CBP, LAWA expand biometric experience at LAX

03/09/20

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in partnership with Los Angeles World of Airports (LAWA), are leveraging biometric facial comparison technology and enhanced safety protocols to position Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as a touchless and safe airport amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strategy encompasses the deployment of Biometric Exit, Global Entry Modernization, and the groundwork for implementing the Simplified Arrival program. The three initiatives are critical components of paperless, state-of-the-art, faster and more secure international traveler processing.

In addition, CBP and LAWA partners successfully implemented rigorous COVID-19 health and safety standards, including installing plexi-glass barriers and increased cleaning at all CBP work locations.

“We have implemented numerous safety protocols and innovative processes at all of our ports of entry to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Director of Field Operations, Carlos C. Martel. “Although we have seen a decrease of international traveler volumes over the last couple of months, the pandemic has not disrupted our ability to process international travelers coming into the Los Angeles Area.”

“Los Angeles World Airports and our partners are investing in biometrics and other cutting-edge technology that reduces contact among travelers and streamlines the overall travel experience to make the airport journey quicker, safer, more comfortable and enjoyable,” said Justin Erbacci, Chief Executive Officer, LAWA. “We are proud to work closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection as we use this new technology to provide faster, easier and more secure passenger processing.”

“Travelers are a lot more cognizant about what they touch and who they’ve provided their travel documents or boarding pass to,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP Area Port Director of the Los Angeles International Airport. “There are hygienic benefits to reducing traveler contact points, and biometric information helps ensure an efficient, safe and secure travel experience.”

On August 10, CBP and partner airlines began conducting Biometric Exit processing on select departing flights at LAX.  When international travelers arrive at the departure gate, they will now pause for a photo. CBP’s biometric facial matching service will match the new photo of the traveler to a small gallery of high-quality images that the traveler has already provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos. Biometric exit enhances security while streamlining the departure of international travelers.

CBP in coordination with LAWA partners, are laying the groundwork for the upcoming deployment of Simplified Arrival. Simplified Arrival complements Biometric Exit by streamlining international travel. When travelers arrive at LAX on an international flight, they will now pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. As with Biometric Exit, CBP’s biometric facial matching service will match the new photo of the traveler to a small gallery of high-quality images that the traveler has already provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos.

Simplified Arrival pairs the industry’s highest ranked facial comparison algorithm (as assessed by National Institute of Technology) with trained CBP officers who are skilled at verifying the authenticity of travel documents. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival service, the CBP officer will revert to the original process and manually inspect the traveler’s document. 

On July 2, CBP deployed new Global Entry kiosks at all of LAX’s international terminals. Global Entry members bypass traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk to complete their admission to the United States.

The new Global Entry kiosks integrate facial biometrics, allowing for even faster and more secure processing. CBP is reducing the amount of information the traveler must provide at the kiosks to verify the traveler’s identity by no longer requiring the traveler to submit fingerprints and a passport scan. The new Global Entry kiosks have effectively reduced the processing time of preapproved members by nearly 90%, from 45 seconds to less than 6 seconds per traveler.

CBP is fully committed to complying with privacy laws and regulations and to protecting travelers’ information and privacy. CBP’s biometric matching service is hosted in a secure, cloud-based environment and stores only the traveler’s photo. The photo is used solely for the purpose of validating the identity of the traveler and ensuring that the passport being presented belongs to the bearer of the document. New photos of U.S. citizens from the biometric entry and exit processes will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system.

While U.S. Citizens who are entering or exiting the country are generally required to be in possession of a valid U.S. passport, CBP does not require U.S. Citizens or exempt aliens to participate in the facial comparison process. Travelers who do not wish to participate in the facial comparison process may notify a CBP officer or an airline  representative and present their travel documents for manual inspection.

Legislative Mandate

CBP has a congressional mandate to biometrically record all foreign nationals who enter and exit the United States. Years of testing have demonstrated that biometric facial comparison technology is the most secure, efficient and cost-effective way to fulfill the congressional mandate while protecting the privacy of all travelers.  

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