DHS IG Chides Department for Lacking an Up-to-Date Biometrics Strategy

Department then drops fingerprint requirement for many nonimmigrants

By David North on October 2, 2023

DHS collects biometrics (fingerprints, photos, and high-tech facial recognition data) on aliens wanting to stay in the United States. It is a massive and complex operation and the department’s Inspector General says (obliquely, of course) that DHS is not doing it very well.

Then, in a separate move, the department decided that many nonimmigrants will not need to go through this $85-fee-connected process if they want to extend or change their existing nonimmigrant status by filing the I-159 petition. My sense is that if the government has your fingerprints, a photo, and facial information in its files it does not need to do it all over again just because you move from, say, F-1 (student visa) to H-1B (high tech worker) status. This is implied but not stated in the coverage by a bulletin from the Fragomen law firm.

This decision will remove some process-slowing procedures within USCIS, and, of course save the selected aliens from paying the $85.

One wonders — if I have interpreted things correctly — why this was not done earlier?

All of this is effective October 1, and is spelled out in detail by this federal announcement.

Meanwhile, the IG’s office, a continuing in-house monitor of all things DHS, notes in their long report on the department’s biometric strategy framework: 

We found that the strategic framework, which was issued 8 years ago, did not accurately reflect the current state of biometrics across the Department, such as the use of facial recognition verification and identification. The strategic framework did not account for new technological advancements in its goals and objectives. For instance, since the strategic framework was issued, DHS components have increased their use of biometrics beyond finger scans, particularly by using facial recognition. Yet, the strategic framework did not mention these technological advancements or how they should be incorporated into DHS’ vision for enhancing biometric capabilities to transform mission operations.

The IG’s office made four specific recommendations to the department and it accepted all four of them.