US: VISIT exit system not in place, nor likely to be in the foreseeable future

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The US VISIT programme, which is intended to record the entry and exit of every visitor, is still not working nor is there any prospect of it doing so. While most of the the 300 air, sea and land "points of entry" are operating "biometrically enabled" entry records "comparable exit capabilities are not" said a report on the evidence presented to the US House of Representatives by officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO): Homeland Security: Prospects For Biometric US-VISIT Exit Capability Remain Unclear Over the past 4 years $1.3 billion has been spent on the system.

The report says that:

"The prospects for successfully delivering an operational exit solution are as uncertain today as they were 4 years ago."

The Department of Homeland Security is committed to providing exit records at air and seaports it has produced no plans or analyses to achieving this and:

"acknowledged that a near-term biometric solution for land POEs is not possible"

Even where biometrically enabled system were available at 11 air and sea pilot schemes:

"on average only about 24 percent of those travellers subject to US-VISIT actually complied with the exit processing steps."

This was because compliance was "voluntary".

The biggest long-term problem is the land exit schemes.

"According to program officials, no technology or device currently exists to biometrically verify persons exiting the country that would not have a major impact on land POE facilities. They added that technological advances over the next 5 to 10 years will make it possible to biometrically verify persons exiting the country without major changes to facility infrastructure and without requiring those exiting to stop and/or exit their vehicles."

Indeed land exit capabilities are "being deferred to an unspecified future time"

The report's overall conclusion is that:

"there is no reason to expect that DHS’s newly launched efforts to deliver an air and sea exit solution will produce results different from its past efforts—namely, no operational exit solution despite many years and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. More importantly, the continued absence of an exit capability will hinder DHS’s ability to effectively and efficiently perform its border security and immigration enforcement mission."

And what of the overall effectiveness of the US VISIT scheme? Last autumn the Acting Director of Homeland Security said that out of 63 million recorded visitors "1,200 criminals and immigration violators" had been denied entry - this report says the figure has risen to 1,500.

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