RealNews

U.S. Readies Program to Track Visas

The federal government is about to unveil a blueprint for one of its largest information technology projects ever, a vast automated system that will track every foreigner entering the United States with a visa. The program, which is designed to prevent terrorists and criminals from obtaining visas, is likely to cost $3 billion to $10 billion, analysts said. Under the system, U.S. consular officials will fingerprint and photograph visa applicants in their home countries and check their profiles against terrorist watch lists and criminal databases. Border agents will electronically scan travelers’ index fingers to make sure their prints match those on their visa documents. And a massive computer system storing travel and visa data will automatically alert the government to individuals whose visas have expired. The Homeland Security Department plans to release details of the project in November. Companies will then submit bids to design and build the system. The department plans to award the contract in May and to begin using the system to screen foreign visitors at the 50 largest land crossings by 2005, though experts warn such ambitious projects often take more time than expected. Full Story

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