USCIS plans biometric expansion
14 December 2017 17:01 GMT

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has expedited plans to formalise the use of biometrics by 2019, with a focus on application processing systems like the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS).

Paul Hunter, chief of biometrics strategy for USCIS, has said the agency will develop formal rules on the use of voice, iris and rapid DNA identification by March 2019.

Hunter told FCW magazine of the plans at an AFCEA breakfast panel on Dec. 13.

He said voice prints would help “harden” ELIS’ security both online and in person.

The magazine noted that ELIS has come under withering criticism in the past for its inability to automate processing of the agency’s N-400 Application for Naturalization form and for inadequate background and security checks. The agency, Hunter said, is looking at how to apply voice prints to multiple ELIS applications.

In the next few years, he said, immigration officials could take a voice print along with an applicant’s fingerprints in overseas interviews with potential immigrants. That voice print could then be used to authenticate online users who may access the system remotely to check on their immigration status and other applications.

Voice identification can even help shave seconds off telephone calls for the agency. Hunter said the USCIS call center receives 50,000 calls a day about green-card status. If the center used a voice “print” tied to existing biometric information in the agency’s database to verify a caller’s identity, it might save 25 seconds per call. Multiplied by 50,000, those saved seconds could add up to millions in labor cost savings.

Biometrics in general, and rapid DNA biometric identification in particular, have the potential to transform the immigration process, Hunter said.