Facial Biometric Comparison Technology Expands at Texas Port of Entry

Simplified Arrival uses facial biometrics during the international arrival process in Texas
facial imagining for travel
South Texas (Vax Before Travel)

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency announced the implementation of Simplified Arrival at the international bridges within the Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry in south Texas.

Simplified Arrival, an enhanced international arrival process that uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks that are already required for admission into the USA.

This will be the third location in the Rio Grande Valley area to implement Simplified Arrival. In 2020, Simplified Arrival was deployed at the Progreso/Donna Port of Entry, located slightly downriver from Hidalgo, followed by the Brownsville Port of Entry located about an hour away.

Previously, CBP had launched Simplified Arrival at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and at the Houston, Texas airports.

Since September 2018, CBP has leveraged facial biometrics to prevent more than 400 imposters from illegally entering the USA by using genuine travel documents issued to other people.

Located near McAllen, Texas, the Hidalgo Port of Entry crosses between Reynosa, Mexico, and the USA. Hidalgo is one of the ten busiest ports of entry in the USA, processing more than 1.6 million pedestrians and nearly 2.9 million vehicles in Fiscal Year 2020. 

Simplified Arrival only uses the biometric facial comparison process at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. 

When travelers arrive at the pedestrian lanes or undergo I-94 processing at any bridge in Hidalgo, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. 

A CBP officer will review and query the travel document, which will retrieve the traveler’s passport or visa photo from government holdings. The new image of the traveler will be compared to the photo previously collected.

The facial comparison process only takes a few seconds and is more than 98 percent accurate. 

Also, foreign travelers who have traveled to the U.S. previously may no longer need to provide fingerprints, as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial comparison process.

If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival process, the traveler will proceed through the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for entry into the USA.

Randy J. Howe, Director, Field Operations, Laredo Field Office, stated in a press release issued on March 9, 2021, “CBP has evaluated and fine-tuned the biometric facial comparison technology we have been testing at the Southwest Border since the summer of 2018 to deliver a secure, streamlined travel experience that will also support travel recovery efforts.”

U.S. travelers and those foreign nationals who are not required to provide biometrics and wish to opt-out of the new biometric process may notify a CBP officer as they approach the primary inspection point. These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for inspection by a CBP officer. They will be processed consistent with existing requirements for admission into the United States.

CBP is committed to its privacy obligations and has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process. 

New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Pictures of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system.

More information about CBP’s efforts to secure and streamline travel through facial biometrics can be found here.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of national borders at and between official ports of entry.

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