Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Us-Visit Logo Sm2
I'm sure many people who have been traveling in the US have noticed the US-VISIT kiosks. The exit kiosks are scattered around various airports. When you go to an exit kiosk, it asks you to insert your passport and it takes your fingerprint. Then it spits outs a "receipt". These exit kiosks appear to be placed randomly and are not in any critical path between you and your gate. If you look carefully at the signs, it says you "must" go through exit procedures.

I was curious about why they were saying that it is mandatory, but not enforcing it so I looked in the DHS page. It appears that they are rolling the system out across the country now and that eventually, they will check your receipt when you board your flight. So it's not REALLY mandatory yet. However:

What happens if a visitor checks in at an airport where the entry procedures are operational, then tries to leave the United States from an airport where the exit processing is not yet in place?

Checking out of the country using the US-VISIT exit procedure is mandatory where an exit solution is in place at the port of departure. If visitors fail to check out through these facilities, it could affect their ability to re-enter the country.

I wonder what "affect their ability to re-enter the country" means. When I leave, they take the visa stub from my passport that confirms that I have left the country. Although US-VISIT maybe more efficient, it seems redundant with the data they are collecting from the visa forms. I suppose the US Government doesn't have to have much legal or logical requirement to explain what "affect their ability to re-enter the country" means.

When I asked a DHS officer what I should do with the receipt, he said, "Keep it. You may need it later." I'm not sure what that meant, but I didn't probe further.

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Maybe the placement only seems random?

I was flying SAN - SFO - CDG so that I had a direct airside transit that involved me getting off at one gate, going down a side door to a bus, and back into another terminal, with barely half an hour to my SFO-CDG connection's departure time

The US Visit machine was right there next to the bus entry point - but at what looked like a fairly anonymous place not really near any gates. Scanning my US visa page in, and then getting thumbprinted, got me a receipt with the contents of my visa and fingerprint digitized into a block of what looked like fuzzy noise.

So, what I _CAN_ think of is the very real possiblity that they're going to automate all this and phase out the I94 and I94W forms [those stubs are part of the white or green forms you get issued on the plane and have to fill in - an actual US visa is a sticker on your passport and japanese dont need a visa to the states].

to add to what i said in my previous post - not checking out through a us-visit machine, at a us-visit airport, is kind of equivalent to leaving the USA without returning your i-94 stub ... no proof that you left the USA, so the next time you return, or try to get a visa, can have some interesting consequences.

Suresh, I guess my point is... during this cutover phase... I am still returning my visa stub. What happens if I don't use USA-VISIT at an exit? Isn't my visa stub still evidence to them that I have left? Also, if the consequences are severe, I think they should force people to use the exit kiosk rather than assuming people will read the sign as the pass them.

DHS border officers are mostly reasonable people who understand that the system isn't up yet and won't give you trouble if you answer their questions honestly and clearly.

I know this isn't a popular viewpoint, but it's my experience (and my visa situation is very complicated).

What's disturbing about the system is that its roll-out coincides with continued sloppy handling of the green tickets that the immigration staff is supposed to remove from passports. I've accompanied a non-national in and out of the States and she's encountered one US immigration officials who wanted to make a federal case out of the failure of a colleague to follow procedures. The situation can arise when landing in the States from a pre-cleared departure point such as Dublin or Shannon in Ireland.


The VISIT initative should be in sync with This. The US-VISIT roll out/pilot has been in the pipeline for nearly 6 months....they still ahve miles to go.

Here my link in US VISIT

Hey Joi, yeah whats with that eh ?? 6apart has just broken everything on Typepad !! :(-

When was the passport-visa scheme first introduced?

How long ago was it that a sovereign man, woman, or child could freely travel wherever and whenever they wanted without their police state issued papers?

By what right does a police state have to impose a passport-visa scheme upon free traveling sovereigns to begin with?

If I wish to go someplace I should not be encumbered by heavily armed, licensed-to-kill, kidnap, take hostage, extort, high jack, and rob police state agents.

Sooo, that's what 'gun control' is all about, aye?

He who has the guns makes the rules.

Better do what they say - unless you have BIGGER guns (preferably, tactical nukes). Then you can tell DHS and all the other alphabet soup police state agencies to step aside or else.

at least in SFO the kiosks are placed "at the gate" w/ officers helping people to use it. i remember when i did the fingerprint process, the officer next to the kiosk said "press harder, harder!!". i mean if i broke that thing, that might truly "affect my re-enter to the country".

I used to work a job where I would trace all bank transactions at our branch over $10K and report them to the Feds. We'd generate boatloads of data per quarter, but I'm reasonably certain that the feds *never* looked at any of our reports.

Same incompetence at work with US Visit, probably. Yeah, I'm pessimistic. Sue me.

The problem with the current I-94 system is that you don't have any proof that you gave back your docket. It is quite likely that an I-94 docket could go missing. The federal government (and ultimately, the traveller) is depending on the Mounties and the airline/ship staff to take proper care that the docket is returned.

I got burnt by US entry / exit procedures, even pre 9/11.

I'm an Australian citizen. Travelled to the US on visa waiver, stapled into my passport.

Left the US to go to Paris (who are notoriously lax on stamping passports) - on exit the visa waiver wasn't removed from the passport.

And then I flew back to St Louis from Paris, and got pulled aside. According the officer, I hadn't left the US 'because the waiver would have been removed then', I had no stamps on my passport, and had just disembarked a flight from Paris CDG, and that I had some explaining to do. It wasn't too bad - the usual questions, but repeatedly, over and over, all sorts of details for close to 40 minutes, before they stamped my passport - and then crossed out "admitted to US" with a big red felt pen, and changed it to "paroled into".

This of course means several minutes of explanation at every presenting of my passport hence. I'm at the point of applying for a new passport to resolve this.

To robert - that's basically where you exercise your soverign right as a citizen to demand service from sloppy immigration officials.

To pectral - As for passports - they have been around for centuries before before the land of the free, the home of the brave, those fine old proto libertarians who resisted british tyranny, were even sperms and ova that happened to meet one fine night, and long, long before the first california liberals smoked the first grass and sang the first Bob Dylan protest song.

On the brighter side - go somewhere foreign. Get mugged there, or hospitalized, and then where do you go for help? Your consulate, that's where. And how do they tell "yup, you're an american, and so we're obliged to help you"?

To 13- Suresh Ramasubramanian

Wonder if Pizzaro, Columbus, and all the rest of them pond hoppers had police state passports and visas when they landed in the 'New World' to begin a campaign of stealing entire continents, disinheriting their rightful native inhabitants?

What about the state sponsored Zionist/JUDEO-Christian international terrorists who've setup camp in Afganistan and Iraq? Did they have their Afgani/Iraqi approved police state papers when they arrived in their tanks, helicopters, and airplanes, bombing, shooting, killing, looting, and burning their way into those sovereign territories?

The American consulate is more likely to tell the mugged, beat-up subject-citizen that it is beyond their jurisdiction, directing that person to seek remedy/assistance from the local police state authorities.

In any case, if you're packing a silenced submachine gun, a couple hand grenades, who the hell needs assistance? You'd be packin' your very own consulate with you at all times. It'll keep all the bad guys at bay, including the heavily armed, licensed-to-kill, assault, kidnap, take hostage, extort, hijack, and rob, police state agents.

Doesn't get any better than that! :D


EPIC has just posted a special Spotliight on Surveillance report on US-VISIT.



Many people (both inside and outside the US) have commented that it seem inefficient to rely on the traveller to have to check himself out at one of the
US-Visit exit kiosk, rather than to force travellers through an immigration checkpoint. There are probably several reasons why a required immigration exit point would never be established at US airports:

1) Massive construction costs to reconfigure airports in order to support a sterile departure area for international travellers. In many US airports, there is no separation between the domestic departure gates and the international departure gates. In order to force international travellers through an exit checkpoint, they would have to find a way to separate them from the domestic travellers AND to prevent them from leaving the departure area unless they pass through immigration to be readmitted.

2) An exit immigration checkpoint, from a US point of view, has too much of a reminder of travellers from the Soviet bloc being required to have an exit visa before they can leave.

3) Costs to manually staff such an inspection point.

They will probably also tell the traveller that its his responsibility to know that he must check himself out, and that he would have been told this when he entered the country. If he doesn't check himself out properly then he risks not being allowed back in, in the future. That's one of the reasons for him keeping the receipt.

Personally, I don't know how well the system will work. What would happen if a person were to check out at one of the kiosks and then turn around and leave the airport?

This was my first time travelling US. When I left US, there was no any US kiosk machine between me and the gate therefore I didn't notice that it is mandatory to go through the US- VISIT kiosk exit procedure.

There is a possibility for me to go to US in the future, so what should I do right now?

Just went through SFO and never saw any mention of it!

Im hoping as Im on a VISA that allows multiple entry until a certain date that it isn't going to matter.

Still, very shoddy IMO.

Yesterday I left SFO, I gave back the I-94 ticket, and I ran to the airplane... Didn't see any kiosk, just 'cause I didn't even know about this stuff... So, I didn't check out properly... I had a tourist visa, and I'm gonna get a J1 next year... Do you think I will ever be able to obtain it? Do I have to call my nearest consulate or embassy to ask for help? Why do they have a MANDATORY thing in a place that is imposible to see if you don't even know it exists??? Why don't they just put some kind of barrier as they do for other kind of checks??? So that people are forced to stop and do what is to be done??? I'm very worried about it :-( Any idea? By the way, I think that the I-94 should be fine, but I'm gonna chose my future on that J1, and how can I do that if I'm gonna be jeopardized??? :-(

To Giorgio: as far as I can see from the DHS website, the current US-visit exit procedure is still just a test. Do not take it too serious. The procedure is far from water-tight and they know it. The most important thing is that you handed in that stub from the I-94 form to the airline.

By the way, I passed through Newark airport a few days ago. I asked the officer standing next to that station where they say you have to scan your pasport when exiting: what to do with the receipt? He said I could throw it away after I got home.