In our post-September 11 world, the process for obtaining a U.S. visa has become increasingly complex. Requirements are far stricter, and more information is collected than ever before. In order to prevent the likelihood of future terrorist attacks, biometric data is now collected with every immigrant and non-immigrant visa petition. However, many people remain confused about what biometrics exactly are, and why they are useful.
Biometrics involves the analysis of biological data, usually for the purposes of identification. The science of biometrics is held out as a safe and convenient option for identification. It was adopted by the U.S. government as a security measure in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Most immigration applicants must appear at a biometrics interview, where fingerprints and other data are taken and checked against the FBI’s watch lists.
Biometrics as Immigration Security
Biometrics are extremely expensive and difficult to deceive, which, in theory, helps to eliminate threats to the security of the United States. Numerous safeguards are built into the OBIM (Office of Biometric Identity Management, a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security) system that help prevent identity theft, but also recognize people who are on watch lists or are suspected of terrorist activity. One can change his or her appearance, of course, but it is nearly impossible to change every characteristic measured by a biometrics system.
Biometric data is arguably more secure for travelers, as well as for the U.S. government. Instead of having warehouses full of papers and completed forms that can be lost or stolen, biometric data is stored on heavily encrypted databases. No computer is entirely immune to attack, of course, but computerizing and encrypting data severely limits the ability of identity thieves to access it.
Biometrics as Immigration Convenience
Biometrics is convenient for both the U.S. government and for the traveler; after the traveler provides one set of data through a biometrics interview, in theory, he or she will not have to do so again for an extended period of time, instead of the normal practice of filling out immigration forms and attending interviews each time before re-entering the U.S. An individual’s appearance may change over time, but the way he or she signs his or her name, for example, usually does not.
The U.S., in the last five years, has begun to implement e-Passports, which are physical travel documents that contain the holder’s biometric information. In theory, a customs agent must only verify the biometrics in the passport and match those on file for the identified holder; if the agent does not, he or she may be able to catch a case of fraud or identity theft right in the act. E-Passports also contain yet another layer of encryption of your data, which makes the process of duplicating a passport much more difficult, should it be stolen.
There are cons in the argument about biometrics, however. Opponents of the practice say that the U.S. government is trying to exchange security and convenience for privacy, arguing that the right to be anonymous is still important. Another oft-repeated point is that machines cannot truly replace the eye of a well-trained human being, who may succeed in catching fraud or identity theft via intuition or a honed sense. But most people are willing to take their chances, and as a result the immigration process has become more streamlined.
An Immigration Attorney Can Help
Whether you are attending a biometrics interview or you fear you may have a criminal record that could harm your chances of getting a petition granted, sometimes an Illinois immigration attorney can make things less confusing. Contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC in DuPage County, IL to schedule a consultation today.
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