To Secure Border, DHS Looks to U.S. Exit System

The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security held a hearing in September 2011 to assess the status of current programs administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aimed at combating and preventing terrorist activity. The testimony presented at the hearing includes discussion of the progress toward implementation of the exit component of the US-VISIT entry / exit tracking program. It is expected to become fully implemented within a year or less.

US-VISIT May Get Bigger Push Towards Full Implementation

US-VISIT is the program established by the U.S. federal government that uses biometric data to track the time and place foreign nationals enter the United States. It was first implemented in January 2004, among other changes recommended by the 9/11 Commission to prevent entry by known terrorists and to identify foreign nationals who fail to depart the U.S. upon expiration of their nonimmigrant statuses. The 9/11 Commission has determined that some of the 9/11 hijackers were “overstays,” present in the U.S. after the expiration of their statuses.

The US-VISIT program currently captures and stores biometric and biographic information from foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States. Years after initiation of US-VISIT, however, it still has not been fully implemented with respect to the exit component. The DHS is not yet able to identify everyone who fails to depart on time. This remains a high priority and is expected to be implemented, according to DHS officials, within six to twelve months after September 2011.

Standardized Secure ID

As many of the 9/11 hijackers used state-issued forms of identification to board planes, the 9/11 Commission recommendations included more stringent federal standards for the issuance of identification documents such as drivers’ licenses. This recommendation was translated into a law known as the REAL ID Act of 2005. In 2008, the DHS issued regulations that set the universal standards for more secure driver’s license issuance based on verification of the applicant’s identity. However, mandatory full state compliance with these regulations, has been postponed until 2013. In his testimony, Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-IN), Co-Chair of the National Security Preparedness Group, a successor to the 9/11 Commission, stated that this “deadline should be accelerated” in light of the immediate need for more secure driver’s license procedures.


We at the Murthy Law Firm will continue to share important and useful information of any important changes that may affect international travelers as a result of implementation of the US-VISIT exit system. Much of this security effort is internal, involving interconnected law enforcement and intelligence databases. As of this writing, these developments do not change the requirements for foreign nationals traveling to or departing from the United States.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.