Cover: Revisiting US-VISIT

Revisiting US-VISIT

U.S. Immigration Processes, Concerns, and Consequences

Published Oct 24, 2006

by David S. Ortiz, Shari Lawrence Pfleeger, Aruna Balakrishnan, Merril Miceli


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In January 2004, spurred by the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inaugurated a new system for the tracking of foreign visitors at ports of entry to the United States: the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. US-VISIT incorporates new technology, processes, and changes to immigration law across multiple federal departments and agencies. The technological aspects of US-VISIT include biometric visas, passports, and scanning equipment; linked databases; and the recording of the arrival and departure of nonimmigrant aliens. The US-VISIT information systems link several databases, including a watch list of known immigration violators and other criminals, a system for storing information on foreign students, and a database of previous visa holders. It is being implemented in four increments, with the first initiated in January 2004, and the final configuration of the system available near the end of the decade. Building on previous RAND research, this paper discusses some of the policy issues raised by the introduction and development of US-VISIT. Such issues include the program’s effect on national security, personal privacy, and trade and tourism. Informing this analysis is a comparative case study of visa requirements instituted by France in the late 1980s and early 1990s in direct response to terrorist attacks.

The research described in this report results from the RAND Corporation’s continuing program of self-initiated independent research. Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research development provisions of RAND’s contracts for the operation of its U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development centers. This research was conducted within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE), a unit of the RAND Corporation.

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