The Department of Homeland Security has announced it plans to release a rule that will extend the US-VISIT entry/exit tracking system to exits from the US at airports and seaports around the country. Previously, the ability of DHS to implement an exit tracking system was considered doubtful given the costs and complexities involved.



The announcement was met with mixed reactions. The proposal would require airlines and cruise lines to collect the biometrics and pay the expense themselves. The cost for this would cost an estimated $2.3 billion over a ten year period, according to DHS, but airline industry spokespersons believe the number will be much higher and is a cost the airlines cannot afford right now while they struggle with high fuel costs, increased safety concerns and more and more passenger complaints. The Washington Post reports




Doug Lavin, regional vice president for the International Air Transport Association,
which represents major U.S. and international carriers, said the
government, not airlines, should collect fingerprints. "This is
ludicrous," Lavin said. "We can't afford anything in the billions to
support a program that should be a government program."



Fingerprinting an estimated 33 million departing foreign passengers
a year will result in "delayed departures, missed connections here and
around the world," Lavin said.

The Travel Industry Association which represents the entire travel industry including the airlines, issued a more conciliatory statement that acknowledges the need for the exit tracking system while noting that the cost should be borne by the government and not the travel industry:

The Travel Industry Association is committed to working with the
Department of Homeland Security and other interested parties to ensure
that a biometric air exit system is developed as expeditiously as
possible.  TIA believes that an air exit system will encourage and
enforce compliance with U.S. immigration laws and allow the Department
of State to develop meaningful data on visa overstay rates. 

    

A stalemate between government and airlines - which threatens to end
expansion of the Visa Waiver Program in 2009 - is not an acceptable
outcome. Therefore, TIA will rally the travel community to support the
quick implementation of a biometric air exit plan that meets homeland
security goals and does not add new burdens to an already challenging
air travel process.