What Does OBIM Stand for in Immigration?
OBIM stands for the Office of Biometric Identity Management.
Under the OBIM (previously US-VISIT) program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects fingerprints and digital photographs of most non-US citizens while getting the US visa and also while entering the US. OBIM provides biometric identification services to federal, state, and local government decision-makers. Collecting biometrics information helps immigration officers determine whether a particular person is eligible to receive a visa or enter the US Biometrics collection prevents identity fraud, as unlike names and dates of birth (which can be changed), biometrics are unique and virtually impossible to forge. It helps the US government prevent people from using fraudulent documents to enter the US illegally. It also helps identify persons who have overstayed in the US.
The goals of OBIM are to:
- Enhance the security of US citizens and visitors
- Expedite legitimate travel and trade
- Ensure the integrity of the immigration system
- Safeguard the personal privacy of visitors
OBIM will enhance the security of the United States while expediting legitimate travel and trade. The United States of America is a nation where diversity is celebrated, and people from all over the world are welcome. Today, the United States — like most other countries — is working to keep its borders secure while it maintains the freedom to exchange ideas, keep businesses thriving, and enrich lives all over the world.
Who does OBIM Apply To?
With limited exceptions listed below, OBIM applies to all international visitors, including those entering under the Visa Waiver Program and permanent residents (Green Card holders) of the US. OBIM does not apply to US citizens (including naturalized US citizens) .
Exceptions for OBIM include:
- Visitors admitted on most diplomatic visa classifications, such as an A-1, A-2, C-3, G-1 through G-4, and NATO-1 through NATO-6 visas
- Children under the age of 14 years and persons over the age of 79 years
- Classes of visitors whom the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security jointly determine shall be exempt
- An individual visitor whom the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Director of Central Intelligence Agency jointly determine shall be exempt
- Taiwanese officials who hold E-1 visas and members of their immediate families
- Special applicability to Canadian citizens
- Special applicability to Mexican citizens
- At seaports, LPRs (permanent residents) returning from a closed-loop cruise (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the US)
Personal information collected by OBIM will be used only for the purposes for which it was collected unless specifically authorized or mandated by law.
All data obtained from the visitor is securely stored as part of the visitor’s travel record. This information is made available only to authorized officials and selected law enforcement agencies on a need-to-know basis in their efforts to help protect the nation against those who intend to harm Americans or visitors to the United States.
OBIM Requires 10 Fingerprints and a Digital Photograph
Using an ink-less biometric device, your 10 fingerprints will be taken digitally. As shown in the above images, you will be fingerprinted with your right four fingers, then right thumb, then left four fingers, then left thumb, and a digital photograph using a digital camera will be taken. This procedure is called collecting your biometrics.
US Visa Application and OBIM
When you apply for a US visa, among other procedures, your biometrics will be collected through OBIM.
When you arrive in the US, keep your travel documents ready.
US Arrival By Air and Sea
Please review port of entry procedures for detailed information about entering the US.
Additionally, a Customs and Border Protection officer will collect your fingerprints (scan your fingerprints) and take your photograph with a digital camera.
US Arrival By Land
OBIM biometric procedures are similar, as described above, and will occur at the port’s secondary inspection area.
Please refer to the following information for more information about the Mexican and Canadian borders.
Entering the US Through the Mexican Border
While entering the US by land at the US-Mexico border, general exceptions to OBIM, as described above, apply. The following additional rules apply:
- Mexican Citizens:
- If you are traveling to and from the US using a Border Crossing Card (BCC) and traveling only within the border zone, you are not subject to OBIM procedures unless the immigration official asks for a secondary inspection.
- If you are planning to travel outside the border zone and/or stay more than 30 days, you must complete a Form I-94, and you are subject to OBIM procedures.
- Mexican citizens who participate in SENTRI (the Secure Electronic Network for Traveler’s Rapid Inspection) and/or FAST (Free and Secure Trade) will not be enrolled in OBIM until they are required to re-register as part of the routine processing to renew a multiple-entry Form I-94.
- Multiple-entry Forms I-94 will continue to be issued as before. All current and valid Forms I-94 remain in effect, and the OBIM biometric collection requirements will apply either at the time of the next issuance of the Form I-94 or at any time at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection Officer.
- Non-Mexican citizens: Unless you are a permanent resident of the US, all non-Mexican citizens must complete a Form I-94 and be subject to OBIM procedures if they are not LPRs (permanent residents). On the other hand, LPRs (permanent residents) will be subject to OBIM only if they are referred to secondary inspection.
Entering the US Through the Canadian Border
While entering the US by land at the US-Canada border, general exceptions to OBIM, as described above, apply. The following additional rules apply:
- Canadian Citizens:
Most Canadian citizens are exempt from the OBIM program. That includes:
- Those who are visa-exempt or traveling on B-1/B-2 visas.
- Those studying or working in the US who normally do not have non-immigrant visas in their passports.
- Applicants for admission at the primary vehicle inspection point presenting a valid, unexpired multiple-entry Form I-94 must be admitted without being subject to secondary inspection, even if the applicant is not yet enrolled in OBIM.
However, the following Canadians are subject to the OBIM program:
- Canadians with dual nationality who present a non-Canadian passport are subject to OBIM.
- Canadians who are required to obtain a Form I-94 or who require a waiver of admissibility to enter the US.
- Non-Canadian citizens:
Non-Canadian citizens entering the US (including those entering on the US Visa Waiver Program) are subject to the OBIM program, including the following:
- Canadian permanent residents
- Current Canadian permanent residents who are participants in NEXUS (Canadian Border Dedicated Commuter Lane) and/or FAST (Free and Secure Trade) when they renew their multiple-entry Form I-94s.
- Visitors renewing their multiple-entry Form I-94. All current, valid Forms I-94 remain in effect. OBIM biometric collection procedures will occur either at the time of the next issuance of the Form I-94 or at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection Officer.
On the other hand, LPRs (permanent residents) will be subject to OBIM only if they are referred to secondary inspection.
Upon Departure from the US
When you leave the US, if applicable, you should return your Form I-94 (or I-94W) to an airline or ship representative. That completes the US exit process.
All travelers who provide biometrics when entering the U. will be required to provide biometrics when departing the US as well.
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