A new facial recognition system is gradually being rolled out at US airports in a push to improve national security and ensure visa requirements are respected.
By 2021, the new Traveler Verification System (TVS) is expected to be fully implemented in up to 20 international airports around the country and may lead to changes in the usual procedure of traveling to the USA.
The intention of the new system is to ensure that 100% of visitors arriving to selected airports are checked and vetted by the new facial recognition methods. This includes both foreign citizens traveling to the US with an ESTA and US citizens reentering after a period of travel or vacation.
To help visitors prepare appropriately for these new procedures the following article explains how TVS is going to work and provides extra information on how to prepare to pass through national immigration with it. This guide also details where it will be implemented across the United States and which airlines are participating in the program at present.
Facial recognition tools work to recognize one human face from one another via technology. This is done using biometric features to map the distinctive and unique characteristics of each human face from both photographic and video sources.
In the case of TVS this information is then cross-referenced against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases of known faces in order to find a match and to ensure the visitor is not misrepresenting their identity.
Traveling to a location where TVS is being used will require only a small extra step in the immigration procedure. This involves a photo of the passenger being taken at the boarding gate prior to a flight arriving or leaving from a US international airport.
This initial photo will then be analyzed against the visitor’s electronic biometric photo submitted from an ESTA application online, US visa application and/or from the visitor’s passport photo. Those leaving the US from a location using TVS will also have their photo taken a second time to ensure that their data matches their initial entry information and to monitor their visa validity on exiting the States.
The main goal of the implementation of TVS’s facial recognition tools is to improve the security of US borders and combat against terrorism. However, it is also being used by the US Government and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff to check and enforce against visitors overstaying visas.
This has already proven quite successful, with more than 7,000 visitors exceeding the duration of a visa being identified with the system from the 15,000 flights it had monitored. The penalties for overstaying a US Visa are high, including fines, travel bans, and even prosecution and jail. As such, travelers should ensure that they respect the requirements of their visas or ESTA visa waivers in all circumstances.
The US Government’s goal is for TVS to be fully implemented in 20 airports across the entire country. These comprise the biggest and most visited international arrival points found around the United States. The participating airports include:
A number of airlines are already co-operating in TVS. This means that visitors flying with these carriers will be photographed and their biometric details analyzed before arrival to a US airport or on leaving the country on one of their flights. These airlines include:
With the scrutiny of airline passengers becoming more and more nuanced than ever it is important to remember to follow the correct procedures when entering the United States. That means coming prepared with the right documentation when you arrive to the airport.
For citizens of 39 visa waiver countries, that requires traveling with an approved and valid ESTA. This electronic travel authorization can be easily applied for online and validated within under 48 hours.