Skip to main content
Doug Zongker

Biometrics in Border Crossing Applications

Dr. James L. Wayman
San Jose State University


With the "Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002", Congress called for the installation "not later than Oct. 26, 2004"  of "equipment and software to allow biometric comparison and authentication of all United States visas and other travel and entry documents issued to aliens".  On January 28, 2004,   the Departments of State and Homeland Security asked Congress for a two-year extension of this deadline, saying such a process of document and system redesign "normally takes years."  Congress granted only a one-year extension in the deployment mandate.

Since 1992, there have been at least a dozen attempts internationally to add biometrics to the border crossing process.  None of these attempts has been successful over a large population.  In this talk, we will review several case studies: the Schipol "Travel Pass" (1992), the US INSPASS (1994), the Australian "SmartGate" (2003) and the US-VISIT program (2004).  We will discuss the technology advances made in each and the remaining engineering challenges in applying these programs to a general population of travellers.  We will discuss why DHS and DOS testified that the US-VISIT program will need more time for development than Congress was ultimately willing to grant . Finally, we will discuss the more basic progress being made in standards and technology for large-scale biometric applications.


Dr. Wayman is an advisor to the US and UK governments on biometric technology.  He serves as a "Principal UK Expert" on the ISO standards committee and is a member of the National Academies of Science "Whither Biometrics?" committee.  From 1997 to 2000, he was Director of the U.S. National Biometric Test Center.