Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Introduction of the RFID-Enabled Passport Card

RFID Law Journal
Newsletter No. 31
November 1, 2006

The Department of State recently announced a major step toward implementing its previously announced PASS (People Access Security Service) System aimed at facilitating expeditious, secure travel along the U.S. border. In October, 2006, the Department of State submitted for public comment a federal rule proposing the development of a card-format passport for international travel by U.S. citizens through ports between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The rule, which is expected to meet the documentary requirements of the WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative),[1] was prepared by the Department of State with input from the Department of Homeland Security.

The rule calls for the creation of a “limited-use passport card” that would otherwise be subject to the same standards of a traditional passport. However, the passport card would be wallet-size, and according to the figures released in the Department of State’s announcement ($20 for an adult card and $10 for a child’s card, subject to a $25 execution fee) would be significantly less expensive for citizens to procure than a traditional passport.

The federal government expects to leverage RFID technology to facilitate linkage between the passport card and secure, U.S. government databases containing biographic information and a photograph. Under the currently proposed form, the passport card will not contain any personal information, and DHS will be responsible for implementing protective safeguards to ensure the integrity of the database.

The PASSport Card relies upon “Vicinity RFID,” which enables U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to more quickly make critical decisions about travelers entering into the United States. Vicinity RFID is a recognized manpower enabler. DHS leverages its automation multiplier in a number of proven programs, including the FAST, NEXUS and SENTRI trusted traveler programs.[2] The most familiar example of Vicinity RFID is its usage in various highway toll systems. Vicinity RFID leverages one of the key attributes of RFID technology – the absence of a ‘line of sight’ requirement. It is believed that the PASSport Card will serve as a convenient and inexpensive means of identifying individuals (and their citizenships) frequently traversing our nation’s border.

For more information about this initiative (“Department of State to Introduce Passport Card”), read the following announcement at the Department of State’s website: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/74083.htm. You may also view the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov and you can also learn more at the DHS and Department of State websites: www.dhs.gov and www.travel.state.gov.

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[1] WHTI is the federal governmental plan for implementation of a provision under the Intelligence Reform Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandating citizens of the U.S., Canada, the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda and Mexico to carry a passport or other designated travel document establishing the holder’s identity and nationality for entrance into the United States.

[2] These programs include 250,000 participants. US VISIT has also issued more than 450,000 RFID-enabled I-94s, its standard arrival and departure record at US ports of entry.

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