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[Federal Register: July 8, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 130)]
[Page 39323-39324]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



[Public Notice: 7047]

Amendment to the Biometric Visa Program

AGENCY: Department of State.

ACTION: Notice of Amendment to the Biometric Visa Program.


    This public notice announces an amendment to the Biometric Visa 
Program. Section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry 
Reform Act of 2002 has required, since October 26, 2004, that all visas 
issued by the Department must be machine-readable and tamper-resistant 
and use biometric identifiers. In consultation with the Department of 
Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the 
Department determined that fingerprints and a photo image should be 
required as biometric identifiers. When the biometric visa program 
began, available technology allowed for the efficient capture and 
comparisons of only two fingerscans. As a result of technological 
improvements, the Department instituted a ten fingerscan standard to 
raise the accuracy rate in matching fingerscans and enhanced our 
ability to detect and thwart persons who are eligible for visas.
    In establishing the Biometric Visa Program, the Department 
coordinated closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The 
Biometric Visa Program is a partner program to the DHS US-VISIT Program 
that is in effect at U.S. ports of entry and that uses the same 
biometric identifiers. By coordinating these two programs, the two 
departments have ensured the integrity of the U.S. visa. This is 
accomplished by sending the fingerscans and photos of visa applicants 
to DHS databases. When a person to whom a visa has been issued arrives 
at a port of entry, his or her photo is retrieved from a database and 
projected on the computer screen of the Customs and Border Protection 
officer. The person's fingerscans are compared to the fingerscans in 
the database to ensure that the person presenting the visa is the same 
as the person to whom the visa was issued.
    Certain exemptions to the fingerscans under the Biometric Visa 
Program were also coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security 
to coincide with the exemptions to fingerscans under the US-VISIT 
Program. Under the Biometric Visa Program, applicants for diplomatic or 
official visas, for visas to represent their governments at recognized 
international organizations such as the United Nations or for visas to 
serve as employees of such organizations, for NATO visas, or for 
government officials on official transit through the U.S. are exempt 
from the fingerscans. The aforementioned are represented by visa 
categories: A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-
4, NATO-5, NATO-6 and C-3 (except for attendants, servants, or personal 
employees of accredited officials). In addition, persons under age 14 
and persons age 80 or above are generally exempt from the fingerscans, 
unless the person is applying for a visa at a consular post in Mexico 
and in Yemen. In Mexico, fingerscans are required for applicants 
beginning at age 7 and above under the program for issuance of 
biometric Border Crossing Cards (commonly known as ``laser visas''), 
which began in 1998. We have recently expanded that policy to include 
visa applicants in Yemen, and may further expand it to include 
additional countries in the future. The Secretary of State retains the 
authority to require fingerscans of children under age 14 or adults age 
80 or above in all other countries. All visa applicants are required to 
submit a photograph with the visa application, except at consular posts 
in Mexico where most nonimmigrant visa applicants have a live-capture 
photo taken at post. All persons, regardless of whether they submit 
fingerscans or not, are reviewed against the Department's facial 
recognition database, one of the largest facial recognition databases 
in the world.
    By checking fingerscans against a biometric watchlist, the 
Biometric Visa

[[Page 39324]]

Program enables consular officers to deny visas to persons on the 
watchlist who are ineligible for visas. For the great majority of 
travelers, the Biometric Visa Program performs a travel facilitation 
function by allowing for biometric identity verification at ports of 
entry, which serves to facilitate admission to the United States.

DATES: Effective upon date of publication in the Federal Register.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lauren Prosnik, Visa Analyst, U.S. 
Department of State, 2401 E Street, NW., Room L603, Washington, DC 
20520. Phone 202-633-2951.

    Dated: June 25, 2010.
Janice L. Jacobs,
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State.
[FR Doc. 2010-16671 Filed 7-7-10; 8:45 am]