CBP’s Strategy to Better Identify and Track Travelers at Border Crossings

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently released a fact sheet outlining the strategy that is used by its Entry / Exit Transformation (EXT) Office, which was created in May 2013. The goal of the EXT Office is to “accurately verify who arrives and to determine who is abiding by the terms of their admission and who is not, while enhancing border security and facilitating travel.”

Biographic and Biometric Information

The CBP, along with various other government entities that deal with immigration issues, routinely collects biographic and/or biometric information from travelers. Biographic information is text-based and includes data such as that individual’s name, date of birth, and passport number. Biometric information, on the other hand, is used to identify a person through physical traits, such as fingerprints, iris scans, or distinctive facial characteristics. For instance, at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) biometrics appointments, applicants have their fingerprints and photographs taken and electronically stored. More details on the expanded use of biometrics is discussed in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, New Program with Biometrics Requirement at USCIS May 2013 (16.Apr.2013).

CBP to Exchange Information with Canada, Mexico

The CBP presently collects biographic (not biometric) departure data from nearly all foreign nationals who exit the United States via air and sea ports of entry (POEs). CBP is working now with Canadian authorities to share the biographic information collected from those traveling by land. These land entries then would be available to add to the exit information of the U.S. or Canada, respectively. Similar arrangements are under discussion with Mexico, as well. As the CBP puts it, “Advancing and improving our existing biographic collection process is a CBP priority, considering the backbone of the criminal justice system is built on biographic data.”

EXT Office to Increase Collection of Biometrics on Exit

The CBP is also working to improve the exit information gathering process by collecting biometric data at departure. The CBP is planning to test what they have referred to as emerging biometric technologies, including iris-detecting technology to identify travelers walking through public areas of POEs.

Difficulties in Changing Departure System

It is acknowledged by the CBP that a number of difficulties must be faced in making changes to the system utilized upon departure from the United States. The POEs were designed so that entry into the U.S. could be controlled. There historically has been less scrutiny of individuals exiting. The goal of the CBP is to implement a much more controlled exit system, while simultaneously avoiding delays and travel interruptions. Accomplishing this should be possible, in the CBP’s estimation, because of recent technological advancements that should allow for large-scale, unobtrusive collection of information from travelers.


In the coming months and years, the EXT Office will likely be implementing various pilot projects to develop a standardized and efficient means of better tracking people who enter and exit the United States. MurthyDotCom will continue to follow developments in CBP inspection procedures and provide updates as new information becomes available.

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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.