The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a proposed rule requiring airlines and cruise lines to collect fingerprints on foreigners before they depart the United States.
The 91-page rule is open for comment for 60 days from the date it appears in the Federal Register.
The rule relates to the exit portion of the U.S.-VISIT program.
US-VISIT has been established in accordance with several congressional mandates requiring that the Department of Homeland Security create an integrated, automated entry-exit system, explains the DHS. It was launched after the 9-11 attacks and uses photographs and fingerprint information from visitors entering and leaving the country in order to track down criminals and terrorists. Although US-VISIT has recorded nearly 100 million individuals entering the country since 2004, DHS has been slow to implement the exit portion of the program.
The following are among concerns expressed about the proposal, according to The Washington Post.
The proposal does not say where airlines must collect fingerprints -- at airport check-in counters, departure gates or kiosks somewhere in between. But the government estimates the undertaking will cost airlines $2.3 billion over 10 years, a U.S. homeland security official said.
The overall economic impact on companies, passengers and the government is expected to exceed $3.5 billion, industry lobbyists said, at a time when carriers are struggling with safety concerns, high fuel costs and passenger complaints.
The regional vice president for the International Air Transport Association, Doug Lavin, said the government, not airlines, should collect the fingerprints, according to the Post. He told them: "This is ludicrous...We can't afford anything in the billions to support a program that should be a government program." He added that fingerprinting an estimated 33 million departing foreign passengers a year will result in "delayed departures, missed connections here and around the world."