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Biographic vs. Biometric

Biographic process on departing travelers

A biographic-based entry-exit system is one that matches the information on an individual’s passport (or other travel document presented) traveling on flights to, from, or through the United States. The advanced passenger information received by CBP is checked against lists including the no-fly list, active wants and warrants, the terrorist screening database, and others. These efforts will not change with the introduction of biometric exit.

Biometric process on departing travelers

Using the flight manifest, CBP builds a flight specific photo gallery using photographs from the travel document the traveler provided to the airline. CBP then compares the live photo against the document photo in the gallery to ensure the traveler is the true bearer of the document. If the photo taken at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the traveler—having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen—is automatically determined to be out of scope for biometric exit purposes and the photo is discarded after a short period of time. CBP has been working closely with airline and airport stakeholders to test biometric exit technology and as a result has developed a viable exit solution based on facial recognition. This process enhances our security while continuing to facilitate legitimate travel.

How Does It Work?

The Traveler Verification Service (TVS) uses CBP’s biographic APIS manifest data and existing photographs of all travelers boarding international flights to confirm the identity of the traveler, create an exit record, and biometrically confirm the exit of non-U.S. citizens. CBP generates biometric templates of the historical images of travelers for a given flight and temporarily stores them in the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) prior to boarding. These images include photographs taken by CBP during the entry inspection, photographs from U.S. passports and U.S. visas, and photographs from other DHS encounters.

As boarding begins, each international traveler approaches the departure gate to present a boarding pass and stands for a photo in front of a camera that is owned either by CBP or by a partner airline or airport authority. The camera securely transmits usable images to CBP’s cloud-based TVS facial matching service. The matching service generates a template from the departure image and uses that template to search the historical photo templates for all travelers on that particular international flight manifest. The TVS returns faces that best match the reference face, thus verifying the identities of individual travelers. If a match is found, the traveler proceeds to the aircraft. If, however, after repeated attempts, the TVS cannot verify the identity of the traveler, a CBP Officer escorts the traveler to verify his or her identity using a biometric handheld device to run the traveler's fingerprints through law enforcement databases.

Last modified: 
December 11, 2017