of their cruise. 

“CBP and its cruise partners have revolutionized the cruise debarkation process for all travelers through facial biometrics and enhanced traveler processes,” said Diane J. Sabatino, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner of Field Operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “As part of the travel recovery efforts, travelers have the benefit of secure, touch less and streamlined entry procedures into the United States while CBP protects the privacy of all travelers.”

Already in use at major air and land Ports of Entry (POEs), facial biometrics in the cruise environment will strengthen CBP’s enforcement capabilities at several of the nation's cruise ports while also enhancing the customer experience. Additionally, CBP and its cruise partners have expanded data sharing agreements to further strengthen security in cruise travel.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents more than 90% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, joined CBP in recognizing the importance of public-private partnership in enhancing the cruise experience and advancing the restart of operations from U.S. ports.

“The health, safety and security of passengers, crew members and the communities we visit is the cruise industry’s top priority and, to that end, the use of biometric technology in cruise terminals is showing impressive results,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA. “On behalf of the entire cruise community, CLIA looks forward to continuing to work in partnership with the U.S. Government to further advance the responsible return to service from U.S. ports, which is putting Americans back to work and offering travelers one of the best ways to experience the world.” 

To date, facial biometric comparison technology is available at 12 seaports across the United States and has been successfully used to process arriving passengers on most cruise vessels that have resumed sailings in Florida and Texas.

“As we build back the travel industry, biometric technology will play an increasingly important role in ensuring a modern and more secure and efficient travel system for all,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “U.S. Travel commends CBP and its cruise line partners for their work to implement this important technology and safely restart cruising, a vital sector of the U.S. travel economy.”

The enhanced arrival process using facial biometrics verifies the traveler's identity within two seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate. When debarking the cruise vessel at a U.S, seaport, passengers will pause for a photo that will be compared to the traveler’s existing passport or visa photo in secure DHS systems to biometrically verify their identity. Upon an efficient match, passengers collect their baggage and proceed through inspections and exit the terminal. U.S. travelers and select foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics and wish to opt out of the new biometric process can simply request a manual document check from a CBP Officer.

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

Currently, more than 88 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 850 impostors using genuine travel documents from illegally entering the United States at air and land Ports of Entry. More information on biometric facial comparison technology can be found here.

Last modified: 
August 31, 2021