CBP testing mobile biometrics

Results of the Biometric Exit Mobile Air Test could form the basis of a new DHS entry-exit system.

Customs and Border Protection has launched a pilot program to test mobile biometric screening of select departing international flights at 10 airports around the country, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The testing program, known as the Biometric Exit Mobile Air Test (BE-Mobile Air Test), is a follow-up to a similar test of biometrics technologies in 2009 that determined the concept of operations and systems were too costly and time consuming. Both programs are part of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to meet a congressional mandate to develop a biometric-based entry and exit system to identify and track foreign visitors to the U.S.

Since the 2009 tests, however, the technology has improved significantly and will enable CBP to test new concepts of operations for screening select passengers at the gates of departing international flights.

“The BE-Mobile Air Test is designed to test both a new biometric exit concept of operations at selected airports with CBP officers using a wireless handheld device at the departure gate to collect biometric and biographic data and CBP’s outbound enforcement policies and workforce distribution procedures,” the notice states.


CBP, which is a component agency of DHS, will deploy officers to the departure gate and position them near the departing passenger loading bridge. Once travelers begin the departure process, CBP officers will review each traveler’s travel documents to determine if he or she is required to submit biometric information at the time of departure.

Officers will then swipe or input the visitor’s biographical data directly from his or her passport into the handheld device. The CBP officer will also capture two of the traveler’s fingerprints and verify the fingerprints against that traveler’s biometric identity record. The biographic data collected during this test will be used to create a biographic-based departure record in a CBP biographic database. It will be paired with the biometric data collected to create “a complete, biometrically-based departure record for that alien,” according to the notice.

The tests are also aimed at helping DHS determine the occurrence of watchlist matches based on biometric data, the occurrence of biometric-identified fraud, the occurrence of inaccurate travel manifests, how overstay calculations are impacted, the transaction times for exit processing per traveler and how the system impacts referrals to secondary inspection areas.

CBP will conduct the BE-Mobile Air Test at up to 10 of the following airports:

  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • San Francisco International Airport
  • Miami International Airport
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  • Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, New York
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston
  • Washington Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Virginia

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