Customs and Border Protection (CBP) soon plans to begin a pilot project at a land port of entry in California to collect face and iris images of certain foreign nationals arriving to and departing from the United States in pedestrian lanes to increase its understanding of how to implement biometric technology into the exit process in the land environment.

The testing at the Otay Mesa port of entry along the border with Mexico will begin no earlier than Dec. 7 and will be completed by June 30, 2016, the agency said Feb. 13 in the Federal Register.

CBP pedestrian crossing in Calexico, Calif.. Photo: CBP
CBP pedestrian crossing in Calexico, Calif.. Photo: CBP

CBP said “it will use the results of the test to assess the operational feasibility of biometric information collection for potential deployment across the U.S. southwest border.” The upcoming pilot is just one of several that CBP is doing to examine how biometrics might be employed in verifying the departure of foreign nationals from the United States as required by federal laws.  

The agency has been pilot testing mobile exit solutions to capture fingerprints of foreign nationals departing from a small number of major airports in the United States and also did a pilot of facial recognition technology of U.S. citizens arriving on international flights at Dulles airport near Washington, D.C.

SRI International has developed an integrated face and iris capture system that will be used in the Otay Mesa pilot. CBP said the face and iris images will be captured “either via a biometric kiosk or freestanding facial and iris cameras, upon arrival and departure.”

Currently, CBP collects fingerprints to verify the identity of certain foreign nationals arriving to the United States at all land ports of entry.

Under the pilot at Otay Mesa, all travelers, including U.S. citizens, will also have their biographic data collected upon departure from the country. The biographic data will be information on travel documents such as name, birth date, gender, and country of citizenship. The biographic data will be collected using a radio-frequency identification reader, a kiosk or a handheld device.

The biographic data will be used to identify known or suspected terrorists, individuals associated with terrorist organizations, people that have overstayed their visas, have warrants from criminal activity or are the subject of law enforcement concerns.