Border equipment to be installed this year

Plans to install finger scans and digital photography equipment at the International Falls border crossing are on schedule and will be up and running by Dec. 31, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.
The equipment is part of the US-VISIT program, which involves taking scanned, inkless fingerprints and digital photographs of visa-carrying travellers entering the U.S.
“They will have it up and running by the end of the year,” said Mike Milne.
The program already is in use at the International Falls airport.
The screening does not apply to Canadians unless they are carrying a visa to work, live, or study south of the border.
Milne said the screening only takes about 15 seconds on average. Visa-carriers account for less than five percent of the people who cross at land borders, he added.
“They have to stop and come in for secondary processing anyway,” he noted.
As well, there is a minimal amount of equipment to install. Milne said it consists of a computer with a digital camera and a finger scan pad—about the size of a cellular phone—attached.
“There aren’t really any major physical changes to be made [to the building],” he noted.
The U.S. government launched the Unites States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology program back in January at all airports and seaports.
The program is meant to enhance security. “We’ve had a lot of criminal records confirmed and identified so far,” Milne noted.
The 50 busiest land border crossings into the U.S. must have the program in place by the end of this year. These 50 points of entry account for about 80 percent of land traffic into the U.S.
The crossing at International Falls sits at number 40 on that list. The remaining land border crossings, such as the one at Baudette, Mn., will be required to use the program by Jan. 1, 2006.
Currently, the US-VISIT program only applies to in-bound travellers, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has plans to expand the program to out-bound travellers, too.
“The out-bound portion will be a little different. We’re not set up to stop people going out,” noted Milne.
As of yet, there is no fixed timeline for the screening of out-bound travellers, but tests programs will begin in some major cities in the next few months.