Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Canadian crews want exemption from U.S. rules

In case you did not know, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a program, called US-VISIT, which collects biometric data from foreign visitors to the United States. US-VISIT is an acronym for United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology.

According to information on the DHS website, one feature of the US-VISIT program is that "the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer now uses the inkless, digital fingerscanner to capture two of your fingerscans. You first place your left index finger and then your right index finger on the scanner. The officer also takes your digital photograph."

Some Canadians are taking issue with this new program. Specifically, Canadian airlines want their crews to be exempted from the US-VISIT procedures. Here's what was reported about this issue in the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail:
Canadian pilots and flight attendants already undergo rigorous security checks, and it would be inefficient to add yet another U.S. entry hurdle for "low-risk" aviation workers, said the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), which represents the country's carriers.

ATAC policy vice-president Fred Gaspar said Canadian airlines are worried that their flight crews will face disruptions in the U.S. inspection process, creating delays on the tarmac as pilots take time to exit and re-enter the cockpit.

"Pilots from Canada in some instances don't even get off the plane. In future in the U.S., they would have to leave the plane, line up for security, do the fingerprint screening and then get back on the plane. It may only take 10 seconds for the scanning, but the rest is a time-consuming operation," Mr. Gaspar said in an interview from Ottawa.
A spokeswoman for the US-VISIT program was quoted as saying, "Flight crews would automatically have their own lineup, and the digital scanning time would take five or 10 seconds of time. They place their hand on a digital glass plate. It's inkless, very clean and easy."

We have a feeling that providing a special crew line and pointing out that the procedure is "inkless" do not address the concerns of the Canadian crews and their employers.

Here's the real issue:
Transport Canada and the RCMP already screen pilots and flights attendants for Canadian identification cards, and crew lists are provided 48 hours in advance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Flight crews are also interviewed by U.S. customs officials at major Canadian airports prior to departure to the United States.

"In light of these multiple and layered security screening processes, which are already applicable to Canadian crew operating into the United States, we are left to wonder as to the marginal value provided by" US-VISIT's new inspection proposal, Mr. Gaspar wrote.

The U.S. plan threatens to upset transborder airline schedules and "seemingly offers no tangible security value," he added.
Source: New U.S. security rules rile airlines, air crews - Globe and Mail, Canada

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