Raja Simhan T.E.

Chennai, Nov. 9

PLANNING to visit the US? An electronic tag will keep track of you during your stay there.

On an experiment, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is deploying radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track immigrants entering and exiting the country.

The RFID is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

From July 31 the experiment applies to people without green cards entering the US with a visa to work, study or tour. Over the next year, people in these categories will be issued new "I-94" visa cards embedded with an RFID tag at five border crossings of Nogales East and Nogales West in Arizona, Alexandria Bay in New York, and the Pacific Highway and Peace Arch in Washington. The DHS requires that the I-94 cards be carried at all times, says information available in its Web site.

Visitors will not know that their tags have been read. There will be no visible sign that a visitor's tag has been electronically read. They should not attempt to stop at the port to inquire about whether their crossing was recorded. Visitors can exit from whichever port they choose, and the RFID technology test will occur at present at the five locations, says information in the Web site.

The RFID technology used by US VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) will safeguard sensitive information. The tags will not include visitors' biographic or biometric information.

Rather, they will contain only a serial code that links to a visitors' information securely stored in databases used by US VISIT, which is the department's automated entry/exit system. It will also be tamper-proof and difficult to counterfeit.

There are many other layers of defence to prevent information being used incorrectly. This includes no personal information will be included on the tag, information on the tag cannot be changed, the tag will only be activated once officially issued and personal information is only processed over secure communication paths, the department said.

The experiment is expected to continue through the spring of 2006. RFID will enhance security of US citizens and visitors, facilitate legitimate travel and trade to and from the US, ensure the integrity of the country's immigration system and protect the privacy of its visitors. It will improve the ability to match entries to exits without impacting processing time at the land borders and record arrivals and departures of a visitor in pedestrian and vehicle lanes - rapidly, accurately and reliably, the Department said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 10, 2005)
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