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CBP introduces Simplified Arrival process at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in partnership with Aerostar — the operators of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport — announced the implementation of the Simplified Arrival process at Puerto Rico’s main air hub.

Simplified Arrival is an enhanced international arrival process that uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks that are already required for admission into the United States.

This process provides travelers with a touchless process that further secures and streamlines international arrivals while fulfilling a longstanding congressional mandate to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-US citizens, agency officials said.

“CBP is excited to partner with Aerostar to deliver a secure, efficient, and seamless process for identity verification for travelers arriving into the United States,” said Gregory Álvarez, director of the CBP’s San Juan Field Operations.

“CBP’s public-private partnerships to expand facial biometrics are essential to enhancing security and streamlining travel while protecting the privacy of all travelers,” Álvarez said.

Simplified Arrival only uses the biometric facial comparison process at a time and place where travelers are already required by law to verify their identity by presenting a travel document. When travelers arrive at SJU on an international flight, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point.

CBP’s biometric facial comparison process will compare 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.

In addition, foreign travelers who have traveled to the US previously may no longer need to provide fingerprints as their identity will be confirmed through the touchless facial comparison process.

“The service pairs one of the industry’s highest ranked facial comparison algorithms — as assessed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology — with trained CBP officers who are skilled at verifying the authenticity of travel documents,” the agency stated.

If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record using the Simplified Arrival process, the traveler will proceed through the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States, it explained.

CBP and Aerostar launched a biometric exit pilot program for travelers departing San Juan to Panama via Copa Airlines on Jan. 28.

“For Aerostar, traveler safety and experience are a high priority,” said Jorge Hernández, CEO of Aerostar Puerto Rico. 

“For this reason, we have worked together with CBP to make the installation of this new system a reality. This technology, together with the experience and capacity of the CBP team, increases the security of our airport and places us at the forefront. In addition, it becomes a tool that will provide a better experience for the traveler, one of the pillars of our mission, because it facilitates and expedites the process of entering Puerto Rico, through CBP,” he said.

As part of the service, the federal agency noted that it will “take steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process.”

New photos of US citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system, the agency noted.

To date, more than 66 million travelers have participated in the biometric facial comparison process at air, land and sea ports of entry. Since September 2018, CBP has used facial biometrics to prevent nearly 500 imposters from illegally entering the United States by using genuine travel documents that were issued to other people, the agency stated.

“By using one of the best performing facial comparison algorithms available today, CBP is able to more efficiently identify and stop bad actors while streamlining travel for everyone else” said Álvarez.

“CBP’s facial comparison algorithm shows virtually no measurable differential performance in results based on demographic factors. We continue to partner with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to further enhance the facial comparison process,” he said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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