Beginning in May, going to federal immigration offices will feel more like going through an airport security system.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the arm of Homeland Security that handles such things as naturalization and permanent residency, or “green cards,” announced Monday that next month it would implement the Customer Identity Verification, or CIV, at its field offices.
The new system will require people to submit biometric data such as fingerprints and photographs, as well as government-issued documentation, when going to immigration offices to conduct business.
A press release from the agency said: “CIV will help to both defend against threats to national security and protect customers from identity fraud by enhancing the agency’s ability to verify identity.”
USCIS already requires biometric data, but people must provide it by going to locations called Application Support Centers.
The new system, according to the release, will call for “an individual appearing at a USCIS field office for an interview or to be issued evidence of an immigration benefit will have his or her identity biometrically re-verified.”
People who go to a federal immigration office who are, for example, simply accompanying someone seeking services will not have to submit biometric data, the agency said.
The biometric data that field offices collect will be put into databases that, among other things, track people who come on temporary visas. Roughly half of all people living in the United States illegally are visa overstays.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many security experts and advocates of strict immigration policies said the nation’s system of tracking people who visit the United States was flawed. Most of the hijackers entered the United States legally, on visas, but several did not stick to the intentions – such as getting an academic education – they had stated in applying for permission to enter the country.