About U.S. Visit

US-VISIT biometric procedures apply to international travelers holding a U.S. visa or non-U.S. passport. US-VISIT currently applies to all international visitors (with limited exceptions) entering the United States. This includes visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (effective September 30, 2004). US-VISIT does not apply to U.S. citizens.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program provides visa-issuing posts and ports-of-entry with the biometric technology that enables the U.S. government to establish and verify a person’s identity when visiting the U.S. In many cases, this process begins overseas at a U.S. visa issuing post, where a visa applicant’s biometrics (digital fingerprints and a photograph) are collected and checked against a watch list of known criminals and suspected terrorists. When the traveler arrives in the U.S., the same biometrics are collected to verify that the person at the port is the same person who received the visa. Immigration officials use this information to help them make visa-issuance and admission decisions as part of the visa application process or entry inspection.

Unlike names and dates of birth, which can be changed, biometrics are unique and virtually impossible to forge. Collecting biometrics helps the U.S. government prevent people from using fraudulent documents to enter the country illegally. Collecting biometrics also helps protect a person’s identity in the event travel documents are lost or stolen.

US-VISIT Exceptions

Generally, exceptions from US-VISIT include:

  • Visitors admitted on an A-1, A-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 visa
  • Children under the age of 14
  • Persons over the age of 79
  • Classes of visitors the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security jointly determine shall be exempt
  • An individual visitor the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Director of Central Intelligence Agency jointly determine shall be exempt
  • Taiwan officials who hold E-1 visas and members of their immediate families who hold E-1 visas.

Most citizens of Canada are not subject to the US-VISIT program, including:

  • Canadian citizens who are visa-exempt
  • Canadian citizens traveling on Canadian passports with diplomatic visas or visas for international organizations (A, G or NATO)
  • Canadian citizens who are studying or working in the United States, who normally do not have non-immigrant visa in their passports
  • Children under 14 and people over the age of 79

Applicants for admission at primary vehicle inspections presenting a valid, unexpired, multiple-entry Form I-94 may be admitted without being subject to secondary inspection even if the applicant is not yet enrolled in US-VISIT.

Note: Customs and Border Protection Officers retain the discretion to refer a visitor for US-VISIT processing as part of the inspections process if there is a concern about the nature of travel.

Canadians who are subject to the US-VISIT program include:

  • Citizens of Canada applying for admission with a non-immigrant visa such as Canadian citizens with K visas (fiancés) and E visas (treaty trade investors).
  • Canadian permanent residents. Under U.S. regulations, Canadian permanent residents are identified by their citizenship (i.e., the nationality of the passport that they carry), not by the fact that they may be permanently residing in another country such as Canada.
  • Canadians with dual nationality who present a non-Canadian passport when seeking to enter the United States.

Others who are subject to the US-VISIT process include:

  • Current Canadian permanent residents who are participants in NEXUS (Canadian Border Dedicated Commuter Lane) and/or FAST (Free and Secure Trade) who may be required to enroll in US-VISIT when they renew their multiple entry Form I-94s.
  • Visitors renewing their multiple-entry Form I-94. All current, valid Form I-94 remain in effect. US-VISIT biometric collection requirements will be either at the time of the next issuance of the Form I-94 or at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection Officer.

US-VISIT Biometric Procedures: Applicability to Mexican Citizens

Most Mexican citizens who travel to and from the United States regularly utilize a multi-use travel document, B-1/B-2 visa/Border Crossing Card (BCC), also known as a “laser visa,” which serves as either a BCC or a B-1/B-2 visa. Initially, these Mexican citizens who use the travel document only as a BCC are not subject to US-VISIT procedures. This is an interim solution for the land border while the Department explores a long-term solution to record the entry and exit of visitors crossing our land border ports of entry.

Currently, if a Mexican citizen chooses to use the BCC as a B-1/B-2 visa (traveling outside the “border zone” and/or staying longer than 30 days in the United States), s/he must complete a Form I-94 and then be processed through US-VISIT in secondary inspection areas at the land border ports of entry at that time.

Mexicans citizens who participate in SENTRI (Secured Electronic Network for Travelers’ Rapid Inspection) and/or FAST (Free and Secure Trade) will not be enrolled in US-VISIT until they are required to re-register as part of the routine processing to renew a multiple-entry Form I-94.

Multiple-entry Form I-94s continue to be issued. All current, valid Forms I-94 remain in effect and the US-VISIT biometric collection requirements apply either at the time of the next issuance of the Form I-94 or at any time at the discretion of a Customs and Border Protection Officer.

Children under 14 and people over the age of 79 are exempt.

Note: Customs and Border Protection Officers always have the discretion to refer a visitor for US-VISIT processing as part of the inspections process if there is a concern about the nature of travel.