SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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SHOULD CONGRESS EXTEND THE OCTOBER 2004 STATUTORY DEADLINE FOR REQUIRING FOREIGN VISITORS TO PRESENT BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS?
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH CONGRESS
APRIL 21, 2004
Serial No. 111
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/judiciary
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F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
MELISSA A. HART, Pennsylvania
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
JOHN R. CARTER, Texas
TOM FEENEY, Florida
MARSHA BLACKBURN, Tennessee
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCRICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
C O N T E N T S
APRIL 21, 2004
The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., a Representative in Congress From the State of Wisconsin, and Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
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The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., a Representative in Congress From the State of Michigan, and Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary of State
The Honorable Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sam Farr, a Representative in Congress from the State of California, and the Honorable Mark Foley, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Prepared Statement of the Honorable Elton Gallegly, a Representative in Congress From the State of California
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Steve King, a Representative in Congress From the State of Iowa
Prepared Statement of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States
Prepared Statement of the Travel Business RoundTable
Prepared Statement of J. Clark Robinson, President, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
Prepared Statement of the Chamber of Commerce in Singapore
Letter from the National Business Travel Association
Letter from the Travel Industry Association of America
Responses from 21 Ambassadors
Letter from Jonathan Faull, European Commission, to Phil G. Kiko, Chief of Staff-General Counsel, Committee on the Judiciary
Response to Questions posed during the hearing from the Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary of State
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Responses to Post-Hearing Questions from the Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Responses to Post-Hearing Questions from the Honorable Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security
SHOULD CONGRESS EXTEND THE OCTOBER 2004 STATUTORY DEADLINE FOR REQUIRING FOREIGN VISITORS TO PRESENT BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS?
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21, 2004
House of Representatives,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Committee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in Room 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (Chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Committee will be in order.
Mr. Conyers and I will give opening statements. Secretary Powell is caught in traffic somewhere between the White House and here, but with Secretary Ridge's permission, we decided to get going.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Conyers and I will make opening statements.
Without objection, other Members' opening statements will be included in the record.
And both secretaries will testify for about 10 minutes, and then we will have questions under the 5-minute rule.
I will repeat this after the testimony is concluded. But both secretaries have to leave at noon. I am keeping track of who appears in what order, and people will be recognized alternatively on each side under the 5-minute rule. And when we get to noon, wherever we arewe hope we thank you very much for saying what you are going to say and everybody can be on their way.
Today, we meet to discuss the October 2004 deadline for countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program to certify they can issue machine-readable passports that are tamper-resistant and incorporate biometric identifiers.
The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers from certain designated countries to come to the United States as temporary visitors without having to obtain a non-immigrant visa. There are currently 27 countries participating. And in fiscal year 2002, 13 million foreign visitors entered the United States under the program.
Since its creation in 1986, the program has greatly facilitated travel to the United States from foreign program countries. Through reciprocal arrangements, the program also benefits American international travelers.
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The Visa Waiver Program was established on the premise that nationals from participating countries pose little security risk or threat of overstaying their period of admittance. This premise may have been true in years past but is questionable today. For example, in February of this year, thousands of blank French passports were stolen from a delivery truck, the third such theft in less than a year. Spain is a Visa Waiver Program country, and it appears that most of the terrorists who carried out the Madrid bombings were Spanish citizens or legal immigrants entitled to passports which they could have used to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
In part to address threats like this, I authored the ''Enhanced Visa Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.'' The act requires that, by no later than October 26, 2004, governments of Visa Waiver Program countries must certify they have programs to issue to their nationals machine-readable passports that are tamper-resistant and that incorporate biometric identifiers that comply with the biometric identifier standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
On or after this date, any alien applying for admission under the program must present a passport that meets these standards unless the passport was issued prior to that date.
This requirement is aimed at closing existing security loopholes. First, it will allow DHS inspectors at ports-of-entry to determine whether a passport properly identifies its bearer. This will combat terrorist imposters and prevent them from defeating lookout lists on which they are posted. Second, it will make passports much harder to alter or counterfeit. Third, in conjunction with the installation of scanners at ports-of-entry to read the passports, the DHS can track the arrival and departure of travelers and identify those who overstay their visas.
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My goal in selecting the October 2004 deadline was to push countries to act promptly to modernize their passports. I have contacted the foreign governments participating in the Visa Waiver Program and asked whether they will meet the October deadline. It appears that for most Visa Waiver countries, the deadline is unreachable.
Fortunately, the impending deadline has led to results by at least a few countries in progress and several others. Belgium had one of the weakest passport regimes in Europe, but has now so completely revised its approach that it will be among the first countries to meet the new biometric requirements. Belgium has also improved its physical security of blank passports so that not one has been stolen since 1999.
Hopefully, France will follow its neighbor and take steps to stop the continuing theft of blank French passports.
The Administration has written to me to say that there are interoperability issues, privacy issues, chip durability concerns as well as production and procurement delays and has asked for legislation to extend the biometric passport deadline for 2 years.
At the same time, the Administration has initiated security procedures that will limit the risk of extending the deadlines. Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will begin fingerprinting each traveler from the Visa Waiver Program countries in September of this year. This abbreviated inspection process for Visa Waiver travelers will be greatly strengthened with the incorporation of US-VISIT especially until such time as all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program are issuing their citizens passports with biometric identifiers.
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To date, US-VISIT has been an outstanding success, taking half a minute or less to capture biometric identification while the conventional interview takes place. Under the program, arriving aliens from overseas have two fingerprints and a photograph digitally recorded with little inconvenience added. This data is used to verify the identity of the visitor and is compared against criminal and terrorist watch lists.
I called today's hearing so that the Committee may hear from Secretaries Powell and Ridge on both their efforts over the past 2 years to encourage Visa Waiver Program countries to meet the statutory requirements and also on their assessment of the ability of countries to meet the deadline. This will provide valuable information for the Committee to evaluate the Administration's request that we extend the deadline for a period of 2 years.
The gentleman from Michigan?
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And good morning to our distinguished witnesses.
It is not often that any Committee gets two Cabinet Members at the same time in one morning, and we are honored by your presence.
First of all, I would like to make it clear that this biometric means of identifying a person by biological features unique to each individual uses advanced computerized recognition techniques that make rapid comparison possible and is almost a total proof contained method of identification.
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It startedit is in some use already, and I think everyone is quite satisfied with it. So we come here this morning with the understanding that we want these biometric measurement techniques instituted at our earliest convenience.
The question is, is there sufficient reason for us to re-examine the time limit that has been imposed?
And I would like permission, Mr. Chairman, to put in the record the article by the Secretary of State that appeared in the Wall Street Journal just today.
[The information referred to follows:]
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you.
And of course, we are always happy to welcome a former colleague in the Congress back to the House, and we are always happy to see him. We gave you one of our best on the Committee to make him your deputy, and I trust that he is doing a good job. I testified for him. He'd better be.
And what we want to examine, is there sufficient reason to extend the deadline for biometric passports past the current October 2004 deadline? And it seems to me that this, the answer to this question, involves a few considerations that I would like to enumerate as this discussion before the Committee goes on today.
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The first one that I raise is whether we have sufficiently considered the global privacy issues of creating government controlled and shared databases with biometric data, which will soon number millions and millions of travelers.
Secondly, if we are too hasty and if we do legitimately need additional time, won't this make us more secure rather than rushing to meet a deadline that was established in good faith by all the parties without question? But there are circumstances which perhaps you might want to expand on that requires us to make this modification that is before us.
And then I am asking myself, how can we demand other nations to move forward with this brand new technology when it is not clear that we are ready for it ourselves?
And if we do not extend the deadline, the question arises, what will be the consequences for our allies, our friendly nations abroad and our own tourist industry itself. Clearly, making millions of individuals and Visa Waiver nations wait in line for visas with approximately 6 million other people in the backlog does not seem to be a desirable result from, I think, all of our points of view.
Now, our backs are against the wall. We are facing a deadline. We are in a highly active part of the year, to put it mildly. I am not sure if the State Department or the Department of Homeland Security has to be nailed up against the wall or to be held responsible, because I think that the reasons for this can be found in the congressional approach that we made.
And when the House passed this bill, setting the deadline, incidentally, 3 years ago, during the limited debate, a central issue with this deadline was whether it was reasonable, but we went along with it.
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I am not sure if anything terrible would happen in the global scheme of things if we were to take this second examination of the time and be guided by the Wall Street Journal publication in which the Secretary of State was quoted, ''Some argue that we should raise the drawbridge and not allow any more foreign visitors. They are wrong. Such a move would hand a victory to the terrorists by having us betray our cherished principles. Openness is fundamental to our success as a Nation, economically, culturally and politically.''
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the testimony of our distinguished witnesses.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, all Members' opening statements will be placed in the record at this point.
Messrs. Secretaries, would you please rise and take the oath?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Let the record state that both witnesses answered in the affirmative.
Our first witness is Secretary Colin Powell. Secretary Powell became the 65th Secretary of State on January 20, 2001. Prior to his appointment, he was the chairman of America's Promise, The Alliance For Youth, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing people to build the character and confidence of young people.
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During his distinguished career, Secretary Powell served as a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he had many command and staff positions and rose to the rank of 4-star general. His last assignment from October 1, 1989, to September 30, 1993 was as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.
He is the recipient of numerous U.S. and foreign military awards and decorations as well as two presidential Medals of Freedom, the President's Citizen Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal.
He holds a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York and an MBA degree from George Washington University.
The second witness is Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. He was appointed as the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on January 24, 2003. Prior to his appointment as secretary, he served as the Bush administration's first director of the Office of Homeland Security, which was created in response to the tragic events of September 11.
Preceding Secretary Ridge's position with the Bush administration, he boasts a long history of public service to the people of the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was first elected to Congress in 1982 and was overwhelmingly re-elected five times.
He then decided there were better things to do than being a Congressman and was twice elected as Governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1995 to 2001.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC He is a decorated Vietnam Veteran, earning the Bronze Star for Valor. He holds a degree from Harvard where he graduated with honors and a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law.
Each of the Secretaries has asked for 10 minutes.
Secretary Powell, you are first.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE
Secretary POWELL. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and I would like to thank you for calling this hearing. It is a very important hearing and I am pleased to be here with my fellow Cabinet officer and fellow infantryman Tom Ridge.
Mr. Conyers, I also thank you for your kind remarks concerning my article this morning. I had to notice a slight smile on your face when we have two Cabinet officers here this morning, which is rare. It almost reminded me of my former occupation, something we would call a target-rich environment.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, Mr. Conyers, thank you for the opportunity for us to testify on the progress of those countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program toward producing passports with embedded biometrics by October 26, 2004.
I am here with Secretary Ridge to explain the Administration's request for an extension of this deadline. Moreover, I want to report on the Department of State's progress in implementing our own biometric programs for U.S. Passports and visas.
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President Bush's number one priority is the security of our homeland. Secretary Ridge and I share that commitment. Secretary Ridge is responsible for our visa policy, and I am responsible to Secretary Ridge and to the President for its implementation.
The inclusion of biometrics in international travel documents is a critical step in upgrading security for America and in protecting travelers coming to our country. It is imperative that we improve our ability to verify the identities of prospective travelers, especially individuals who might be terrorists, criminals or who otherwise present a security risk to our Nation and to our people.
The ''Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act'' established October 26, 2004, as a deadline. By that date, Visa Waiver Program countries must begin issuing their nationals only passports that incorporate biometric identifiers that comply with ICAO standards.
Also, by that date, a separate requirement by that same date, all Visa Waiver passport travelers must enter the United States with a machine-readable passport.
In May 2003, less than a year ago, ICAO decided to make facial recognition technology the standard passports biometric, leaving Visa Waiver Program countries only 17 months, from May 2003 to October of 2004, to bring biometric passport from design to production and prepare for those passports to be issued. Such a process doesn't take 17 months. It usually takes a number of years to get it right.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Border Security Act does not provide a waiver provision. And very few, if any, of the 27 participating VWP programs or countries will be able to meet this legislatively mandated deadline. Although the governments of the VWP countries share a commitment to this step forwardthey all agree with it, they all want to be part of it, they all want to do it but many of them are encountering the same challenges that we face in our own effort to embed biometrics in the U.S. passport.
The challenge provided to the international community by the October 26 deadline is a daunting one. We are confronted by complex technological issues. Among these are the security of the passport data, the interoperability of readers and passports, and the reliability of the chips that would be embedded in the passports. Will they last for the life of the passports, which in most cases is 10 years? Will the chip last 10 years? We have to validate all of these sorts of issues and considerations.
We and our VWP partners are steadily resolving these issues, but then studying them and achieving success in dealing with them takes time. Moreover, we want to get the science as right as possible before we spend dollars, implement and depend on these new measures to defend our security.
This concern for taking the necessary time to get things right has not kept us from working aggressively with the VWP countries. In fact, we have not only urged them to meet the deadline, we've led the way in our international effort to provide better security for our citizens. At every opportunity around the world, State Department officials seek to educate government representatives of the VWP countries and their journalists and other informed citizens about the requirements and about the deadlines. In addition, VWP countries have sent representatives to Washington, and we have had full and open discussions on the issues.
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As a result, VWP countries are making progress toward complying with the biometric requirement, but I doubt whether any will meet the October 26 deadline. None of the larger countries, for example, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy or Spain, will begin issuing passports with biometrics by that deadline. Japan and the United Kingdom say they will begin in late 2005. Others may not begin to come online until well into 2006.
Under these circumstances, we believe there are compelling reasons to extend the October 2004 deadline to November 30, 2006. This extension would enable our allies to resolve the scientific problems and to develop more secure biometrically enabled documents that the original legislation mandated.
Equally important, by providing this additional time, we can be confident that the solutions developed by our partners in the VWP program will work effectively and be interoperable with similar systems installed throughout the world. It is in our interest to ensure global interoperability as Mr. Conyers noted, to enhance not just our own border security, but the security of our citizens overseas and of other citizens traveling worldwide.
Rushing a solution to meet the current deadline virtually guarantees that we will have systems that are not interoperable. Such a result may undercut international acceptance of this new technology as well as compound rather than ease our overall challenge.
Failure to extend the deadline will have other serious consequences as well. Travelers from VWP countries with passports issued on or after October 26, 2004, without biometrics will need visas at that time. To travel to the United States, we estimate that the demand for non-immigrant visas will jump by over 5 million applicants in fiscal year 2005. This would represent a 70 percent increase in our non-immigrant visa work load.
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There are no easy solutions to handling this tremendous increase in our work load. True, it is a temporary problem because the work load will progressively go down as VWP countries begin mass production of biometric passports. But in the interim, we would need to implement plans for a massive surge in visa processing, which would involve huge extra expense, diversion of personnel from other vital functions and extending service hours, perhaps even to around-the-clock, 24/7 visa processing at some of our posts.
Even with the Manhattan Project approach, we cannot be sure that we could meet the demand without creating backlogs and creating long waits for appointments. We are already working hard on public diplomacy outreach to address some of the negative perceptions and misunderstandings concerning tightened U.S. visa policies. Even longer wait times would make it doubly difficult to convince people worldwide, particularly young people, that America welcomes them, that we want them here to go to our schools and universities, to go to our museums, to visit Disneyland, to come and learn our language, to go to our hospital facilities.
The delays resulting from this increased non-immigrant visa demand will also discourage travel to the United States as visitors vote with their feet and choose to go elsewhere, to travel elsewhere, to be educated elsewhere, to get their healthcare elsewhere.
Both Secretary Ridge and I are getting letters from university presidents all around the country. I will offer a letter that I received yesterday from the President of Harvard University describing the impact these delays are having on our educational facilities now. And we really don't want to do things that would complicate that.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information referred to follows:]
Secretary POWELL. In fact, we judge that added economic costs will be substantial. VWP travelers, who tend to spend more than other visitors, contribute billions of dollars to our economy each year. One out of eight jobs in the U.S. civilian labor force is employed in some segment of the travel and tourism industry. We want to avoid unnecessary harm to this vital industry as well as other vital industries that depend on travelers.
I want to be clear that extending the deadline is only part of the answer. We will also continue to pursue vigorous diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to ensure that the VWP countries remain committed to introducing biometric passports.
Over the next few months, the Department of State will participate in the VWP country reviews led by Secretary Ridge's Homeland Security Department. And we will take every opportunity to remind governments of the importance of meeting the new deadline should it be extended. We will ensure that they all understand that if they fail to meet the extended deadline, we will have no alternative but to begin requiring visas for travelers in those countries.
Further, to continue to tighten our security posture, the Department of Homeland Security will enroll the VWP travelers in US-VISIT, the program that tracks the entry and exit of foreign visitors by using electronically scanned fingerprints and photographs. And I know that Secretary Ridge will describe this program in greater detail.
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Before closing, Mr. Chairman, let me give you just a few details with respect to our own efforts to introduce biometrics into our passport system. Our plan is to embed electronic chips on which we will write the bearer's biographic information and photograph. In December of this year, the program should produce the first biometric U.S. passports using ICAO's standard of facial recognition. Under this program, we would complete the transition to the biometric passport by the end of 2005.
It is important to note that we are encountering the same challenges as the VWP countries are in developing our own biometric passport, and we will be unable to meet the deadline that we are trying to impose on other nations.
That said, we are making good progress. We began deployment of the biometric visa program on September 22, 2003, at five pilot posts. The program is now spreading across the entire State Department system. Under the biometric visa program, consular officers electronically scan the fingerprints of the visa applications at the visa interview windows. These fingerprints are checked electronically against the DHS fingerprint database. If there is no match, then the visa applicant's fingerprints are stored in the U.S. Visa databases. If the fingerprints do match any in the database, no action can be taken on that visa application until a consular officer reviews the information.
If and when a visa is issued, the applicant's bio-data, photo and fingerprint data are sent to the DHS's US-VISIT system. And when the visa applicant arrives at the port-of-entry, the DHS officer will use the fingerprint data to match the visa to the U.S. visa databases and will compare the visa holder's fingerprints with those that are on file.
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This one-to-one fingerprint comparison ensures that the person presenting the visa at the port-of-entry is the same person to whom the visa was issued.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, we are working hard to protect our Nation, to secure our borders. We are working just as hard, as I tried to note in my article earlier. And I say to audiences around the world, we are working just as hard to make sure we remain an open society and a welcoming society. We want people to come to the United States. We need them to come to the United States, not just to spend money, but to be part of our foreign policy effort. I want young people to come here and learn about America, feel that they are welcome, go back and take what they learn about our value system and who we are back to their countries.
If we make that too hard and difficult so they go to other countries, we are affecting our future foreign policy options, our future foreign policy agenda.
With that Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I will close and turn it over to my colleague, Secretary Ridge.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Powell follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE COLIN L. POWELL
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the progress of those countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program (VWP) toward producing passports with embedded biometrics by October 26, 2004. I am here to explain the Administration's request for an extension of this deadline. Moreover, I want to report on the Department of State's progress in implementing our own biometric programs for U.S. passports and visas.
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I am pleased to be here today with my friend and fellow cabinet officer, Secretary Tom Ridge. President Bush's number one priority is the security of our homeland. Secretary Ridge and I share that commitment. Secretary Ridge is responsible for our visa policy and I am responsible for its implementation.
The inclusion of biometrics in international travel documents is a critical step in upgrading security for America. And in protecting travelers, it is imperative that we improve our ability to verify the identities of prospective travelers to our country, especially individuals who might be terrorists, criminals, or others who present a security risk.
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (EBSA) established October 26, 2004, as a deadline. By that date, VWP countries must begin issuing their nationals only passports that incorporate biometric identifiers that comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, standards. Also by that date, all VWP travelers must enter the U.S. with a machine readable passport.
In May 2003, ICAO decided to make facial recognition technology the standard passport biometric, leaving VWP countries only 17 months to bring a biometric passport from design to production. Such a process normally takes years. The EBSA does not provide a waiver provision and very few, if any, of the 27 participating VWP countries will be able to meet this legislatively-mandated deadline. Although the governments of the VWP countries share a commitment to this step forward, many are encountering the same challenges that we face in our own effort to introduce embedded biometrics to the U.S. passport.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The challenge provided to the international community by section 303 of the EBSA is a daunting one. Meeting it has taken VWP countries and the U.S. to the cutting edge of existing technologies. As a consequence we're confronted by complex technological issues. Among these are the security of the passport data, the interoperability of readers and passports, and the reliability of the chips imbedded in the passportswill they last for the life of the passport, for example, which in most cases is 10 years. We and our VWP partners are steadily resolving these issues, but studying them and then achieving success in dealing with them takes time. Moreover, we want to get the science as right as possible before we spend dollars, implement, and depend on these new measures to enhance our security.
This concern for taking the necessary time to get things right has not kept us from working aggressively with the VWP countries. We've urged them to issue biometric passports by the October 26, 2004 deadline. Moreover, we believe that success in this international effort to provide better security for our citizens requires U.S. leadership.
That is why in the ICAO working groups, for example, we led in advocating the successful inclusion of biometrics in travel documents. In the G8, we strongly advocated support for ICAO leadership in biometrics and we participate actively in a special working group on biometrics established by the G8 ministers of Home and Justice Affairs. At every opportunity around the world, State Department officials seek to educate VWP government representatives, journalists and citizens from these countries about the requirements and deadlines. In addition, VWP countries have sent representatives to Washington and we have had full and open discussions on the issues.
As a result, VWP countries are making progress toward complying with the biometric requirement, but I doubt whether any will meet the October 26 deadline. None of the larger countriesfor example, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy or Spainwill begin issuing passports with standardized biometrics by that deadline. Japan and the United Kingdom say they will begin in late 2005. Others may not come on-line until well into 2006.
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Under these circumstances, we believe there are compelling reasons to extend the October 26, 2004 deadline to November 30, 2006. This extension would enable our allies to resolve the scientific problems and to develop the more secure, biometrically enabled documents that the original legislation mandated. Equally important, by providing this additional time we can be confident that the solutions developed by our partners in the VWP program will work effectively and be interoperable with similar systems installed throughout the world. It is in our interest to ensure global interoperability, to enhance not just our own border security but the security of our citizens overseas and of other citizens worldwide. Rushing a solution to meet the current deadline virtually guarantees that we will have systems that are not interoperable. Such a result may undercut international acceptance of this new technology as well as compound rather than ease our overall challenge.
Failure to extend the deadline will have other serious consequences as well. Since travelers from VWP countries with passports issued on or after October 26, 2004 without biometrics will need visas to travel to the United States, we estimate that the demand for non-immigrant visas will jump by over 5 million applications in FY 2005. This represents a 70% increase in our nonimmigrant visa workload. There are no easy solutions to handling this tremendous increase in our workload. True, this is a temporary problem because the workload will progressively decrease as VWP countries begin mass production of biometric passports. But in the interim, we would need to implement plans for a massive surge in visa processing, which would involve extra expense, diversion of personnel from other vital functions, and extending service hours, perhaps even to around-the-clock 24/7 visa processing at some posts. Even with a ''Manhattan Project'' approach, we cannot be sure that we could meet the demand without creating backlogs and long waits for appointments. We are already working hard on public diplomacy outreach to address some of the negative perceptions and misunderstandings concerning tightened U.S. visa policies. Even longer wait times would make it even more difficult to convince people worldwide, particularly youth, that America welcomes them and wants them here, to go to our schools, visit our museums and learn our language.
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The delays resulting from this increased nonimmigrant visa demand will also discourage travel to the U.S. as visitors ''vote with their feet'' and choose to travel elsewhere, or defer their travel to the U.S., hurting relations with some of our closest friends and allies, and harming the American economy.
In fact, we judge that the added economic costs will be substantial. VWP travelers, who tend to spend more than other visitors, contribute billions of dollars to our economy each year. One out of every eight jobs in the U.S. civilian labor force is employed in some segment of the travel and tourism industry. We want to avoid unnecessary harm to this vital industry.
But Mr. Chairman, I want to be clear that extending the deadline is only part of our answer. We will also continue to pursue vigorous diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to ensure that the VWP countries remain committed to introducing biometric passports. Over the next few months, the Department of State will participate in the VWP country reviews led by Secretary Ridge's Homeland Security Department and we will take every opportunity to remind governments of the importance of meeting the new deadline should it be extended. We will ensure that they all understand that if they fail to meet the extended deadline we will have no alternative but to begin requiring visas for travelers from those countries. Further, to continue to tighten our security posture, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will enroll all VWP travelers in US-VISITthe program that tracks the entry and exit of foreign visitors by using electronically scanned fingerprints and photographs. Secretary Ridge will describe this program in detail for the committee.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Before I close, Mr. Chairman, let me give you a few more details with respect to our own efforts. As I noted earlier, we believe that embedding biometrics in U.S. passports, to establish a clear link between the person issued the passport and the user, is an important step forward in the effort to strengthen border security. Our plan is to introduce ''contact-less chips'' to U.S. passportselectronic chips on which we will write the bearer's biographic information and photograph. In December of this year, the program should produce the first biometric U.S. passports using ICAO's standard of facial recognition. Further, under this program we will complete the transition to the biometric passport by the end of 2005. It is important to note that we are encountering the same challenges as the VWP countries in developing our own biometric passport and will be unable to meet the deadline mandated for them.
That said, we are making good progress in our own biometric efforts. For example, we began deployment of our Biometric Visa Program on September 22, 2003, at five pilot posts. The program is now operational at more than 125 visa-adjudicating posts worldwide and will be operational at all visa-adjudicating posts by October 26th of this year, as mandated by law. This biometric program includes both non-immigrant and immigrant visas.
Under the Biometric Visa Program, consular officers electronically scan the fingerprints of the visa applicants at the visa interview windows as part of the visa interview process. These fingerprints are checked electronically against the DHS fingerprint database. If there is no match, then the visa applicant's fingerprints are stored in the US-VISIT databases. If the fingerprints do match any in the fingerprint database, no action can be taken on the visa application until a consular officer reviews the information. If and when a visa is issued, the applicant's bio-data, photo and fingerprint data are sent to DHS's US-VISIT system. When the visa applicant arrives at a port of entry, the DHS officer will use the fingerprint data to match the visa in the US-VISIT databases, and will compare the visa holder's fingerprints with those on file. This one-to-one fingerprint comparison ensures that the person presenting the visa at the port of entry is the same person to whom the visa was issued. To ensure the integrity of visas issued prior to the introduction of biometrics (currently some 20 million), we have also upgraded our visa datashare program for use in the initial inspection under US-VISIT. This means that US-VISIT has access to the photograph that was previously captured on most visas currently in circulationproviding us with a critical enhancement during primary inspection even though fingerprints are not available. An additional security measure of the Biometric Visa Program is that consular officers now interview all visa applicants with the exception of children, the elderly, and diplomats. We are working hand-in-hand with our colleagues in DHS to ensure that we have a system that allows legitimate travelers to be on their way as expeditiously as possible while, at the same time, it identifies those who pose a threat so we can prevent them from entering our country or arrest them if the situation warrants such action.
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As I said, ensuring the security of our borders is our number one priority. But protecting our democracy and the special, welcoming society we have always been, demands that we remain an open nation. America must continue to be a magnet for enterprising minds from around the world and the preferred destination of millions of tourists. We must also continue to add new richness to our unique mosaic to enhance our cultural diversity and further enlighten our tolerance. And we must continue to be that shining beacon on the hill for people around the world.
Mr. Chairman, in my confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2001, I pointed out that America is a country of countries, with a citizen in her ranks from every country in the world. I said that there is no country we do not touch and no country that does not touch us. For me these are not just words. I am a direct beneficiary of this connectedness and of our country's historic openness. So I believe passionately that we must deny the victory to terrorists that changing the very nature of our democracy would represent.
But I am also a realist. I know that while we maintain our openness we must also enhance our security. I know too that enhancing our security was a principal purpose of the Border Security Act. What I am requesting of you today is that you and the members of your committee recognize that the deadline of October 26, 2004 is not only unrealistic, it is counterproductive. Moreover, I am requesting that we fix this problem by extending the deadline to November 30, 2006.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Secretary RIDGE. Thank you Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Conyers, distinguished Members of this Committee.
Let me first say, it is a great pleasure and privilege to appear before you, but particularly with my friend and colleague the Secretary of State.
And we join together in requesting the extension of the two deadlines that Secretary Powell highlighted in his opening remarks. I think the fact that we are testifying together reflects in a very important way the partnership that we have in our mutual efforts to make sure that our doors are open and yet our borders are secure. It also reflects our mutual desire that congressional action be taken because we believe that it is in the long-run best interests of our country for a variety of reasons that it be done.
Now, in the brief year since the Department of Homeland Security was created, we worked together with Secretary Powell and other executive branch agencies as well as the Congress of the United States to make sure that our country is safer and more secure, not just for citizens but non-citizens who travel, recreate, visit and go to school here. Our policies have been designed to keep our borders closed to terrorists, but open to legitimate, law-abiding visitors. They deserve to travel on secure airlines and vessels, to be processed efficiently through our ports and our border crossings and to have their privacy respected and protected from abuse as well.
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And once here, they, too, deserve to live in safety, not in fear of terrorists, criminals or fugitives from the law. That is the charge of our open, welcoming Nation, a champion of freedom both at home and abroad. And I believe the changes we favor will help us preserve those freedoms and protect all individuals from harm.
Currently, as noted by Secretary of State, 27 nations are members of the Visa Waiver Program. And under the program, citizens of participating countries are allowed to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. This policy encourages travel, trade and student exchanges between the United States and our allies.
However, one unintended consequence of the policy is a potentially significant gap in security as those wishing to avoid visa security checks conducted at U.S. consular posts abroad might attempt to take advantage of the program. One of the responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security is to determine whether the continued participation of a particular nation in the VWP program possesses a threat to the national security or law enforcement interests of the United States and, therefore, should be ended. The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act requires that beginning on October 26, 2004, Visa Waiver Program countries have a program in place to issue their nationals machine-readable passports. They must be tamper-resistant and incorporate biometric and document authentication identifiers that comply with the ICAO standards.
The law also requires, as has been noted, that visitors coming into the United States under the VWP program present these new biometric and machine-readable passports if they were issued on or after that date. VWP travelers with non-biometric passports issued after October 26, 2004 will need a visa to enter the United States as the Secretary has pointed out.
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We have learned that while most VWP countries will be able to certify they have a program to issue biometric passports by the deadline, few if any of these countries will be able to produce biometric passports by that date. Under the current deadline, millions of visitors from these countries who do not have an ICAO-compliant passport will have to obtain visas. That is a 70 percent increase we can anticipate. There will be about 5 million more men, women and children lining up in consular offices around the worldand I might add from my travels around the world, already consular affairs offices do a tremendous job with limited resources.
So we would be imposing an additional burden on these men and women overseas as well. As my colleague has indicated, this sweeping change would place a huge burden on our consulate and have a significant negative impact on tourism, travel and commerce.
Therefore, we agree that relief, congressional relief, is critical. We are encouraged by the progress that has been made by these VWP countries to meet the emerging ICAO standards. We will continue to work together with them to help them meet the mandatory deadlines.
It must be noted that the reason the countries cannot meet the October 26 deadline is not a lack of will, nor a lack of commitment. I mean, both publicly and privately, our colleagues around the world accept the notion that biometric identifiers confirming identities and authenticating documents are going to be a part of the 21st century. By complying with the deadline technically is where the real problem is, not the commitment.
For these same technical reasons, the Department of Homeland Security is not currently in a position to acquire and deploy equipment and software to compare and authenticate these documents as well.
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I would like to share with you a couple of thoughts about the US-VISIT program because what the secretary and I would propose to Congress, if you are willing to extend the deadline for 2 years, that have these Visa Waiver Program citizens come in and be entered as part of our US-VISIT program that has been a very successful program embraced by, frankly, the visitors from around the world who found out that it is fair, it's simple, it's easy and their privacy rights are protected as well.
Despite challenges, we have identified an interim solution that we believe will allow us to improve the Nation's security and the integrity of the VWP program. This involves enrolling VWP travelers in the US-VISIT system beginning this fall. That's what we would offer to you. US-VISIT represents the greatest single advance in border technology in three decades.
The Department has established US-VISIT to enhance the safety of our citizens and visitors, facilitate legitimate travel and trade, ensure the integrity of our immigration system and protect the privacy of travelers to the United States. US-VISIT represents a continuum of security measures that use biometrics as a key element. Biometrics, such as digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs, enable the Department to determine whether the person applying for entry in the United States once they get to our borders is the same person who was issued a visa by Secretary Powell's consular affairs offices and embassies around the world.
Both State and our Department use biometric and biographic data to check against appropriate lookout data. The Department deployed the first implemented US-VISIT on time and with your support and on budget. And as it includes biometrics ahead of schedule, we have exceeded, at least for the time being, the mandate established by Congress.
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We would like to meet the mandate by Congress obviously. We use it at 115 airports and 14 seaports. And by the end of this year, US-VISIT will be in operation, again consistent with the congressional mandate, at our 50 busiest land ports-of-entry.
You should also know, my colleagues in public service, we have also begun pilot biometric exit procedures at airports and seaports and will expand to additional pilot locations later this summer. US-VISIT proceduresand I need to emphasize this, again, not just to the domestic audience, but more importantly to our friends overseasUS-VISIT procedures are clear, simple, and fast and privacy protections are afforded our visitors.
On the average, US-VISIT procedures take less than 15 seconds per person during the inspection process. And as of April 20, more than 3 million foreign visitors have been processed.
As impressive as its speed, I would say to you has been its thoroughness. Already US-VISIT has matched more than 300 persons against criminal databases, preventing more than 100 known or suspected criminals from entering the country. More than 200 were matched while applying for a visa at a State Department post overseas.
Again, we begin the security piece of this effort in the consular affairs offices and our embassies overseas. They in fact rejected well over 100 people applying for a visa in the first place.
We have a double-check system when they come into our country. There may be a lapse between when the visa was issued and the time they came into the country. So we've put an added layer of security by checking the same database again.
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We have extended the principles and protections of the 1974 Privacy Act to all individuals processed through the US-VISIT system. There is a process for redress if an individual has a complaint.
Visitors to this Nation have a right to be secure from criminals and predators as well. And I think the US-VISIT system has helped to make that right a reality. And before I conclude, I would like to give you a couple of quick examples.
On December 28, 2003, an international traveler appeared for inspection at the Newark international airport. Standard biographic record checks using a name and date of birth would have cleared this person automatically. However, once he gave us the fingerscans and we checked that against our biometric database, it was revealed he was a convicted felon who we had previously deported from the United States. He had used multiple aliases to disguise authorities from his record of rape, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and the making of terrorist threats.
Obviously, open door for legitimate travelers; secure borders for those people who need not enter our country again. This individual fits that model.
Similar examples abound. A fugitive drug trafficker was captured after two decades on the run. A traveler sporting three Social Security numbers and a 14-year criminal history was nabbed.
Just weeks ago, an airline crew member was biometrically identified as having been convicted of forgery in violation of electronic funds transfer accounts. Crew members from foreign airlines are not exempt from US-VISIT. This individual was sent home and the visa was canceled.
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Through US-VISIT, our two Departments have identified numerous criminal and immigration law violators who otherwise would have disappeared. Everyday the system highlights the importance of using accurate, timely information to protect our Nation from terrorists and criminals and, I would add, to protect innocent non-citizens and their families from being tarred with a broad brush or targeted by mistake. By focusing on individual behavior, US-VISIT and programs like it today and in the future help reduce our reliance on more arbitrary and unfair standards, such as nationality.
In fiscal year 2003, the Department of Homeland Security recorded the admission of approximately 13 million Visa Waiver Program visits through air and our sea ports-of-entry. Secretary Powell has indicated to you what happens to those folks and the problems associated with running the visas if we don't extend the deadline.
We have briefed ambassadors of these countries on the potential change, and overall, they are very supportive. The European Commission spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal, ''We will work with the United States with whom we share counterterrorism goals to ensure that any new measures are introduced with minimum disruption and maximum safety.''
We have been and must always be an open and welcoming society. And in the post-9/11 world, the balance between open doors and secure borders has become a lot more complex. Frankly, we have allies who understand the significance of our security measures and also see the relevance of similar measures being applied in their own countries. The extension of 2 years not only gives us a chance to comply with the appropriate congressional mandates, but also to further engage our friends and colleagues around the world so that at the end of the day, when it comes to document verification and identity verification, we have one international standard, not a U.S. standard and another world standard, but one international standard.
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The Secretary and I look forward to working to achieve that common goal with our allies around the world.
And again, I join with him in requesting congressional relief from the two deadlines and the measures we previously discussed.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Ridge follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE TOM RIDGE
Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Conyers and other distinguished Members, it is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss our request to extend the deadlines of certain provisions of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (EBSA) requiring:
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries(see footnote 1) to produce International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) compliant, biometric passports;
VWP travelers to use ICAO-compliant biometric passports for admission into the United States; and
DHS to install equipment and software at all Ports-of-Entry (POEs) to allow biometric comparison and authentication of those passports.
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I will also describe how the Department of Homeland Security will increase the security of the Visa Waiver Program by enrolling VWP travelers in the US-VISIT system beginning in the fall to help DHS identify terrorists, criminals, and immigration violators while facilitating the travel of the overwhelming majority of VWP travelers.
I. STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS IN ENHANCED BORDER SECURITY ACT
The VWP enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for ninety days or less without obtaining a visa. While visa-less travel encourages travel and trade with our allies, it also makes the program attractive to those wishing to avoid visa security checks conducted at U.S. consulates abroad. To help address this security vulnerability, the EBSA shortened the timeframe for the mandatory reviews of countries participating in the VWP from 5 years to 2 years. These reviews are intended to enable us to determine whether the continued participation of a particular country in the program poses a threat to the national security or law enforcement interests of the United States. If the Secretary determines that a particular country's participation is a threat, that country can be removed from the program. Six of the mandatory reviews were completed prior to DHS' assumption of that responsibility. We are now in the process of reviewing the remaining countries and are committed to completing all the reviews by October.
The EBSA also requires that beginning on October 26, 2004, VWP countries have a program in place to issue their nationals machine-readable passports that are tamper-resistant and incorporate biometric and document authentication identifiers that comply with ICAO standards as a condition of continued participation in the VWP program. The law also requires that visitors coming to the United States under the VWP present machine-readable, tamper-resistant passports that incorporate biometric and document authentication identifiers, if the passport is issued on or after October 26, 2004. Furthermore, DHS is required to install equipment and software at all ports of entry to allow biometric comparison and authentication of these passports.
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While most VWP program countries will be able to certify that they have a program in place to issue biometric passports by the October deadline, very few, if any, VWP countries will actually be able to begin issuing biometric passports by that date. The result is that millions of visitors from VWP countries who are issued non-ICAO compliant passports after October 26, 2004, will be required to obtain visas prior to traveling to the United States. The issue is not lack of will or commitment to achieving the standard by these countries, but rather challenging scientific and technical issues.
The ICAO selected contactless integrated-circuit chips for data storage, and stated that if biometrics are incorporated into the travel document, the mandatory biometric is the ''encoded face.''(see footnote 2) Last week, ICAO published a revision to the standard to address the issue that, up to this point, the standard did not ensure that all chips produced for incorporation into passports can be read by any reader and any reader produced to that standard can read any chip. This standard will be approved in May.(see footnote 3) Both DHS and the Department of State (DOS) are encouraged by the progress that has been made by VWP countries to meet the emerging ICAO standards and will work with them to meet the deadlines.
For the same challenging technical reasons, DHS is also not currently in a position to acquire and deploy equipment and software to biometrically compare and authenticate these documents. DHS cannot today acquire one reader that will be able to read all chips utilized in the ICAO compliant biometric passports. However, we believe that by the fall of 2006, the technology required to implement successfully a security system based on the ICAO standards will be much more settled and allow DHS to derive the security benefits envisioned when the original EBSA was enacted.
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Acknowledging the current state of technology, and the potential for harm to our international relations with our closest allies, DHS and DOS are requesting that the October 26, 2004, deadline be extended to November 30, 2006, for those sections of the EBSA relating to the production of ICAO-compliant biometric passports, and deployment of equipment and software to read them.
Based on the information provided to us by these countries on their status and their expected implementation dates, as well as DOS's own experience as it moves to implement this standard for U.S. Passports, we believe that all countries will be compliant by the November 30, 2006, deadline.
II. INCREASING SECURITY THROUGH US-VISIT EXPANSION
While we recognize the need to extend the date for these new processes, we are focused on the need to continue to increase security at the borders. Therefore, we will expand US-VISIT procedures to visitors traveling under the VWP at:
Air and sea POEs by September 30, 2004,
The most trafficked land POEs by December 31, 2004, and
The remaining land POEs by December 31, 2005.(see footnote 4)
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In FY 2003, DHS recorded the admission of approximately 13 million VWP travelers through air and sea POEs. This number includes multiple visits to the U.S. by a single individual. By expanding US-VISIT to include processing of VWP travelers, DHS will double the number of admissions processed through US-VISIT from its current status. As discussed below, we are confident that the US-VISIT infrastructure can continue to function quickly and accurately after the expansion. In addition, while the number of VWP travelers arriving at land ports of entry is small, the expansion rollout plan will allow for biometric enrollment for those travelers as well.
DHS believes that processing visitors traveling under VWP in US-VISIT achieves several important security objectives. These security objectives include:
Conducting appropriate security checks: We will conduct checks of VWP visitors against appropriate lookout databases available to inspectors, adding additional biometric-based checks available through US-VISIT.
Freezing identity of traveler: We will biometrically enroll visitors in US-VISITfreezing the identity of the traveler and tying that identity to the travel document presented.
Matching traveler identity and document: We will biometrically match that identity and document if a traveler returns to the United States, enabling the inspector to determine whether the traveler complied with the terms of his or her previous admission and is using the same identity.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Documenting arrival and departure: We will collect automated arrival and departure information on travelers. We will update their record to reflect changes in their immigration status while they are in the U.S.
Determining overstays: We will use collected information to determine whether individuals have overstayed the terms of their admission. This information will be used to determine whether an individual should be apprehended or whether the individual should be allowed to enter the U.S. upon his or her next visit.
Identifying security threats: We will use appropriate security checks to determine individuals who represent a security threat and act upon this information.
We believe that the VWP countries will be supportive of this change. To date, response to our announcement of this change from VWP countries has been positive. These countries appreciate both the U.S. interest in increasing security, and our support for an extension to the ICAO compliant biometric passport requirement. Although the majority of travelers from VWP countries are exempt from the requirement to obtain a nonimmigrant visa, those who are required to obtain one are already successfully processed through US-VISIT. Since the implementation of US-VISIT through April 8, 2004, approximately 400,000 nonimmigrant visa holders from VWP countries have been processed through US-VISIT.
Many of the VWP countries themselves are actively engaged in developing programs like US-VISIT that allow them to collect biometrics through the visa issuance process and match those biometrics upon entry into the country. We are actively working with many of these countries to share information about terrorism, other security threats, and opportunities for improvements in immigration and border management.
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In order to expand US-VISIT to VWP travelers, DHS will have to implement both technical and procedural changes. In terms of technical changes, DHS will need to invest in additional hardware and software, including additional biometric matchers, database capacity, processing power, and backup/storage capability, that will support the additional volume and maintain the response times needed on biometric watch list checks and identity matching. DHS will also modify processing procedures and make other operating environment changes to accommodate the increase. These changes will vary in scope, depending on the volume of VWP travelers at that location.
III. US-VISIT IMPLEMENTATION AND SUCCESS TO DATE
DHS has established US-VISIT to achieve the following goals:
Enhance the safety of our citizens and visitors;
Facilitate legitimate travel and trade;
Ensure the integrity of our immigration system; and
Protect the privacy of travelers to the United States.
US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins before individuals enter the United States and continues through their arrival and departure from the country. Using biometrics such as digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs, DHS is able to determine whether the person applying for entry to the United States is the same person who was issued the visa by DOS. Additionally, DOS and DHS use biometric and biographic data to check against appropriate lookout data, improving DOS's ability to make visa determinations and DHS's ability to make admissibility decisions at entry.
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US-VISIT procedures are clear, simple, and fast for visitors.
DHS deployed the first increment of US-VISIT on time, within budget, and has exceeded the mandate established by Congress as it includes biometrics ahead of schedule. On January 5, 2004, US-VISIT entry procedures were operational at 115 airports (covering 99% of air travelers who use visas to enter the United States) and 14 seaports. In addition, we began pilot testing biometric exit procedures at one airport and one seaport. As of April 20, more than 3 million foreign visitors have been processed under the US-VISIT entry procedures. On average, US-VISIT takes only 15 seconds during the inspection process.
Already US-VISIT has matched over 259 persons against criminal databases and prevented more than 124 known or suspected criminals from entering the country. One hundred and fifty-eight people were matched while applying for a visa at a State Department post overseas.
Our border management system impacts the security of our citizens and our visitors, affects billions of dollars in trade and travel and helps define relations with our international partners. There is a need to improve this system and bring it into the 21st century with a new integrated system of technological processes that will keep our country's economic and national security strong. This 21st century technology will provide an important step toward achieving the President's goal of secure U.S. borders.
We respect our visitors' privacy and seek to enable them to pass through inspection quickly so they can enjoy their visit in our country. However, as people attempt to enter the United States, we must know who they are and whether they intend to do us harm. The ability of US-VISIT to rapidly screen applicants' biometrics and biographic information through watch lists and databases means we can have security and control without impeding legitimate travelers, and we can also help protect our welcomed visitors by drastically reducing the possibility of identity theft. Moreover, as visitors leave the country, we must know that they have not overstayed the terms of their admission.
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US-VISIT will be rolled out in increments to ensure that the foundation is strong and the building blocks are effective. With the deployment of the entry components at air and seaports, we have made a strong beginning. We are on track to meet the December 31, 2004, deadline to integrate US-VISIT procedures at the 50 busiest land border ports of entry.
A. Moving to a ''Virtual Border'' Solution
The vision of US-VISIT is to deploy an end-to-end border management program. This comprehensive view of border management leads to a virtual border. It elevates the requirement to develop the best processes to manage data on visitors. It will provide information to the immigration and border management decision makers to support the pre-entry, entry, status management, exit and analysis processes.
Much of the emphasis to date has focused specifically on the entry and exit processes at the ports of entrythe ''port-centric'' solution. One of the key initiatives of the US-VISIT program is to adjust this focus to a ''virtual border'' solution, placing equal emphasis on the pre-entry, entry, status management, exit, and analysis processes associated with this Program. The virtual border will enhance national security by matching the identity of visitors, facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and ensure the integrity of our immigration system by improving enforcement.
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For millions of visitors, entry into the United States must be preceded by the issuance of travel documents at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The purpose of the pre-entry process is to determine eligibility for immigration status and/or visas at DOS consular offices worldwide or DHS Service Centers.
The pre-entry process is a critical component of the US-VISIT virtual border. The consular officers gather a large amount of information prior to a visitor's arrival at a port. This data is now available to appropriate border management agencies. In turn, the US-VISIT Program can provide additional information about the individual, including a history of prior entries and exits, biometrics, or prior immigration status information, that can be used to match identity or search watch lists to the consular officer or Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicator who is determining a visitor's eligibility.
Since the beginning of 2004, the pre-entry process includes analysis of the manifest supplied by the airlines for each international flight to determine the nonimmigrant visa holders on board the plane. This is done through the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers analyze this information to know in advance whether a visitor may require additional review at inspection.
2. Entry Process
The purpose of the entry process is to determine the admissibility of visitors requesting entry into the United States at air, land, or seaports. The entry process can begin at a primary port inspection booth at an air, sea, or land ports, or at a temporary inspection location such as a ship lounge. Visitors can also be inspected at certain pre-inspection locations overseas, such as Shannon Airport in Ireland.
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As part of the US-VISIT entry process, visitors will be required to provide biometric data, biographic data, and/or other documentation. This data is used to match identity, determine proper visa classification, and to query the watch list. Inspectors match identity of each visitor collected by DOS and determine the visitor's admissibility.
All ports share similarities in the inspection processes. Inspectors must quickly conduct a primary inspection and determine if the applicant should be recommended for a more in-depth review at the secondary inspection point. The average primary inspection of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and visitors, lasts approximately one minute.
Although all inspections involve certain basic tasks, there are marked differences between an inspection conducted at an air or sea port and one conducted at a land port because of the different physical environment and different travel patterns.
To expedite the flow of traffic at land ports, DHS has implemented several programs, such as the Secure Electronic Network for Traveler's Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) or Dedicated Commuter Lane, and NEXUS, using Radio Frequency (RF) technologies to be able to preposition and collect information for inspection. For land borders, we are considering expanded use of RF technology to expedite processing of frequent border crossers using biographical data as part of the virtual border solution.
3. Status Management Includes Identifying Overstays
Managing the status of visitors once inside the borders of the United States includes, but is not limited to:
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Ensuring that determinations relating to a visitor's legal extension of stay or change of immigration status are informed by previous determinations by State at visa issuance, DHS when the individual was admitted, or the individual's compliance on previous visits to the United States.
Updating an individual's admission record to reflect changes in immigration status or extensions of their period of admission.
Matching arrival and departure records to determine if individuals have overstayed the terms of their admission.
Identifying violations of terms of admission.
Referring lookout or other information demonstrating an individual's failure to comply with his or her immigration status to agencies and organizations responsible for enforcement.
Maintaining the status of visitors while in the United States is an integral part of border management and ensures the integrity of the immigration system. One of the US-VISIT Program's primary roles in status management will be the overstay calculation, and exchanging appropriate entry and exit information with case management systems, especially those managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
4. The Exit Process Will Capture Departure Information
Currently, our exit procedures are based upon departure information from passenger manifests shared with us by carriers. We match this information with the admission information and identify those likely to have overstayed the terms of their admission. Our goal is to enhance our ability to match arrivals and departures by using biometrics. We are testing this with various pilot programs, one of them being at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. We plan to expand our pilot program to a total of 15 air and seaports over the next several months. We will pilot test three options and evaluate the results to identify the best, most efficient and effective process. These pilot programs will build on the current kiosk pilot and test mobile devices.
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5. The Analysis of Information
The purpose of the analysis process is to provide information that will aid immigration and border management officials in their decision-making process. Currently, the Arrival/Departure Information System (ADIS) system is the primary data source for use in these analyses.
One of the activities conducted in the analysis process is the determination of those who have overstayed the terms of their admission. Each week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Compliance Enforcement Unit (CEU) receives a report of those individuals for whom the period of admission has expired and no departure record has been received. The ICE/CEU evaluates these records, determines whether additional information may exist that would indicate that the person has departed timely or is in a status that would result in their continued presence within the U.S., and acts on the remainder in a manner appropriate to the circumstances.
A visitor's information is stored and routinely updated in ADIS. Information compiled in ADIS will tell the officer if an individual has complied with the terms of his or her admission. If the traveler's history illustrates immigration violations, the officer would use that information to inform his or her decision.
As the US-VISIT program evolves, this process will take on an ever-increasing level of importance. Emphasis will be placed on providing an increased level of information to all border management personnel (e.g., the consular official, the inspector, the adjudicator, and the investigative officer) to aid them in making critical decisions.
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6. Watch Lists
At various points in the pre-entry, entry, status management, and analysis processes, decision makers are supported by systems checks against data consolidated from law enforcement and intelligence sources that identify persons of interest for various violations.
All names and fingerscans are checked against watch lists to identify known or suspected terrorists, criminals, and immigration violators. Terrorist watch list checks are coordinated through the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).
B. The Success Stories of US-VISIT
Through the US-VISIT biometric process, DHS and DOS have identified many individuals who are the subjects of lookout records. These included rapists, drug traffickers, and those who have committed immigration offenses or visa fraud.
Here are details of a few examples.
Interception of Drug Trafficker who escaped from PrisonOn January 14, 2004, at Miami International Airport, a man was identified as wanted by the U.S. Marshals for escaping from La Tuna Federal Correction Facility where he had been serving a sentence for a conviction of dealing cocaine. The individual was turned over to the U.S. Marshals.
Visa Fraud UncoveredOn January 14, 2004, Customs and Border Protection determined that a woman was trying to enter the United States using a false name, after determining that the woman was not the same individual whose visa photo appeared in the database. The traveler was a woman who had been arrested in April 2000 in New Orleans, convicted of passport fraud, placed on 5 years probation, and prohibited from entering the United States during that time. The woman was removed from the United States after it was determined that she did not meet the guidelines for criminal prosecution.
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Convicted Sexual Offender IdentifiedIn New York City, on February 19, 2004, US-VISIT identified an individual who had a prior conviction for having sex with a minor in 2000, was registered as a convicted sex offender, and was removed from the United States in 2001 as an aggravated felon. He was given an expedited removal and a 20-year ban on re-entry after it was determined that he did not meet the guidelines for criminal prosecution.
Rape Suspect CaughtOn February 22, 2004, at Miami International Airport, biographic and US-VISIT biometric checks alerted officers to an active warrant from New York City for rape. Criminal history checks also uncovered 3 prior convictions for possession or sale of marijuana in 1994 and 1995, as well as a 1998 rape arrest. He was turned over to Miami-Dade police for extradition to New York.
US-VISIT is critical to our national security as well as our economic security, and its implementation is already making a significant contribution to the efforts of DHS to provide a safer and more secure America. We recognize that we have a long way still to go. We will build upon the initial framework and solid foundation to ensure that we continue to meet our goals to enhance the security of our citizens and visitors while facilitating travel for the millions of visitors we welcome each year.
We want to emphasize that we continue to be a welcoming nation, a nation that invites visitors to study, do business, and enjoy our country. We also owe it to our citizens and visitors to deny entry to persons wishing to do harm to the United States.
We are committed to building a program that enhances the integrity of our immigration system by catching the few and expediting the many, the United States is leading the way in this new erakeeping our doors open and our nation secure.
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Countries in the VWP are our closest allies and economic partners. Seeking a two-year extension of the October 26, 2004 biometric deadline permits citizens of our allies to travel to the United States without undue burden or delay, while processing VWP travelers through US-VISIT allows DHS to achieve our security objective and facilitate the flow of legitimate travelers.
Secretary POWELL. We offer our prepared statements for the record.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection, the prepared statements will be put into the record.
Before starting the questions, let me do a couple of housekeeping matters first. First of all, I wrote the ambassadors of 27 of the Visa Waiver countries asking thema number of countrieson cooperation with the U.S. Government as well as their ability to comply with the requirements of the act and the deadlines that are established. I would like to ask unanimous consent to include those responses in the record together with an attachment to my hearing memorandum that suggest the responses, because I think they are relevant.
Secondly, I agree with Secretary Powell that this hearing is indeed a target-rich environment for those of us who sit on this side of the dais.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First of all, let me ask my colleagues on the Committee to try to keep your questions restricted to the topic of this hearing. They have come prepared to answer questions on this topic. They haven't come prepared to answer questions on everything else that is in their respective portfolios. And I would ask the Members of the Committee to respect that and try to be on target with the target-rich environment that is presented.
Secondly, the Chair has noted the order in which Members have appeared. I will do, as I have always done in past hearings, and that is to alternate by side in the order in which Members on each side have appeared.
Questions under the 5-minute rule. We have the two secretaries until noon, so when we get to noon, wherever we are on the list, the hearing will have to be adjourned. So I will start out.
Secretary Powell, I agree with you that it will be impossible to extend or possible for the United States and the other countries to meet the deadline that was established in the Visa and Border Security Act and that an extension is in order. I question, however, whether a 2-year extension will, in effect, take the heat off of everybody to get the job done that I believe all of us see the need to get done and to get done as quickly as possible given the ease in which certain types of passports can be forged and certain types of visas can be forged.
That having been said, what do you plan on doing to make sure that we keep on making rapid progress in terms of reaching an international agreement on biometric identifiers and travel documents?
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And secondly, is not the whole issue of the extension of the deadline, which can be waived, insisting upon either a machine-readable passport or a machine-readable visa and a non-machine-readable passport from a Visa Waiver country? Would it not be helpful to insist that the documents that are issued before the deadline is reached to be machine-readable? And I am talking specifically about France where we have had three heists of thousands of blank French passports, and Lord knows where they have ended up.
Secretary POWELL. We are working closely with all of our allies on the need to get their machine-readable biometric passports into being as fast as possible.
The country that has raised the greatest concern to me is the United Kingdom. This has been a major problem for them because a large percentage of this 5 million population comes from Europe and especially from the United Kingdom. The U.K. is going to do everything they can to use the ICAO standard, which is facial recognition, and to get their documents moving as quickly as possible. I gave you some indication that most of them will start in 2005.
A couple of them think they can't get started until 2006. I think they are seized with the problem. I don't think they are going to see this 2-year extension as a rationale for them to lay back and take it easy. They know that this has to happen. I can assure you that it would be very hard for any Secretary of State or Secretary of Homeland Security to come back up here and ask for another extension. Congress has made clear what your will is, and we have made it clear to our friends that if we get this extension, it must be met.
With respect to visas and passports, if I got the gist of your question, I think we should phase into machine-readable, biometric passports and visas as quickly as possible with no delay.
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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. If I may add a further point on this, Belgium probably had the worst passport regime of any Visa Waiver country. And last year, you refused to grant them an extension on the deadline on machine-readable passports, and Belgium has now so tightened up their process that I think they are going to be the best in all of Europe in terms of security of passports.
On the other hand, we have seen problems with French passports that seem to be getting worse rather than better. And wouldn't it be appropriate to put the heat on the French, given the three thefts of thousands of passports that have occurred, to at least require them to have machine-readable passports at an earlier date so they can get on to joining the 21st century?
Secretary POWELL. It would be most reasonable to do so, and we will do so, because the sooner we can get onto the machine-readable biometric passports, the sooner we will not have to worry about these missing or blank passports that might be out in the system.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers?
Mr. CONYERS. May I be permitted to yield to the gentleman from California, Mr. Berman?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Gentleman from California?
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Mr. BERMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Conyers, for yielding me your time.
And I appreciate the Chairman's admonition for us to try to stick to the subject, but a target-rich environment is a target-rich environment, and nothing I am going to ask is not fully within the ability of these very distinguished and talented witnesses to respond to.
So I would like to first ask Secretary Powell a question. And by the way, I am a strong supporter of what you are suggesting at this hearing and support the effort that you are asking us to undertake here. My guess with a very energetic role from you, the Administration's fiscal year 2005 budget proposes a 9 percent increase in the 150 Account, The Foreign Assistance Account, to a level of $31.5 billion. The House Budget Resolution, which has passed the House, decimates that request, slashing it by 14.5 percent to below this year's level.
The Senate also made a serious cut. Presumably at some point soon, a Conference Committee will make a report to the House and Senate. Everything that you have talked about in the context of the war on terror, the convergence of terrorism and radical Islamic attacks on America, the fight for the support of world opinion has had a two-pronged approach: One, that we have to act strong on fundamental security interests, and secondly, we have to drain the swamp. We have to do things about the world health epidemics. We have to have a Foreign Assistance Program that is geared to the efforts made by countries trying to improve the situation for their people, the Millennium Challenge Account being such an example. A very expansive important program on the Middle East Initiative dealing with the role of women, with the role of education, with economic development programs.
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What in heavens nameI don't hear a peep from the Administration about what they are doing to persuade the Republican leadership of both the House and Senate to knock off this effort to decimate what I assume by virtue of being in a tight budget situation was a significant increase in this account? What is the Administration doing to change the course of where we are headed, because I think it directly undermines what the Administration is trying to do, what the President himself has spoken to very passionately, what you have been fighting for a very long time? And I don't hear the effort that I hear to keep the transportation funding at a certain level or stop overtime regulations or other things that Congress is doing that are inconsistent with the Administration's priorities. Why isn't that going on in this case?
Secretary POWELL. Mr. Berman, it is going on in my part. I have been in touch with the leaders in the House and Senate about the consequences of such reductions, especially the consequences of the House reduction.
The President generously allowed me to ask for 9 percent more. I could use 20 percent more. We have challenges all over the world. We are in the front lines on offense out there with respect to getting rid of the terrorists, with respect to drying up the swamp, and with respect to the need we have to protect our embassies.
A bomb went off in Riyadh today, and none of our people are injured, to the best of my knowledge, but we have people out in dangerous circumstances. We need necessary funding to protect our facilities and necessary funding to work with those countries that are committed with us in the war against terrorism, necessary funding for the Millennium Challenge Account to give hope to people in developing nations, necessary funding in the HIV/AIDS account in order to deal with the greatest weapon of mass destruction on the face of the earth that kills 8,000 people everyday.
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And so I am trying to make the case, and I hope the Congress understands that this would be very unwise to make these kinds of reductions in the 150 Account. You can be sure that I am providing that counsel to my colleagues within the Administration.
Mr. BERMAN. Secretary Ridge?
Secretary RIDGE. I would defer to my colleague.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The time from the gentleman from Michigan has expired.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Keller?
Mr. KELLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And also thank you to Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge for being here today and for being in the arena your whole lives as public servants.
I represent Orlando, Florida, which is the world's number one vacation destination. We have over 43 million tourists from everywhere. Of course, home to Disney World, Sea World, Universal and many other popular theme parks. This really is a life-and-death issue in terms of our economic vitality in central Florida.
Secretary Powell, we have something in common. Your foreign policy experience really comes from touring the globe and meeting with foreign leaders. Much of mine comes from going to Epcot once in awhile. So our resumes are a little different, but we share one vision. And that is this and the one thing I do know, the twin goals of cracking down on terrorism and also promoting international tourism are not mutually exclusive tourism. We can do both and should do both, and it is critical to my community that we do.
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For example, if we have one more plane attack into a building, our community is devastated because nobody will fly anymore. On the other hand, if we do not grant this extension and visitors cannot come here, our community is devastated. So we must strike the appropriate balance.
And after carefully reviewing your written testimony and analyzing this, I have come to the conclusion we have no choice but to grant this extension for three reasons: One, it is not feasible for the U.S. or the majority of the other 28 countries in the Visa Waiver Program to comply with this. Second, and most importantly, the security of our country will not be compromised by this 2-year extension because we will rely on the US-VISIT program to do a fingerprint check and check a terrorist watch list to stop the bad guys from entering. And since this program has been in place for only 3.5 months, we have effectively stopped over 300 criminals and suspected terrorists from entering the country. And third, it will devastate our tourism-based economy, as I said.
Secretary Powell, as I understand it, we will be relying on this US-VISIT program and the machine-readable technology in place of the biometric chips during this temporary 2-year extension. Are you comfortable that our national security will not be compromised as a result of this proposed extension?
Secretary POWELL. I am comfortable that it will not be compromised. To a certain extent, through the use of US-VISIT with the fingerscan and the photo, we are compensating for the fact that we don't have machine-readable biometric passports from the Visa Waiver Program countries yet.
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So I think we have dealt with the significant part of the problems through the use of US-VISIT, and Tom may wish to talk to that. I think it is a good solution. And I know Orlando well. I used to visit there quite frequently in private life to give speeches, and I know the impact that restricting travel, or making it difficult to travel to get to Orlando, will have on your community and all of southern Florida.
Mr. KELLER. Thank you for that.
Let me ask you a question. Some have suggested that using the fingerprint check that we do now with the US-VISIT program is in some ways superior to the facial recognition technology that will be in the biometric chips. I'd like your thoughts on that, Secretary Ridge. And, secondly, will we continue to use this US-VISIT program once the biometric chips are in place?
Secretary RIDGE. First of all, I think it's very important as a member of the international community, since we were involved in the debate and the negotiations with ICAO, the International Commercial Aviation Organization, that we accept initially the international standard and that is facial recognition. So we want to continue to work with that community, refine the technology and apply it across the board with our colleagues around the world.
Facial recognition is very, very important and critical to one-on-one identification. The fingerprints give us an added level of security and protection because we can compare it against a huge fingerprint database. It doesn't necessarily help us if there is an isolated fingerprint found in a safe house for a terrorist or elsewhere. But as long as you have the finger scans you can match against a 10-digit database.
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So in the long run I have had some public and private conversations with our colleagues. Let's start with the facial recognition, because there is some constitutional and cultural resistance to adding fingerprints around the rest of the world. But I will tell you that the law enforcement community around much of the world believes that you start with facial and down the road we should add the fingerprints. That is again something to be determined. We need to take the leads and accept the international standard, facial, but then use ICAO as an organization and other international organizations to build in redundancy in the system.
Mr. KELLER. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, my time has expired.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Powell, I agree with you wholeheartedly that international visits by folks from abroad is an essential piece of our foreign policy; and we are in danger of losing that particular tool in our arsenal, if you will.
Just a segue to comments by my friend from California, Mr. Berman. I just returned from Guatemala where there were a number of American citizens there, prospective adoptive parents. You have a great staff there at the embassy and at the consulate, but they are overburdened, and we continue to have serious problems in terms of treating those American citizens who are going to adopt on an intercountry basis in a way that I think they deserve.
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So please continue to advocate for that 9 percent increase. Because, otherwise, it's going to hurt not just American citizens but children from all over the world who should be adopted.
In addition, I also represent the greater Boston area, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, which is also a well-known tourist destination which will host the Democratic national convention in July of this year. I am very concerned about the decrease in the number of international visitors coming to the United States. Do you have data that shows either an increase or decline from 2001 in terms of international visitors?
We rely on international tourism. As you well know, Boston also is a center for educational excellence in the United States. You alluded to Harvard University. We have MIT, Boston College, Boston University. My listening to the representatives of those institutions indicate a dramatic decline in the number of applications coming from abroad. Like my friend from Orlando, I recognize the need for this particular extension, but I'd like either one of you to address the differences, the hard empirical data in terms of where we were and where we are now in terms of students coming to this country and in terms of visitors from abroad coming into this country. Because it clearlyI think it was Secretary Powell that indicatedmaybe it was you, Secretary Ridgeone out of eight jobs in this country is affiliated with the industry.
One final comment and then I'd ask for your response. How about a Web site for international visitors either through DHS or DOS, being very clear as to what the conditions and the requirements are for travel to the United States? Please consider that.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary POWELL. Let me begin. The overall statistic is that we are down 30 percent since 2001. That's significant. It's a lot of money. It's a lot of people.
When you look into that number, though, you will find that in some Arab countries, for example, it's much higher because of a perception that they are less welcome than somebody coming from, say, a European country.
An example of the kind of problem we run into from President Summers' letterLarry Summers letter from Harvard: A Chinese Ph.D. candidate working at Harvard on an important program went home for a family event, wedding of some kind, and needed to reapply to come into the country. With the new system in place and the new barriers in place and the backlog of these, it's taken months for him to get that visa and his work has had to be given to someone else and his whole doctorate program has been seriously interrupted.
People are not going to take that for very long, and when the word gets out to others they will start going elsewhere.
Yesterday I had some people complaining to me about scientific changes with conferences, symposiums. People can't get to them. This hurts us. It is not serving our interests. So we really do have to work on it.
I think we are going to be getting much better in the very near future because between Secretary Ridge's department, my department and FBI, CIA, I think we are doing a much better job of integrating all of our databases through the Terrorist Threat Information Center and all the other databases that are coming together that allow us to check people more quickly.
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Secretary RIDGE. If I mightthank you for that comment. My comment, we made, I think understandably, right after 9/11 some fairly significant adjustments to visa policy in this country where, given the horror and the destruction of 9/11, security moved immediately to the fore. Secretary Powell and I, Secretary Evans, all the concerns he has with travel- and business-related visas have agreed that we need to take an introspective look at the adjustments and we need to perhaps adjust the adjustments as it relates to visas. And what we are doing with the support of Secretary of State, Secretary of Commerce, looking specifically at the outset at business travel, educational and scientific travel, and security advisory opinions to accelerate that process.
So we are aware that it is a problem. Much of it is associated with well-intentioned, understandable, predictable changes we made right after 9/11. But 2 years has elapsed. We have seen the consequences of some of these changes, and we have to be serious about reviewing them and providing the balance between security and openness. We have to determine whether or not the provisions that we adopted right after 9/11 have actually added to security or have increased, exacerbated and created economic problems for us as well. We are very much engaged in this process together.
Secretary POWELL. And we are engaged with the Congress, because many of these provisions were placed correctly upon us by the Congress at the time. But, for example, we now have to interview visa applicants universally. But if you're in a country like Russia and you have to travel a thousand miles to get to a consular officer in order to make the application and have the interview and then go back, wait months to hear what the outcome is or weeks to hear what the outcome is and go back, it becomes much more difficult.
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We want to protect the Nation, but we have got to do it in a smart way, and the kinds of adjustments that Tom is talking about are ones we need to look at, and we may need some legislative relief.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Powell, Secretary Ridge, welcome. We are honored to have you here. The presence of both of you I think sends a strong message to Congress, how important this issue is and how important it is that we address it promptly but also thoroughly.
Secretary Powell, I would guess that a great many Americans don't understand the role that you and your department play in homeland security. That, in effect, the hundreds and hundreds of U.S. consular offices around the world and the millions of visa applications that citizens of other countries submit is really our frontline of defense in the security of our country since we know that most of these terrorist threats are from people who would come from elsewhere to cause us harm. So we thank you very much for the understanding and the recognition.
I want to second what the gentleman from Massachusetts said. This is a very important task, but it's also a serious problem that we design a system that works efficiently and rapidly. I've had a number of my constituents doing important work for U.S. companies doing business around the world who have left to go to other places to conduct that work and are unable to get back to continue their responsibilities here as a result. So anything you can do in that area we very much appreciate.
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Secretary Ridge, I am also a Member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security and in that capacity have had the opportunity to visit some of our ports of entry and see the US-VISIT program operating. It is an impressive program, and most of the time it will work very efficiently and very quickly to identify people. Particularly where they have been to a consulate and State Department officials have had the opportunity to scrutinize this individual and pass muster, the match-up is a very effective thing.
But that leads us to the obvious question: How much other data are you receiving that goes into that program that will be useful for the countries that are under the visa waiver program and are not going through that kind of clearance process in the consular offices?
Secretary RIDGE. Well, one of the requests we have and we are working with our friends in the European Union is to get additional information with regard to foreign travelers through the passenger name records. You know, we get certain basic information from men and women who are going to be flying into the country or taking a trip across the Atlantic. So we are going to get additional biographic information from the European Union. Those negotiations are ongoing. I feel confident, though they have been somewhat controversial, that at end of the day we will be able to secure additional information.
Because, again, particularly since 9/11 and the regrettable number of terrorist-related incidents around the world, more and more countries are becoming even more sensitive to the notion that they have an interest in protecting their borders in a fashion, perhaps not precisely like the United States, but getting information about people coming to and from their countries as well is in their best interests.
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So I think Secretary Powell and I are really committed to trying to develop a single standard for air travel, a single standard for document authentication, a single standard for personal identification; and there are a lot of people out there who want to work with us to make it happen.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Secretary Powell, is there a quid pro quo here? Can we at the same time that we are telling these countries that we are giving this extension of time suggest that they need to accelerate the cooperation that they are providing us with passenger and other criminal information and so on?
Secretary POWELL. Certainly. There have been quite a few discussions, as Secretary Ridge said, about the passenger information. I think we can use this extension to put pressure on them with respect to any remaining difficulties there are to this kind of effort.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me ask you one more question. The U.S. PATRIOT Act provided that by October, 2003, aliens arriving under the U.S. visa waiver program had to have machine-readable passports. The act allows you to waive this requirement to October, 2007; and you have waived that requirement only to October, 2004. Do you expect that all the visa waiver countries will be issuing machine-readable passports by this October and, if not, do you plan any further waivers for individual countries? Does the State Department regulation provide exceptions for nonmachine-readable passports on any basis and, if so, how long will those passports be accepted for admission?
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The reason I'm asking is nonmachine-readable passports valid for 10 years could be valid for quite a long period of time beyond which we get the other program operating.
Secretary RIDGE. I would just say to you that I was asked earlier with regard to using US-VISIT, even if the extension is applied; and I think US-VISIT, even if you have a machine-readable passport or a nonmachine-readable passport, adds that layer of security until we get everybody up to the situation where they have an international-compliant, biometrically enabled machine-readable passport.
So I think if it's our call within the Department of Homeland Security we will use US-VISIT in perpetuity as these countries ratchet up to get to the requirements that Congress has appropriately said that we need to apply.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Virginia
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I think Secretary Powell wanted to answer.
Secretary POWELL. The only thing I wanted to add is that US-VISIT will continue even after we get machine-readable and biometric passports. Secretary Ridge intends to continue with US-VISIT so we get that other layer of security.
Secretary RIDGE. Particularly because it's the finger scans. The facial recognition is very good to confirm that the person who got the visa is the person who shows up at the port of entry. It doesn't give us a means of being able to take a look at a fairly exhaustive database dealing with criminals and people we have deported and in time I suspect even fingerprints of terrorists and terrorist suspects. So, again, I think we all plan on having that as part of our entry admission system in perpetuity until circumstances warrant a change.
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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman; and with the indulgence of our two secretaries, I'd like to submit several questions for the record
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Without objection.
Mr. SCOTT.that you can answer. And let me just go over what they will be.
Exactly what are the technological barriers to meeting the October deadline? And howwhy should we have any confidence that you will be able to overcome these barriers within 2 years?
The second is, have you evaluated the problem of false positives and false negatives in the identification?
Third, what privacy concerns have been studied and what were your conclusions?
And, fourth, what provisions have been made to make the new passports tamper resistant?
And if you could, between the two of you, respond to those, I'd appreciate it.
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Let me ask a couple of other questions.
If we don't extend the deadline and we require visas for people visiting the United States, will they require visas for United States citizens visiting them?
Secretary POWELL. That would be a judgment each country will have to make on its own.
There was a recent experience where one country was not happy with the US-VISIT program, and it reciprocated in kind against our people coming into their country. I think we've kind of gotten over that once they realized that this only took 15 seconds and it wasn't painfuland, frankly, those people going through kind of enjoyed the novelty of it and realized that it was for their protection.
So we always have that possibility, butI think, with the individual countries, we will have to deal with it as it occurs.
Mr. SCOTT. Will U.S. citizens have trouble getting back into the United States if they leave?
Secretary POWELL. U.S. citizens?
Secretary RIDGE. No, they would not.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Congressman, I just wanted to just add, the false match ratebecause, obviously, we worry about positives and negatives. For the fingerprint one-to-one match, so far our experience is less than one-tenth of 1 percent. It is a pretty reliable way of confirming identity.
Mr. SCOTT. One-tenth of 1 percent when you are talking about millions is still quite a few.
Secretary RIDGE. That is exactly right. And we obviously try to work to a foolproof, failsafe system. We will keep working on it.
Mr. SCOTT. Without going into detail or asking a question, let me just associate myself with the concerns about tourism. That's a very heavy part of the southeast Virginia economy. So we would want to make sure that whatever we do doesn't adversely affect tourism.
Now, do I understand if the passports that are issued above whatever the deadline is, will they be good until they expire?
Secretary POWELL. Yes, it's all passports issued after the deadline date that must be machine-readable and biometrically enhanced.
Mr. SCOTT. And, therefore, those issued before the deadline will be good until they expire.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary POWELL. Right.
Secretary RIDGE. That's one very good reason for us to keep the US-VISIT system in place. Some countries issue a 5-year passport, some 10. If you extend the date, every passport issued after that would have to be machine-readable, biometrically enabled. Those passports issued before would have an expiration date and necessarily would not have to apply for a new passport. They could use the old passport, which is another reason we think we ought to keep US-VISIT in play indefinitely.
Secretary POWELL. And I would hope most of these countries would be well on their way to issuing the new passports before the deadline.
Mr. SCOTT. Exactly who is in the database that we will be catching with the biometrics?
Secretary RIDGE. Well, the facial databases are obviously fairly small, photographs, and the larger database primarily supplied by the FBI, but other agencies, the fingerprint database is in the millions.
When wewhen people are convicted of a crime, we get the full set of prints. When individuals are deported, there is a full set of prints. So in the database we are looking at noncitizens who've been convicted of a crime or deported.
Mr. SCOTT. Were the 9/11 hijackers in the database?
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary POWELL. No. No, I don't believe so. No.
The biographic data and the finger scan, taken as they come through the point of entry, is immediately referred to the database. What the biometric facial identification does, it makes absolutely sure that the holder of the passport is the proper holder of the passport because you have the facial recognition.
Secretary RIDGE. You raise, Congressman, a very, very relevant and important point. It's one of the reasons that we are trying to work with our allies in the European Union to give us additional biographical information. In the international community, so many individuals share the same name; and if you get the name and name only you run into obviously many complications, potential conflicts. So the more biographical information that we can get about an individual, then the more relevant that database is to keeping the borders open and secure at the same time.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think that's one of the problems we have, people with the same names. What happens when you have a match with just the name?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Powell, I have a vested interest in the subject of the hearing today, both as a Member of Congress and as the author of the original entry-exit system in 2000. I know you, Mr. Secretary, and Secretary Ridge are doing everything humanly possible to prevent another terrorist attack. But at the same time, if there is one, it is logical to assume that the attack will take advantage of the weakest link in our security chain which may be trying to enter the United States from a visa waiver country.
It also seems to me that it is human nature to wait until there is a deadline before you perform whatever action you're required to perform. My concern is that the 2-year postponement of the deadline is unnecessarily long, especially considering that a number of countries seem to be willing to implement the new system sooner. So why not move the deadline up to, say, 1 year, keep the pressure on those countries who seem to be able to implement the system sooner, lock them in and if absolutely necessary extend it again? It seems to me that 2 years is too long.
But I would be happy to have you respond to that.
Secretary POWELL. It was a judgment call, Mr. Smith. We felt that countries in the VWP program, there were a number of them who clearly can meet the deadline within a year and will start to issue the new passports within a year.
But it was just as clear that other countries were further behind. The ICAO standard has only been out there for 17 months for them to work on, and it was clear that they were not going to be able to get into it until 2006. So we thought the most prudent thing to do, so we didn't have to come back once again, was to ask for a 2-year extension.
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But I will assure youand Secretary Ridge I'm sure would join me in thisthat this is not going to be an opportunity for all of them to lay back and wait until November 30th, 2006. We will be working with each of them to get them on line as fast as we possibly can.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary Ridge, you mentioned a while ago both the facial and the fingerprint biometric identifiers; and we are starting out with the facial and then hopefully moving to include also the fingerprint. Why not reverse the order for these reasons: The fingerprint biometric identifier I understand can be implemented more quickly; and, more than that, it is very secure. As you mentioned a while ago, we already have ample fingerprint databases, whereas the facial database is new and small.
So why not reverse the order? We could do it quicker, and it would still be more secure than neither. Why not have the fingerprint first and then move to the facial?
Secretary RIDGE. I think we need to recognize that if we are to lead the international effort to come up with an international standard, as a member of the ICAO international organization that really wrestled with this problem for a couple of years, that we need to embrace the international recommendation to use the facial and then use the same organizationwhich did not exclude, by the way. They said you can also use fingerprints or iris scans. But I think as we try to lead and be part of an international effort to create a single standard that we ought to accept the recommendation of the international community. We have backup in our own country with US-VISIT where we do require the finger scans and use the same and similar international organizations to put the redundancy in the system.
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Mr. SMITH. It does seem to me that with the security of the United States we might want to lead the international community and perhaps push the fingerprint before the facial. Obviously, you have reasons not to do that.
Secretary RIDGE. But I will tell you that the international standard we all accept, and we are not waiting to begin the process of convincing our colleagues around the world that we need to take the next step through ICAO and other organizations to add fingerprints to it. The law enforcement community is almost universally in agreement for their own sovereign purposes that a system that includes fingerprints in the future should be part of their system and therefore part of an international system as well. So our continued advocacy will be for at least both and down the road you might even throw in an iris scan.
Mr. SMITH. Secretary Ridge, one more question I will try to squeeze in. This goes to the US-VISIT program. We are making advances as far as the entry. We have missed the deadline on the exit aspect or the exit component of US-VISIT. We have a pilot program that has made the deadline but not implementing the entire program. As you all know, the exit is just as important of a component as entry, because if you don't know when somebody has left the country, you don't know who is in the country illegally. Why are we behind on that?
Secretary RIDGE. Well, we actually met the congressional mandate for exit system because we do record based on biographical who is leaving. We addedhomeland security said a name based entry-exit program would give us a little security, but we thought biometrics would be an added level of security. We have several pilot projects up and believe that we will add another level of exit security in addition to the biographical exit system that we have.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me go on record at the outset as agreeing that it is impractical, impossible to meet the deadline that is in the current law. However, I think, with all due respect, that may be the wrong question to be debating. I think a more relevant question would be whether the visa waiver program has a rational basis itself. It's based on the premise that nationals of participating countries pose little risk of being security threats or overstaying the period of their admittance, and I've always had a problem with this whole concept of having a visa waiver program in existence.
So while I don't argue with the impossibility of meeting the biometric standard, I do argue with the conclusion that that gets you to, which is that you ought to continue to march in place using a visa waiver program.
It seems to me that we are in exigent circumstances, and we know that. As the Secretary said, Secretary Powell said in his opinion piece, other countries have to pardon the inconvenience while we adjust to these new circumstances.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I remember when I was growing up we used to leave our doors open. We never locked them. I don't think that the fact that my mother now locks her doors means she's any less open, less friendly. She just needs to know who's coming into her house when they show up at the door. It's a little more prudentit's prudence, I think.
So let me ask a couple of questions that are aimed at the visa waiver program.
Is it true that Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker from the September 11 hijackers, came to the United States as a French national under the visa waiver program?
Secretary POWELL. I'd like to provide that for the record, just to make sure I get it absolutely right, the circumstances under which Moussaoui came into the country.
[See Appendix for response from Secretary Powell.]
Secretary RIDGE. I think you're right. I believe he did.
Mr. WATT. Is it true that Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, came in under a French Government or British passport that the French Government believes to be legitimately issued and he came in under the visa waiver program?
Secretary POWELL. That's my understanding, but we'd like to provide it for the record as well.
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[See Appendix for response from Secretary Powell.]
Mr. WATT. Is it true that, from what we know about the people who did the bombs in Madrid, many of them would have been able to come in under the visa waiver program without getting visas?
Secretary POWELL. I don't know enough about the individuals to say. But if they were eligible as Spanish citizens, yes.
Mr. WATT. Is it true that none of the South American countries are eligible under the visa waiver program?
Secretary POWELL. Yes.
Mr. WATT. Is it true that there are no African countries eligible under the visa waiver program?
Secretary POWELL. Yes.
Mr. WATT. So I guess the point I'm driving at here is we have a set of standards that are applicable to these 27 countries that's based on a premise that is a questionable premise; is that true? I mean, what's your assessment of that?
Secretary POWELL. The premise of the visa waiver program from its beginning in 1986 was that there were some countries that had relatively low level of risk with respect to who would be using the program and coming into
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Mr. WATT. With respect to who would go back after they got in. Nothing to do with any kind of risk. The criteria was whether they would go back at the end of the period as opposed to say staying in the country. Isn't that the premise on which the visa waiver program was based?
Secretary POWELL. Yes, the visa waiver program is only good for 90 days, the expectation that these people would go back before the 90 days had lapsed. The participation in the program was designed for countries where the initial rejection rate of people coming for visa applicants was relatively low, and it looked like we could have more confidence in having such a program with these countries than with other countries in the world.
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, it looks like my time is up, but I think you get my drift.
Secretary POWELL. Sir, if I could only make one other point. This comes up from time to time.
We have studied it from time to time, and one of the things the visa waiver program does do for us, if we can accept that there might be some risk associated with it, is that it allows us to allocate more resources to other countries where there is a higher level of risk. So doing away with the visa waiver program would essentially require us to do to the visa waiver program countries that we do elsewhere in the world, requiring many more resources that would be taken away
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. But we reduced the number of consuls in Brazil over the last 2 years so the people have to travel further; isn't that right?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Carter.
Mr. CARTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Ridge, I want to get back to the identification system that we are using.
The other night I happened to be wandering through when my daughter was watching a television program with these women having their faces made over; and, quite honestly, some of them you couldn't recognize as the person who started into the program after the plastic surgeons got through with them. Isn't that a risk in facial identification? Nothing more than the computer and reading a photograph rather than a human being reading a photograph; isn't that correct?
Secretary RIDGE. Well, I would tell you that those who've looked at digital photographyand certainly our National Institutes of Standards and Technology as well as the ICAO will probably admit that it is not an absolutely, 100 percent guarantee, as no database would be. But even some material alteration of certain facial features could be detected with the right kind of technology.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CARTER. And adding to that question, it's takingwe see right now the biometrics we're proposing internationally, that we are going to have a delay over our deadline of 2 or 3 years, and we're talking about an extension, and possibly someone is going to come and ask for further extensions. Well, that question already has been asked. Somebody courageous, as you pointed out.
But if that's the caselet's just go on the assumption that we find that we have flaws in the facial identification and we really wish we had fingerprint identification, we really wish we had iris identification, so we then propose we're going to put fingerprint identification in the biometrics. Now we have another 3 or 4 years delay while all the international community adds that. And if that is not sufficient, we will add iris identification, and we go through three extensions of redoing biometrics in our program to order to reach the ultimate which we are wanting to seek to be able to be as sure as we can be with modern science.
Why not go ahead and do it now, one cost, one time, and get it all done at one time so we don't have to come back and say it would have been better with fingerprints, so now everybody do fingerprints? Later, it would be better with iris, now everybody do iris. Why don't we put them all in one chip and put it in the passport now?
Secretary RIDGE. I believe that certainly the advocacy that we have undertaken in the department Administration-wide is not wait for another occasion or another event to advocate redundancy in the system. We're working very hard to reach an agreement and convince people around the world that we ought to right now, as we go about identifying and accepting the international facial recognition standard, to begin to build some redundancy in the system.
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The iris technology is still a little bit uncertain. There are varying opinions as to its reliability.
There is more of a constitutional or cultural resistance internationally to the use of fingerprints than there is a scientific one. Again, the failure rate is very, very low.
But as we try to drive the international community to a single standard we don't want to be in the position of having an American standard and an other world standard. We accept the international standard of facial recognition and push as hard as we can and be as aggressive as we can to add one or two additional features to either the visas or the passports.
Mr. CARTER. I agree with Chairman Smith. We should be driving this train
Secretary RIDGE. We are.
Mr. CARTER.and not the international community. We are the ones that got our buildings blown up.
On this issue of people going overseas, the scientists who went to China for a funeral or wedding or whatever and couldn't get back in. How difficult would it be for State to implement a program where universities or corporations or whatever who have people traveling that way can make a brief application to State to flag a passport to avoid these reentry problems?
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We had a similar problem with the chairman of Samsung in Austin. Ultimately, it was resolved by flagging the passport, because he was traveling so much that he had to be identified.
It looks like to me that would not be that difficult a program or expensive a program to implement to accommodate these people who have to leave and have to come back.
Secretary POWELL. Secretary Ridge and I are looking at that now: How can we carve out classes of individuals who we see no risk in this class of individuals and expedite their returning to the country.
Mr. CARTER. They should have some responsibility to apply for that, too, I think. Everybody is responsible for their own problems; and if they want that special privilege, then they should apply for it and have it granted by State.
Secretary RIDGE. If I might justI know our time is up, but before this hearing today I met with several university presidents, including the president of the University of Texas, and this is one of the issues that they raised. And I can just assure you that the Secretary of State and yours truly, as well as the college and university community around the world, work together to make significant changes in the student visa program. There are still some additional challenges, and this is one of them, and the colleges and universities will partner with us to achieve that workaround. I'm absolutely confident of that.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CARTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman; and I thank both of these honorable gentlemen.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlelady from California, Ms. Lofgren.
Ms. LOFGREN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I found this to be an interesting hearing, because, as I've listened, it's become clearer to me that, while we do need to play a role internationally in setting the standard, the most important thing for us is, as Americans and as the Congress, is to make sure we know who is coming in here; and actually our US-VISIT system does that pretty well. So whether or not the request to extend the biometric requirement for passports goes forward, we actually have that protection for us for US-VISIT individuals.
I guess one of the questions we might want to ask is whether we extend that US-VISIT model to any nonimmigrant visitor who does not have a machine-readable passport. That might actually solve the security issue that we have before us on the international standard, and I think it's something that we ought seriously to consider.
With that, I think that we need to think about how we utilize the data that we obtain and whether we are really getting maximum value out of it.
Before I was in Congress and before I was elected to any office, I taught immigration law and I practiced immigration law; and, with all due respect, I think the consular officers abroad I think are decent people and hard-working people. I certainlybut they don't have a lot of information. Having someone go in to apply for a visa doesn't give me a high level of confidence they're going to pick out the bad guy from the good guy because they don't have databases, they don't have information.
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I think the ability to identify someone at entry is really in some ways a higher level of confidence than what we are going to get with a visit to a consular officer. Because you cannot commit identity fraud after you have once been admitted. You can be Joe Doe the first time. If you are John Smith, you are John Doe forever.
The question is, how do we connect the dots? That gets to the database issue where we have substantial need to put resources.
Secretary Ridge, I was upstairs with Mr. Liscouski. We do not have a merged data list in terms of what our CIA and others have in terms of risk. It's not available to your officers at the airport, it's not available to the State Department visa officers, and, furthermore, we don't have any ability to input and connect the identity of entrants to the most significant database, which is the immigration service. As you know, they are still creating paper files. They are creating microfiche. They have legacy systems. You may know the biometric, you know who is coming in, but you have no way to connect that person to their history in the immigration service.
So my question is when is that going to change? When are we going to score on that effort to get the databases merged from a securityinternational security point of view and then also get the immigration service database in line?
Secretary RIDGE. First of all, I think at the heart of the President's initiative in the creation of the Terrorist Screening Center is to compilewe have the databases, and all the relevant agencies have access to them. But it's very labor intensive, and the ultimate goal which I think will completed by the end of the summer is to merge them technologically.
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Ms. LOFGREN. That is the end of the summer?
Secretary RIDGE. Yes, obviously, in the next couple of months. So not only will we as departments have access to them, but then it's our job to put the technology connect to the borders and to the airports to give them access to that information as well.
Ms. LOFGREN. What about the immigration service? I've been here in Congress now for 9 years and for 9 years I have asked this question ofyou know, obviously bipartisan questionthe immigration service is still not technologically efficient. We are paying a price for that. When are we going to get there?
Secretary RIDGE. First of all, under the leadership of the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Eduardo Aguirre, we have begun the process of investing more heavily in technology, to the extent that 35 or 40 percent of the applications that really, really bog down it is a very labor-intensive process we're putting on line.
Ms. LOFGREN. But the problem is, you know, the biometrics are more reliable than the names; and your I-94 ought to be filed by your fingerprint and your iris scan, not by your name. We are not there, and when are we going to be there?
Secretary RIDGE. Well, we have had the Department for about a year. Unfortunately, in the previous 8 years when you were in Congress, you never got the answer that you wanted.
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Ms. LOFGREN. And I'm still not.
Secretary RIDGE. Well, you got part of the answer. We are putting about 35 to 40 percent of the applications on line. We know that it is absolutely, indisputably technologically deficient; and we know that we have to make significant investments over the next couple of years and bring it into the latter 20th century, let alone the 21st century.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Coble.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretaries Powell and Ridge, it is good to have both of you with us this morning.
I'm going to put a two-part question to you all. What assurances has the United States received from the visa waiver countries that they will have biometric passports ready by 2006, October? A. And, B, if any of these countries are unable to meet that deadline after a 2-year extensionand my friend from Texas may be right, that may be overly generous, but let's assume 2 yearswill its citizens be required to obtain entry visas or will the fingerprint and picture requirements under the US-VISIT program provide the level of security needed to block entry of terrorists?
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Secretary POWELL. They will be required to obtain visas, the same thing that would have happened the 7th of October of this year if we don't get the relief. All we're asking for is a straight 2-year extension, and all the countries that we have been in touch with understand the importance of bringing on line in that 2-year extension period their machine-readable biometric passports. Because at the end of that extension period I can assure you I would have no intention to come back to the Congress again and plead. Because by then they would not only have had the past 17 months from the setting of the ICAO standard but another 2 years from that 17 months, and that is enough time for everybody to get it.
Mr. COBLE. Do you want to weigh in on that, Mr. Ridge?
Secretary RIDGE. I agree.
First of all, I think, as I mentioned before, they have an interest, a personal, a sovereign interest in accelerating the process themselves as they design entry-exit systems themselves around biometrics. That is certainly an impetus to this. And they know that at the end of the line if they don't do that they will have to go and stand in line and get a visa.
Mr. COBLE. I think by implication you have answered my next question, but I want to put it on the record.
Given that there are a finite number of biometric identifier manufacturers and questions have been raised by many about the durability and the security of the identifiers, do Homeland Security and State have confidence that the manufacturers will be able to meet the worldwide demand with a reliable product in time for the visa waiver countries to meet the deadline?
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Secretary POWELL. I don't have detailed knowledge of the manufacturing base to be able to answer the question. So with your permission, sir, I'd like to get the answer for the record.
Mr. COBLE. Oh, that would be fine if you could get that to me subsequently.
[See Appendix for response from Secretary Powell.]
Secretary RIDGE. One of the challenges we have right nowI think the marketplace will respond, because countries are going to be investing hundreds of millions of dollars.
One of the challenges we have right now is that we have the need for different kinds of readers, because the marketplace has responded with different kinds of facial identification technology. I think that the marketplace will get us there, but we will give you more specific responses in writing.
Mr. COBLE. And I would appreciate that.
Finally, gentlemen, are there any unusual reasons that would attract our attention that the visa waiver countries have given for having been unable to meet the October 26th deadline? Nothing out of the ordinary is what I am saying.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary POWELL. No, my understanding of itand we will check just for the recordbut the foreign ministers I have spoken to about this new visa waiver program simply say that they haven't had enough time to get the technology straight, to get the design ready, to do the manufacturing process. They are committed to it. They are not dragging their feet, but 17 months simply has not been enough time to get the program in place.
Mr. COBLE. Secretary Powell, as you said in your opening statement, we definitely need to make it known worldwide that our friends from across the ponds are welcomed to come here. I don't want that to be lost in the shuffle.
Gentlemen, thank you again.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from California, Mr. Berman, on his own time.
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Ridge, I have one question. And if you would allow me, hold off on your answer. Then I'm going to yield the rest of my time to Mr. Conyers, who wanted to ask you something; and then you could answer both of our questions at that point.
The 9/11 Commission released preliminary findings assessing some of the immigration enforcement efforts that your Department and the Department of Justice made post-September 11. Those findings question the efficacy of some of the specific programs in identifying people connected to terrorism within our borders.
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Mr. KING. Mr. Chairman, I object.
Mr. BERMAN. Pardon me?
Mr. KING. Mr. Chairman, I object on the grounds that this question is off the topic of this hearing.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Okay. The Chair will quote from House rule XI(k)(8): In the discretion of the Committee, witnesses may submit brief and pertinent sworn statements in writing in the record. The Committee is the sole judge of the pertinence of the testimony and evidence adduced at the hearing.
The question is: Is the question asked by the gentleman from California pertinent to the topic of this hearing?
Those in favor will say aye.
The ayes appear to have it. The ayes have it. The gentleman from California may proceed.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Mr. Chairman, point of inquiry. I'd like to state my point of inquiry. I have yet to hear a question.
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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from California.
Mr. BERMAN. At some point quickly we will get to my question, which apparently upset some people. I don't even know what it is yet.
A former DOJ employee responded to this saying that those programs, if not effective in counterterrorism, were at least effective in deporting a number of undocumented immigrants.
The question is about resource management of the Department. There is a proposal in the House called the CLEAR Act. The CLEAR Act would withhold funds from local law enforcement and reimbursement for the incarceration by States and counties of illegal aliens unless local law enforcement detained those they come across in their normal law enforcement duties, including victims of crimes and witnesses to crimes who are out of status, and hold them until your Department would pick them up. It would divert funds from the visa fees going to process and do all the biometric tests for visa applicants to reimburse local governments for the cost of these programs. This CLEAR Act is not focused on terrorism-related concerns but on the issue generally of undocumented immigrants.
It seems to me this type of enforcement could be an overwhelming burden on DHS and its security resources. Is this the type of enforcement where you intend to focus DHA's funds and personnel?
And I'd like to yield the rest of my time to Mr. Conyers, and I assume that our little discussion about the relevance of my question is not part of the time.
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Chairman SENSENBRENNER. DoesSecretary Ridge, do you want to answer that question?
Secretary RIDGE. I'd like to try.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Go ahead.
Mr. BERMAN. Iokay.
Secretary RIDGE. Congressman, whether it's the CLEAR Act or not, until the Congress and this country hassays loudly and clearly that the integrity of our immigration laws are of the greatest importance to us and that we are prepared to expend the resources in order to assure its integrity, we will continue to try to nibble around the edges of taking a little money out of this Department and putting it over here.
Clearly, I would like to think that in the future we would be a lot more aggressive in enforcing our immigration laws. But I also think that we kid ourselves when we think that the diversion of a few dollars from one pool of money to another will give us the kind of foundation with which we are able to do that.
I'm not personally familiar with the CLEAR Act and would be pleased to respond to what I consider a very relevant question in writing.
Diverting a little money from here to thereit would cost us hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. If we're serious about immigration laws and we are serious with the enforcement, then we have to be equally serious about the number of dollars we put forth. There are a lot of discussions and in this '05 budget we asked for more money for retention and more money for teams to go out and help enforce the immigration laws of this country. It is a very important question.
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We have asked the President to give us more money in this regard in the '05 budget. We sent it up to the Hill. Hopefully we will get it. But even then we have to make over the next couple of years a fundamental decision with regard to providing far, far more resources.
Mr. BERMAN. In this case
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly. The gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, first of all, I ask unanimous consent that my opening statement be made a part of the record of the hearing.
Secretary Powell and former colleague, good friend, Secretary Ridge, it's always good to have you here and you are providing a tremendous service at a very difficult time to this Nation; and I think that all of my colleagues would agree with me on that.
First of all, Secretary Powell, President Bush announced that the US-VISITwhat we know as US-VISIT would not be used to fingerprint and photograph Mexican nationals entering the United States with border crossing cards. Reportedly, the President ceded to the demands of President Vicente Fox, who was concerned that it was unfair that Mexican nationals would be processed through US-VISIT while citizens of visa waiver countries were not. Now that the citizens of visa waiver countries will be subject to this requirement, will Mexican citizens holding border crossing cards be subject to it as well?
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Secretary POWELL. I need to yield to my colleague, but my judgment is, no, if they are coming in with the border crossing cards for a limited period of time, 72 or 96 hoursI forget which it isand a limited geographic destination within the United States, I didn't think we were planning to subject them to US-VISIT. But we can get that for the record.
[See Appendix for response from Secretary Powell.]
Secretary RIDGE. Yes, we will. Particularly with regardwe're going to have to make some distinctions with regard to the land ports of entry in order to comply with the congressional mandate to set up US-VISIT at the 50 largest land ports of entry, obviously, Canada and Mexico; and there will be some distinctions in those categories. I think that is one of them that I would like to get back to you in that regard.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I'd appreciate that you would get back.
I think, as we all know, the issue particularly on the southern border, as a California resident, it is not limited to California. But I held a hearing, as I chair the Subcommittee on Antiterrorism and Nonproliferation, a Subcommittee hearingfield hearing in California recently; and we had a former U.S. Attorney testify before the Committee that had real concerns about this very issue. He said, you know, if we have uneducated, unsophisticated, and relatively poor folks without any resources that can pretty well find a way to get across that border, what does that say about those that are sophisticated, well educated and well funded? And it is a major concern of mine. I'd just like to get your response to that.
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Secretary RIDGE. And we will get back to you certainly in writing.
But I think you are aware of the fact that, through our offices in Mexico, now when they get that laser card, they do give us their photograph, they do give us a fingerprint. We do have readers, and we can refer them to secondary inspection with readers to confirm their identity. But I would like to get back and further amplify that in response to you in writing.
Mr. GALLEGLY. When you do that I'd appreciate if you would go a little bit beyond that and talk about how many are actuallythese cards are fed through a reader and how many are just waved through as a result of a long line. That's a major concern.
Secretary RIDGE. All right. All right.
Mr. GALLEGLY. And, Tom, perhaps you can answer this question as well: The visa waiver countries are also required to report all stolen passports, but there is some indication that this requirement is not consistently adhered to. What plans are there to increase compliance with this requirement?
Secretary POWELL. Let me take that, sir, and look into it. I don't have the facts. We will get an answer for you for the record as to which countries we believe have been deficient, and what we're doing about it.
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Secretary RIDGE. We are working with Secretary Powellwe're going back to take a look at, since the invention of the Department of Homeland Security, take a look at the number of reported visas that have been stolen.
Historically, the process is a country reports to the Secretary of State. Since the Department has been up, the Secretary of State sends that information to us.
I know the Chairman asked about a series of stolen French passports. You will be happy to know, Mr. Chairman, that that information was related to the Secretary of State, and we had it, and we denied entry a couple of days ago to somebody trying to use one of those stolen passports.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge. I look forward to your response.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlewoman from California, Mrs. Waters.
Ms. WATERS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Members.
To our very special guests here today, with all due respect for the difficulty that you are confronted with in trying to make our homeland more secure, I must tell you that I do not support the visa waiver program at all. I think it's discriminatory, and I think it was brought out here today. You have no Caribbean countries, you have no African countries in this program, and so I don't know what the criteria is. I don't know how you rate all of the other countries; and when you talk about the refusal or the turndown rate, I just have no sense of that. So I don't support the visa waiver program at all, starting out, because I think it is discriminatory.
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But, more than that, we just heardwe are listening to the 9/11 Commission where people are talking about connecting the dots, missed opportunities, all of that, and wishing we had done something more, wishing we had paid attention.
I think we should be at zero tolerance level, and we should be talking about what has been alluded here today about merged databases. As it was said, one of our Members here said today that some of those who are suspected or accused or we know now have been involved in terrorist acts or potential terrorist acts came from these visa waiver countries.
So I don't think that I would expect that you would come in here and talk about how much money you need. You need to talk about how we really do have a comprehensive system by which we prevent people from coming in here, not just people with criminal records but people that we just don't know who they are.
So I guess I'm going to ask you, when do you envision a very tough system, that you do not allow anybody to get in here that we don't know who they are, no matter where they come from?
Secretary POWELL. That is our immediate goal now in the actions we are taking with respect to moving toward machine-readable passports with biometric identification, with respect to the US-VISIT program participation. I think we are trying to do that now to the best of our ability, not only who comes into our country, what are they coming in for and when do they leave? So I think we are moving in that direction now, Ms. Waters.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'll yield to Secretary Ridge as to when we might have a perfect system, if ever.
Secretary RIDGE. First of all, Congresswoman, with regard to your concerns about the visa waiver program, it began as a pilot program for all the reasons that have been discussed in both the testimony and the question and answer period. I think Congress established it as a permanent part of our approach to the balance to the rest of the world community, and the requirements to the eligibility requirements are not set by the Department of State or by the Department of Homeland Security, they're set by Congress. So if there is to be any modification on a visa waiver program, obviously officials in the executive branch, whatever Congress would will at that point, we would certainly be obliged to enforce.
Secondly, one of the real challengesand I have a particular appreciation for this and the challenge that Secretary Powell's consular affairs officers havethe United States is among several countries that has expended the resources, and there are databases which are very familiar to us and we have access to, but there are a lot of countries around the rest of the world where the consular official making a decision as to whether or not an individual should be granted a visa has relatively little information. And it is just a simple fact of life, that is the case. They have to make a judgment call. On balance, I think they make pretty good calls on the limited information they have. And again, as the Secretary has pointed out to you, you are absolutely right. We want to know as much as we possibly can about who is entering, why are they entering, and if you entered for legitimate purposes and your visa has expired, have you gone back home. That is the goal we all share and we are working together to achieve that.
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Ms. WATERS. I appreciate that, gentlemen. And I suspect that we will see you again when you come in to get a waiver from one of these visa waiver program countries that you don't want to limit their opportunities to get in here and not inconvenience them, but I am going to tell you that I am not going to support any of it. I am not going to support any waivers of any kind.
And so I just want you to know I don't want to be in a position of making excuses a year or two from now when something bad happens. We have seen enough and 9/11 should be teaching us a good lesson, and the Commission should be unfolding enough information for all of us to be very, very concerned about, and we should be at zero tolerance for everything.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentlewoman's time has expired and the hour of noon has arrived. And pursuant to the Chair's prior announcement and the commitment that the two Secretaries gave to us when they agreed to come and testify, we will adjourn the Committee at this time. We deeply appreciate both of you presenting yourselves as targets of opportunity.
I would like to personally ask you to be able to respond in writing to questions from Members of the Committee that did not have the time to ask questions today due to our time constraints. The Committee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:05 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SAM FARR, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AND THE HONORABLE MARK FOLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
The visa waiver program (VWP) allows nationals from 27 countries to enter the United States as nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate office. This facilitates international travel and commerce and eases consular office workloads. Last year, approximately 13.5 million visitors entered the United States under this program. The negative side of the program is that it permits people to enter the United States without going through the security clearances that are involved in obtaining a visa. According to the Department of Justice, a terrorist associated with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 entered the United States as a VWP applicant using a photo-substituted Swedish passport. More recently, the ''Shoe Bomber'' Richard Reid was coming to the United States to enter the country under the VWP.
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 mandated that by October 26, 2004, the government of each VWP country must certify that it has established a program to issue machine-readable passports that are tamper-resistant and incorporate a biometric identifier. This only would apply to new passports that are issued after the October 26, 2004, deadline.
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While all 27 VWP countries have a program in place to develop a machine readable, biometric passport, few of the countries will be in a position to start issuing them by the deadline. The required technical and interoperability standards have not yet been completed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Preliminary ICAO standards were released in May 2003, but they failed to address some key issues, including interoperable chip security standards and interoperable reader standards. Also, ICAO's decision to make facial recognition technology the standard passport biometric was not made until May 2003, leaving VWP countries only 17 months to move a biometric passport from design to production, a process that normally takes years. It is apparent that very few VWP countries will be able to meet the deadline for incorporating the biometric identifiers.
If the deadline is not extended, the participating countries that fail to meet it will lose the privilege of participating in the program, and the nationals of those countries will need visas to enter the United States. The State Department has estimated that this would result in the need to process an additional 5 million visas. Apparently, the State Department intends to take personnel away from other activities and assign them to the task of processing the extra 5 million visa applications. In an attempt to avoid these consequences, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have circulated draft legislation that would extend the deadline from October 26, 2004, to November 30, 2006.
I am concerned about the effect that even a temporary disruption of the visa waiver program could have on the international tourist industry. In the year 2000, the State of Texas alone received revenue from the international tourist industry that totaled $3,751.3 million. This included $410.6 million on public transportation, $111.1 million on automobile transportation, $1,029.2 million on lodging, $731.4 million on food services, $320.2 million on entertainment and recreation, and $1,148.9 million in general trade. A major reduction in such revenue would have an adverse impact on the economy of our country. I also am concerned about the fact that the technology for the biometric feature of the new passport is a work in progress. Such new technology needs to be fully developed and tested before it is put into use. I am afraid that rushing this project could result in passports that have unreliable biometric identifiers, which would not provide the expected increase in our security. Consequently, I will support legislation to extend the deadline for this requirement.
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I would like some assurance, however, that the VWP countries will be able to comply with the standards if the contemplated 2-year extension is granted. I also would like assurance that steps will be taken to ensure that our security is not compromised by the delay in implementing the new standards. Thank you.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ELTON GALLEGLY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this very important hearing.
I introduced legislation in the 107th Congress that included a requirement that all visa waiver countries redesign their passports to be machine-readable and contain biometric identifiers as a condition of their continued participation in the visa waiver program. My bill was the model for such requirements included in the ''Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002,'' that are now the subject of this hearing.
Since 2002, I have awaited the implementation of this improvement. Biometric identifiers in passports will verify the identity of the passport holder, ensure that another person cannot alter the passport for his use, and enable authorities to track entries and exits. It is particularly important that passports from visa waiver countries include these safeguards because their holders are not screened through the visa process in our consular offices abroad.
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I am disturbed that the countries currently enrolled in the visa waiver program will not meet the deadline for including biometric identifiers in their passports. I am particularly concerned about how the failure to meet this deadline will impact the national security of the United States.
Our visa waiver partners should treat security improvements with the utmost urgency.
I am, however, heartened to hear that the President has decided to process passport holders from visa waiver countries through the US-VISIT system. Through this processing, passport holders from visa waiver countries will be photographed and fingerprinted, and will also be required to answer questions about their stay. US-VISIT is an important tool in the United States's border control arsenal, not only to verify identity and track entries and exits, but to check for ties to terrorist and criminal pasts. Using fingerprints collected by US-VISIT, authorities are able to utilize several databases to biometrically search for criminal and terrorist ties.
I am concerned by reports that over 9,000 blank French passports were stolen in February of this year and question the wisdom of exempting any population from what may be our only opportunity to check the criminal and terrorist pasts of these people. After all, Zacarias Moussaoui, the accused 20th hijacker of 9/11 entered the country with a French passport as a visa waiver traveler. For these reasons, I hope that this is not a stopgap measure until biometric requirements are satisfied and instead that passport holders from visa waiver countries continue to be processed thorough US-VISIT in perpetuity.
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I look forward to the testimony of our distinguished guests. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE STEVE KING, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IOWA
Thank you, Chairman Sensenbrenner, for holding this hearing today. The issues we will discuss today are vitally important to our national security and protection of our homeland. Secure passports are essential in the war on terror.
I would like to bring the attention of the Committee and our witnesses to another issue related to passportsnamely the western hemisphere passport exception. Currently, a United States citizen can re-enter the United States without a passport if he or she is coming from any country in the western hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba. All that the person needs show is a drivers' license and birth certificate. Unfortunately, neither of these documents is as secure as a passport and forgery is a serious problem. I believe we should require a passport for re-entry of a U.S. citizen to the United States in order to fight terrorism. The Immigration Subcommittee has held a hearing on the subject, and I am anxiously awaiting progress on the issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPREPARED STATEMENT OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE UNITED STATES
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE TRAVEL BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE
The Travel Business Roundtable (TBR) would like to thank Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Conyers for holding this important hearing, and is pleased to have the opportunity to submit a statement for the record regarding the Committee's consideration of an extension of the October 26, 2004 statutory deadline for requiring Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers to present biometric passports upon entry to the United States.
TBR is a CEO-based organization that represents the diverse U.S. travel and tourism industry, with more than 85 member corporations, associations and labor groups. The travel and tourism industry is an engine for economic development and job creation. Some 17 million Americans are employed in travel and tourism-related jobs with an annual payroll of $157 billion. Travel and tourism is the first, second or third largest industry in 29 states and the District of Columbia. In the last decade, travel and tourism has emerged as America's second largest services export and the third largest retail sales industry. Our industry is in 50 states, 435 Congressional districts and every city in the United States.
TBR vigorously supports the efforts of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Bush Administration to establish and implement laws and regulations that will protect our borders, our citizens and our visitors. However, it is vital that the agencies incrementally implementing these programs consider their collective impact on the traveling public. Being ever mindful of DHS Secretary Tom Ridge's admonition about the need to create the proper balance between protecting our homeland and promoting free and open commerce, TBR's goal is to ensure that the paramount objective of protecting our nation's security is pursued in a manner that is effective, coherent and does not unnecessarily compromise our economic vitality.
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THE BIOMETRIC PASSPORT REQUIREMENT
The rapidly approaching October 26, 2004 deadline requiring travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries to present passports containing biometric identifiers was established in the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, and as a statutory requirement, can only be modified by congressional action. While TBR strongly supports efforts by Congress and the Administration to implement this program as an additional means of strengthening security at our nation's borders, we are concerned that doing so without the necessary technological resources could compromise that security and cause harm to the travel and tourism industry, our bilateral relationships and the nation's image around the world.
VWP countries are among our closest allies, and in 2002, represented 68 percent of all overseas visitors to the U.S., spending approximately $38 billion. Without a delay, VWP travelers will be required to apply for visas, thus increasing FY05 visa applications to almost double the FY03 demand. As a consequence, these visitors will most likely be subjected to the additional scrutiny and hassle of the visa process, which has already experienced heavy backlogs and turned away legitimate travelers.
On January 28, 2004, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty testified before the House Select Homeland Security Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security that VWP countries were given only 17 months notice to comply with the biometrics requirementa process that normally takes years for a nation to research, develop and implement. Reports from the United Kingdom and Japan, among many other affected countries, show that they will be unable to technologically comply with this requirement until late 2005 at the earliest. Moreover, the few manufacturers that produce the technology these countries need to fulfill the biometrics requirement have indicated that they cannot meet the demand in such a short timeframe, and given the time constraints, would be unable to vouch for the security of the biometric information contained in the passports. For these reasons, the travel and tourism industry feels a great sense of urgency to delay the deadline. It is noteworthy that even the United States, which is not required to comply with this requirement, will not be prepared to issue biometric passports until 2005. This suggests that we are asking our allies to conform to deadlines that we ourselves cannot meet.
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We are heartened that Administration officials understand the importance of addressing this issue. In a March 17 letter that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Secretary of State Colin Powell sent to Chairman Sensenbrenner, they requested a two-year extension of the biometrics deadline for VWP citizens. Secretaries Ridge and Powell voiced their own fears that if the deadline is not extended, ''travelers will vote with their feet and go elsewhere.''
TBR shares this concern and believes that it is crucial that Congress implement the delay in an expeditious manner to ensure that the affected countries can plan accordingly and so that potential travelers from those countries have sufficient notice of what will be expected of them as they make their plans to travel to the U.S. We hope to work closely with Congress and the Administration to quickly establish a workable deadline for VWP countries and an effective means of communicating the changes to the countries and their citizens.
It is impossible to stress enough how important international visitors are to the health of our industry as well as the overall U.S. economy. Every 1 percent drop in international arrivals to the U.S. accounts for the loss of 172,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in tax revenue. From 2001 to 2002, international travelers to the United States dropped from 44.9 million to 41.9 million. International visitor spending in the U.S. over that time decreased from $71.9 billion to $66.5 billion. And our travel trade surplus of $26 billion in 1996 plummeted to $5.5 billion in 2002. This continued downward trend of international visitor patterns has caused federal, state and local government travel-related tax receipts to decline from $95.5 billion in 2001 to $93.2 billion in 2002. Moreover, U.S. travel and tourism industry payrolls have dwindled from $160.3 billion in 2001 to $157 billion in 2002, and industry job growth remained stagnant at 17 million workers. The United States cannot allow this downward trend to continue.
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To further quote from the letter to Chairman Sensenbrenner from Secretaries Powell and Ridge regarding the impracticality of the upcoming deadline: ''Clearly we need to address this problem. We believe there are good reasons to extend the October 26, 2004 deadline. . . . A biometric deadline extension will enable our allies to develop viable programs and resolve the scientific problems to produce the more secure biometrically enabled documents that the original legislation mandated.'' We could not agree more.
In considering the need for an extension and the necessary timeline to ensure that VWP countries are able to comply with the biometric passport requirement, we believe that Congress and the Administration need to explore a number of important questions, namely: What have VWP countries told the Committee about their ability to comply with the requirement? Based on their responses, is the two-year extension suggested by Secretaries Powell and Ridge an accurate reflection of the necessary time involved in achieving a workable standard? Given that there are a finite number of biometric identifier manufacturers, and questions have been raised about the durability and security of the identifiers, will they be able to meet the worldwide demand with a reliable product? And perhaps most importantly, how can the United States ensure that VWP countries and their citizens have the most reliable information possible about what is required of them, and when?
TBR stands ready to work with Congress, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other relevant federal entities to ensure that those who wish to do harm to our nation are prevented from traveling to the U.S., while those who seek to visit our country for legitimate reasons are treated respectfully and are admitted in an efficient manner. We appreciate the Committee's attention to these pressing matters and offer our assistance in any way.
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Jonathan M. Tisch
Chairman, Travel Business Roundtable
Chairman & CEO, Loews Hotels
Air Transport Association
American Express Company
American Gaming Association
American Hotel & Lodging Association
American Resort Development Association
American Society of Association Executives
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAmtrak
Asian American Hotel Owners Association
ASSA ABLOY Hospitality
Association of Corporate Travel Executives
Business Travel News
Capital Management Enterprises
Carlson Hospitality Worldwide
Choice Hotels International
The Coca-Cola Company
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Delaware North Companies Inc.
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Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau
Diners Club International
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
FelCor Lodging Trust
Four Seasons Regent Hotels & Resorts
Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Hertz Corporation
Hilton Hotels Corporation
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union
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Hyatt Hotels Corporation
InterContinental Hotels Group
International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus
International Council of Shopping Centers
International Franchise Association
Interstate Hotels & Resorts
JetBlue Airways Corporation
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
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LA INC, The Convention and Visitors Bureau
Lufthansa Systems North America
Mandalay Resort Group
Marriott International Inc.
Maryland Office of Tourism Development
McDermott, Will & Emery
The Mills Corporation
Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau
National Basketball Association
National Business Travel Association
National Football League
National Hockey League
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCNational Restaurant Association
Nederlander Producing Company of America
New York University
Northstar Travel Media, LLC
NYC & Company
Omega World Travel
Pegasus Solutions, Inc.
Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau
Smith Travel Research
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Strategic Hotel Capital Inc.
Taubman Centers, Inc.
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Tishman Construction Co.
Universal Parks & Resorts
United States Chamber of Commerce
United States Conference of Mayors
Vail Resorts, Inc.
Virginia Tourism Corporation
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Washington D.C. Convention and Tourism Corporation
Waterford Group, LLC
WH Smith USA
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Zagat Survey, LLC
PREPARED STATEMENT OF J. CLARK ROBINSON
As president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, and on behalf the board of directors and our general membership, I appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony for the hearing record on this very important subject.
Founded in 1918, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) is the largest international trade association for permanently situated parks and attractions worldwide. Headquartered in Alexandria, VA, IAAPA represents approximately 5,000 member companies from more than 85 countries, including virtually all multi-park companies such as Disney, Universal, Busch Entertainment, Paramount, Cedar Fair, and Six Flags. Our membership includes amusement/theme parks, waterparks, amusement manufacturers and suppliers, family entertainment centers, arcades, zoos, aquariums, museums, and miniature golf venues.
According to Amusement Business magazine and other industry analysts, America's 600-plus parks and attractions hosted approximately 322 million visitors in 2003, generating more than $10 billion in revenue. An annual compilation of the world's ''Most Visited Amusement/Theme Parks'' indicated that the United States had 16 of the top 25 most attended parks globally during the past year. American amusement facilities take great pride in their commitment to providing quality family entertainment to visitors from our own country and countries around the world.
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THE NEED FOR SAFE, OPEN BORDERS
The amusement industry supports enhanced border security measures, understanding that seamlessly safe travel helps to bolster consumer confidence in visiting our parks and attractions. However, the industry is concerned about the implementation schedule of security measures and the adverse impact it might have on travel by foreign visitors.
Since 9/11, the travel and tourism industry has seen significant decreases in international travel to the United States. Over a two-year period following September 11, 2001, international travel to the U.S. declined twenty percent, resulting in a loss of $15 billion in visitor spending. More than 300,000 jobs in the travel industry were lost as a product of the decrease in international travel. There are preliminary indications that interest in tourist travel to the United States is recovering slowly towards pre-9/11 levels. But this progress could be extinguished if perceived or actual impediments to inbound international travel exist.
While the need to enhance physical safety is paramount, the United States must also be vigilant in ensuring enhanced economic security during that process. As a result, the amusement industry, in conjunction with the entire United States travel industry, supports an extension of the congressionally mandated deadline of October 26, 2004 for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries to begin issuance of biometric passports to their citizens. We concur with the recommendations of Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge that the deadline be extended until December 2006.
AMUSEMENT INDUSTRY SUPPORTS BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS, PHASE-IN NEEDED
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Both the United States and the international theme park community support implementation of a biometric passport program for Visa Waiver countries. Biometric identification will undoubtedly enhance security by allowing more vigorous screening of visitors. The further development and issuance of machine-readable, tamper-resistant, biometric passports will reduce the number of fraudulent and suspicious passports used to gain illegal entry into this country.
While illegal entry must be prohibited, legitimate travel into the United States must be permitted to continue without significant disruption. The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs has indicated that VWP governments will be unable to meet the legislatively mandated deadline to issue biometric passports. It is currently believed that at best, only three of the twenty-seven Visa Waiver countries will be able to meet this deadline, and that none of the larger countries (United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Italy or Spain) will be able to issue biometric passports by October 26, 2004. Officials have indicated that these VWP governments will not be capable of producing biometric passports until late 2005 or 2006.
Visa Waiver travelers with non-biometric passports issued on or after October 26, 2004 will be required to obtain a visa for travel to the United States. As governments in Visa Waiver countries will be unable to issue passports with biometric identifiers, the demand for non-immigrant visas for travel to the United States will overload the processing abilities of U.S. consulates overseas. The State Department has indicated that the demand for non-immigrant visas would at least double, leaving them unable to process requests in a timely manner.
We fear that these requirements will serve as a disincentive for tourist travel to the United States. The biometric passport deadline for Visa Waiver countries will create an actual barrier for some international travelers and a perceived barrier for others. Fewer international visitors to the U.S. will result in less spending and job loss in the amusement industry across the country.
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We support the Administration's request to extend the current October 26, 2004 deadline for biometric passports. Further, we urge the committee to consider legislation providing Visa Waiver Program countries the necessary time to begin issuing biometric passports to their citizens. Extension of this deadline will give VWP governments the opportunity to complete development of these more secure documents while maintaining the flow of legitimate tourist travel to the United States.
As U.S. parks and attractions are just now beginning to recover from the events of the last two years, another barrier to inbound travel would be detrimental to the industry. In 2002, Visa Waiver travelers spent approximately $38 billion in the United States. Over 10 million international visitors traveled to the United States from VWP countries last year. Extending the biometric passport deadline for Visa Waiver travelers by at least one year would allow the seamless flow of legitimate travel into the United States to continue, while providing VWP governments with the opportunity to successfully meet and comply with requirements mandated by the Border Security Act. Homeland security must be defined as more than protection of our borders. The implementation of security measures must account for the economic health of the nation as well.
I thank you again for the opportunity to submit this testimony for the official record.
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN SINGAPORE
The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham) represents the interests of the 1,500 U.S. companies operating in the country, and more than 18,000 Americans living and working in Singapore.
In light of the current global security situation, AmCham and the American business community in Singapore support the strengthening of U.S. immigration and visa policies to improve national security and to safeguard the interests of business, educational, and leisure travelers visiting the United States and Southeast Asia. However, this additional attention to security must be balanced with the proper resources to ensure that delays and other problems are minimized.
ENSURING THE PROPER RESOURCES
While the American Embassy in Singapore has done an excellent job to ensure that 90% of all visa applications are processed within 10 working days, further attention needs to be paid to the overall shortage of consular resources in Southeast Asiai.e., personnel, technology, and Embassy spacein order to meet the growing demands placed on Consular staff for increased security checks, interviews, etc.
Of AmCham Singapore's 1,500 individual and 700 corporate members, 8090% of these have regional responsibilities, which means that they and their employees often travel within Asia and to the United States for business meetings, training, and related purposes. Although Singapore is a visa waiver country, which means that its nationals do not require visas to go to the United States for short business or leisure trips, many AmCham member companies employee citizens of non-visa waiver countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
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It is in these cases of non-visa waiver countries that AmCham members have experienced significant difficulties obtaining visas for (as an example) their Managing Directors or other senior executives (who are Malaysians working in Singapore) to visit their U.S. corporate offices for meetings or training. These executives have reported that the visa approval process was either too slow, or by the time it had been approved, it was too late to travel to the United States.
Many of Amcham's member companies reported severe difficulties in 2002 and early 2003 with obtaining legitimate visas for Malaysians, Indonesians and even Singaporeans that were necessary for their operations. Recent changes in operating procedures have ameliorated this situation somewhat, but some cases are still inexplicably delayed. One of the most bothersome aspects of the problem for businesses is the total lack of predictabilityour member companies do not know whether their executives will get their visas within some foreseeable span of time, or if they will be indefinitely delayed, without a refusal but with no response. In the latter cases, U.S. embassies in the region have been unable to give us any information or status reports about the processing of the visa, saying simply that they are being processed in Washington. The process for business visas should be made more transparent, predictable and responsive to the legitimate needs of American businesses. Government agencies involved in reviewing the visas in Washington need to apply sufficient resources to this task, so that decisions are made on a timely basis. When there are unavoidable delays, adequate information should be made available to the companies and the individuals about the status of the case.
An example of this involves one American technology company in Singapore, who reported that its Indonesian-born executive that had been living and working in the United States, and who has a Green Card, went back to Indonesia to get married. However, when he tried to return to the United States, U.S. Immigration officials did not allow him to do so, and did not provide clear reasons for their decision. Even though his employer vouched for his credibility and he did have U.S. permanent residency, he was not allowed back into the United States.
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With implementation of The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and discussions on a U.S.-Thailand FTA and other bilateral trade frameworks, the United States will begin to see increasing business visits by foreign national executives who are employed by American companies in Southeast Asia. The Departments of State and Homeland Security must ensure that adequate resources and processes are in place to meet this growing flow of international visitors. Their inability to do so will inhibit business transactions between the United States and its Asian partners, and negatively impact on bilateral trade and investment with the U.S., which are key to helping the American economy to recover and to continue growing in the future.
US-VISIT PROGRAM & BIOMETRIC REQUIREMENTS
AmCham Singapore supports the US-VISIT Program as a way to further enhance the United States' national security while helping to process more efficiently visitors (particularly repeat travelers) to the United States. We further agree with the use of biometrics (e.g., fingerprint scans and digtal photos) at entry points to the United States and in passports of citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) nations, which will better help to ensure the validity of travelers' identities and to protect against fraud and abuse.
Effective September 30, 2004, the US-VISIT Program will require all visitors to the United States to enroll upon entry into the United States. This includes the 13 million travelers under the VWP who visit the U.S. annually. To ensure that US-VISIT can be managed effectively on a nationwide basis and to accommodate the additional (initial) processing time required to enter all visitors into the system, it is critical that Congress provide Department of Homeland Security and Department of State with the proper resources to enable them to conduct this program.
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A second area of concern is that, for countries such as Singapore who are members of the VWP and whose citizens would be required to have biometric passports for entry into the United States, most of the 27 VWP members would not be able to issue machine-readable passports containing biometric information of their citizens prior to the current deadline of October 26, 2004. As the current law indicates, citizens of countries not complying with these regulations by this date would need to go through the formal U.S. visa application process.
This would result in an estimated 5 million visa applications for consular offices worldwide, and Department of State would need to add hundreds of new officers to help meet this demand. Further, it is likely that some countries might retaliate and require American citizens visiting their countries to also implement these features into U.S. passports. It would seem unlikely that the United States could do so in the proposed timeframe.
The result would not only be a continued decrease in Singaporean and other business travelers to the United States, but (and perhaps more importantly) the high level of interest from Singapore companies in investing in the United States and purchasing American products would be tempered because of the difficulties in traveling there for business.
The United States has entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore in late 2003, and is currently in discussions with Australia and other countries, who are also members of the VWP. If the October 26 deadline is not extended, and businesspeople from Singapore and other VWP nations need to go through the normal visa application channels, this will negatively impact on potential investors and business travelers to the U.S. These individuals would be more likely to evaluate business opportunities within Asia, Australia, or European nations which have less stringent requirements for non-immigrant visitors.
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AmCham has already seen a reverse in the steady upward trend of Singaporean students wanting to study in the United States because of existing visa processing delays. Many of these students have foregone U.S. colleges and universities in favor of Australian and United Kingdom schools, due to those nations' easier visa processing procedures.
If the United States does not extend its deadline for VWP members to issue biometrically-enabled passports to their citizens, this will also hurt America's tourism industry, as more people choose to visit other nations, or to remain in Asia where it will be easier for them to travel.
AmCham Singapore strongly supports strengthening of visa application procedures and policies to help ensure the United States' national security interests, but feels the current system and US-VISIT program need to be re-examined to ensure that America's long-term business relationships and economic opportunities are not nullified as a result of well-meaning measures which are not carefully implemented.
We also agree with DHS and State Department's request to extend the deadline for VMP nations to comply with the US-VISIT requirements on machine-readable passports and biometric information, and ask Congress to pass legislation that will meet this request.
LETTER FROM THE NATIONAL BUSINESS TRAVEL ASSOCIATION
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RESPONSES FROM 21 AMBASSADORS
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LETTER FROM JONATHAN FAULL, EUROPEAN COMMISSION
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS POSED DURING THE HEARING FROM THE HONORABLE COLIN POWELL
RESPONSES TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM THE HONORABLE COLIN POWELL
RESPONSES TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM THE HONORABLE TOM RIDGE
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(Footnote 1 return)
The following 27 countries are currently in the VWP: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (which includes citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).
(Footnote 2 return)
Machine Readable Travel Documents: Technical Report: Development of a Logical Data StructureLDS for Optional Capacity Expansion Technologies, ICAO, April 2004. The report states: ''While the use of biometrics is optional for issuing authorities, if a choice is made to incorporate biometrics, Data Group 2, the encoded face, is therefore Mandatory. All other Data Elements defined for recording by an issuing State or organization are optional. ''
(Footnote 3 return)
The Machine Readable Travel Documents: Technical Report: Development of a Logical Data StructureLDS for Optional Capacity Expansion Technologies, ICAO, April 2004, report will be approved at the Technical Advisory Group in Montreal, Canada in May 2004.
(Footnote 4 return)
The Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act (DMIA) of 2000 established a series of deadlines for the implementation a data system that would record arrival and departure information on non-United States Citizens.
(Footnote 5 return)
The principles and protections of the Privacy Act are centered around notice to those who will be subject to information collection; notice of how the information will be used and how long it will be retained; and adherence to those uses.
(Footnote 6 return)
(Footnote 7 return)
US-VISIT has implemented a three-stage process for redress if an individual has a concern. If an affected individual requests a change or when a DHS Officer determines that an inaccuracy exists in the individual's record, the DHS Officer can modify the record. If an individual is not satisfied with this response, he or she can contact the US-VISIT Privacy Officer and ask for assistance. The individual can request a review by the DHS Privacy Officer, to address any remaining concerns.