U.S. Department of

Homeland Security:

Improved homeland

security management

and biometrics through

the US-VISIT program


In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States federal

government created the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to protect

the nation. The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology

(US-VISIT) Program, a cornerstone initiative of DHS, was established in 2003 to be

a cost-effective and fully interoperable way to share information needed to confirm

the identity of persons applying for a visa or seeking to enter the US through a visa.

The goal is to enhance the security of US citizens and visitors, facilitate legitimate

travel and trade, help ensure the integrity of the US immigration system and protect

visitors’ privacy. Today, US-VISIT operates at close to 300 points of entry and is able

to process up to 400,000 transactions per day.


Business Challenge

The US economy depends on the

quick and efficient movement

of people and goods across

the borders. At the same time,

the missed entry of even one

person who poses a threat to

the United States could have

severe consequences. Addressing

the equally imperative needs for

security, law enforcement, travel,

immigration and trade presented

technology, process and program

management challenges to the DHS.

The challenges started with the

enormity of the data volumes. Every

year, the United States sees more

than 428 million people (including

280 million non-US citizens) cross

America’s borders through more

than 300 points of entry. More

than seven million visa applications

and nearly 50,000 asylum requests

are made every year, and every

day, approximately 20,000 people

apply for immigration benefits. The

data associated with all of these

transactions takes many forms—for

example, multiple types of traveler

and international documentation

standards and dozens of languages

and naming conventions.

Furthermore, the scale and

complexity of developing

interoperability among a diverse

(and continually growing) group of

interested stakeholders—including

other federal agencies and state,

local and international partners—

required not only an immensely

flexible and scalable technical

architecture, but also effective

large-scale communications.


How Accenture


From strategy and design, through

implementation and ongoing operations,

program management and future

improvements, Accenture has been a vital

and tightly interwoven service provider to

the US-VISIT program. To begin, Accenture

coordinated activities and ideas from

stakeholders across the federal government,

including Customs and Border Protection

(CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement

(ICE), Citizenship and Immigration Services,

Coast Guard, Transportation Security Agency

(TSA), Department of State (DoS) and

Department of Justice (DoJ). The result was

a vision of how these organizations would

work together to dramatically improve

operations across the travel continuum. This

comprehensive, cross-agency strategy—the

first of its kind for implementing a layered

security approach—became the guidepost for

all of Accenture’s tactical planning.

From a technical standpoint, when Accenture

first joined the team, identity verification

occurred through a patchwork of biographic

and biometric systems that had been pieced

together over time to meet the program’s

growing needs. While the system worked, it

was far from being optimized. (For example,

peak performance back then was 75,000

transactions per day, as opposed to 250,000

transactions per day currently. Also, searches

to get biometric confirmations of visitors

coming to the country can be done in just a

few seconds.)

Accenture developed a technological

roadmap that would modernize the

identity-verification approach. As we

moved forward with implementation, we

turned custom interfaces and a complex

architecture into a flexible, highly

available, service-oriented architecture

(SOA)-based “single front door.” Through

this SOA, a range of stakeholders can now

access US-VISIT services quickly and easily.

As we introduced the technology

improvements, Accenture also has focused

on cost savings. For example, historically

for US-VISIT, Accenture has delivered

software for 8 percent less than funded.

We introduced automated testing that has

saved almost $1M annually in software

testing costs. And we developed technology

to allow use of multi-vendor matchers. This

last innovation alone not only eliminated

the program’s dependence upon a single

hardware vendor, but also led to a reduction

in matching costs of over 40%.

Throughout the program, Accenture has

helped US-VISIT advance quickly to meet a

rapidly evolving threat landscape. US-VISIT

can now add a new organization in as

little as three weeks from request approval

until the organization is online. In the past,

this task took more than nine months to

accomplish. As a result, US-VISIT has been

transformed from a border solution to a

broader solution with incredible speed and

remarkable savings: what started as an

entry-exit project for a single agency now

provides information to nine different types

of stakeholder organizations—from agencies

within the US federal government to local

law enforcement agencies and even foreign


Moreover, we help US-VISIT continue to

stay current with the advances in biometric

identification science. Right now we are

helping the program advance from the

standard 2-fingerprint identification to the

more robust 10-fingerprint system, and

we have begun incorporating additional

biometric modalities—facial images, iris, palm

prints, scars/marks/tattoos and even DNA.

As Accenture continues to work with

US-VISIT to enhance the program, more and

more agencies and governments around

the world want to use the system. US-VISIT

already supports the complementary security

missions of the DoD, DoJ and DHS, and the

goal of a national “triad defense.” In addition,

11 other international entities, including the

governments of Australia, Canada, the United

Kingdom and even INTERPOL, have requested

access to the US-VISIT system and share their

data in return. This data sharing can lead

to powerful results never seen before. For

example, a routine check in US-VISIT stopped

a convicted child abuser from the UK from

adopting a child in Australia.

US-VISIT—the program

tasked with meeting

the needs of a range of

stakeholders, despite all

of the complexities—

clearly demands

remarkable agility,

ready interoperability,

continual innovation

and rock steady delivery.

And that would require

a company who has

extensive experience

in achieving such

high performance—



High Performance. Delivered.

US-VISIT stands apart for its history

of success after success; its agile

response to evolving needs; and

its visionary approach to enabling

unprecedented interoperability.

With Accenture’s help, the program

has become a model of innovation,

collaboration and high performance

for the DHS and for the federal

government. Successes include:

US-VISIT handles numerous

document standards, dozens

of languages and occasional

conflicts in mandates.

• It performs searches across more

than 140 million unique identities

in seconds.

• It returns ID matches in less than

10 seconds.

• Every day, US-VISIT identifies, on


— 5,000 illegal visitors

— 2,500 immigration violators

— 50 wanted criminals

— 5 murderers

US-VISIT can now identify

whether a specific traveler is

one of the approximate 6 million

individuals on a Watch List in less

than 5 seconds.

• The program serves 15,000 DHS

users, 5,000 workstations and

210 overseas consular posts.

• The program reduced the time to

add a new organization from nine

months to three weeks.

US-VISIT is a cross-government

program that serves nine

different types of stakeholder


US-VISIT is accessible by multiple

government agencies around the


Accenture has historically

delivered US-VISIT software at 8

percent less than funded.

Accenture reduced vendormatcher

costs by over 40 percent

by introducing multi-vendor



US-VISIT stands apart

for its history of

success after success;

its agile response to

evolving needs; and its

visionary approach to

enabling unprecedented

interoperability. With

Accenture’s help, the

program has become

a model of innovation,

collaboration and high

performance for the

DHS and for the federal




Douglas Sabel

+1 571 858 2202

Accenture Federal Services, based in

Arlington, VA, a wholly owned

subsidiary of Accenture LLP, helps US

federal agencies build the government

of the future

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management

consulting, technology services and

outsourcing company, with approximately

259,000 people serving clients in more

than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled

experience, comprehensive capabilities

across all industries and business functions,

and extensive research on the world’s

most successful companies, Accenture

collaborates with clients to help them

become high-performance businesses and

governments. The company generated net

revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal

year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page


Copyright © 2012 Accenture

All rights reserved.

Accenture, its logo, and

High Performance Delivered

are trademarks of Accenture.

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