Facial recognition technology now in place at airport



STATE-of-the-art facial recognition comparison technology is now available at Lynden Pindling International Airport to ensure a more secure and safe travel experience.

Prior to this new technology, the US pre-clearance facility at LPIA used fingerprints to validate the identity of travellers to the United States. The facial recognition technology will replace that.

Jeff Mara, area port director at US Customs and Border Protection, yesterday explained how the technology works.

“We made some upgrades in preparation for a hopeful return to travel. The most noted upgrade we made was the implementation of our biometric technology known as simplified arrival in December. Simplified arrival uses the state-of-the-art facial recognition comparison technology and creates a more safe secure and seamless travel experience. And, that’s because it’s a hands-free process.

“When you arrive or depart from LPIA or another airport in the United States, passengers stop briefly for a brief photo. Within seconds, based on our technology going to work to ensure that the documents you provided previously, whether it be a passport or a visa, that photo matches up. What happens then is that the officer will validate the results, ask you some questions about your travel and then determine your admissibility to the United States.”

This new system for travel works in favour of those travelling to the United States in the era of COVID-19 as it gives the opportunity not to touch many items.

Mr Mara said, “The traveller does not have to touch as many things throughout the process, but again the use of the technology allows for less introduction of germs throughout processing through our area. In addition to what we did with simplified arrival we’ve also worked hard with our partners at Nassau Airport Development to add some other safety mechanisms throughout the process.

“Certainly there’s social distance markings throughout the facility to assure that we adhere to the CDC and local regulations as it pertains to social distancing. Of course there is the mask mandate for travelling through the airport. And, we also utilise plexiglass barriers at each step of the process for the safety of our officers and the safety of the travelling public. We are ready and our technologies are available, have been in use.”

Mr Mara said that travelling to the US on a police record is still allowed and added that it will not change any time soon.

He continued, “Again we just want to remind you that the document requirements for travel by Bahamian citizens to the United States have not changed. What you need to travel to the United States is a valid unexpired passport. For those who are 14 years or older, the police certificate indicating a lack of criminality. There is always a lot of supposition that that visa-free travel element between the United States and The Bahamas has been taken away.

“There are no plans at this time to remove the visa-free travel. The documentation requirements remain the same and we look forward to seeing you at LPIA. If there are any changes to our document requirements or to the process there will be a statement on it, whether it comes from US Customs and Border Protection or our embassy partners, the Public Affairs Office section.”

The United States has had a pre-clearance agreement with The Bahamas since 1974.

During the pandemic, the CBP has remained a constant presence at LPIA. Proud of this, Mr Mara said even though things were slow, CBP was always there.

“We are proud here at US Customs Border Protection that we’ve actually remained opened and operational throughout the pandemic while there have been some days when the flights were relatively low or slow, but we continued to maintain the operations and the inspectional duties here in Nassau,” he said.

Mr Mara also said Bahamians should remember the CBP operation at Freeport’s international airport is suspended at this time because of the unfortunate destruction of the facility by Hurricane Dorian. He said officials await the facility to be built to CBP standards so that the work can be continued.