If you already have a visa or if you´re thinking of requesting one, you have probably asked yourself, what information does the US have on me? Will those crazy photos I posted from summer vacation blow up on my face when I´m attempting to enter the country? The truth is, through the TECS system, officers in immigration controls have access to broad information about foreigners who wish to enter the United States. But, what kind of information does TECS contain? What problems can surface?
TECS is a computer platform managed by the Border Control Police (CBP), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This is, in other words, a system where various agencies submit information about foreigners who want to access the USA so that CBP officers can verify it. Some of the agencies that provide information are:
- The FBI
- US embassies and consulates
- Courts of Justice
- The IRS, which is the United States tax office
- The local and state police
What systems operate within TECS and how do they affect travelers?
US-VISIT. Upon arriving at the US Customs, a photo and fingerprints are requested to all foreigners. This system compares those fingerprints with those you provided at the time of applying for the visa at your local consulate or embassy. This is a way of preventing that anyone uses another person´s passport to try to enter the United States. It´s also useful for preventing foreigners with two passports from trying to use one of them when US authorities already denied their visa application with the other.
For example, if a Mexican who is also from Spain applied for the visa as a Mexican and the application was rejected, then this person cannot attempt to eventually access the USA with the passport from Spain, considering the fact that the citizens from Spain don´t need a tourist visa. With the US-VISIT system, the customs officer can recognize that he is dealing with a person whose visa was rejected visa and that this prevents this person from entering the country.
APIS is the system with which the airlines inform US authorities that a foreigner has bought an airline ticket and intends to travel to the United States. Among the information they convey is your name, surname, date of birth, gender, and place where the passport was issued.
Airlines also inform US authorities when a foreigner boards on one of their aircraft when leaving the United States. This way CBP can immediately know if the foreigner has exceeded the authorized stay. Remember that if you don´t leave on time, even if it´s only a few hours, authorities will cancel your visa and if you´re on the Visa Waiver Program you will no longer be able to enjoy that privilege.
IAFIS. This is a large database of fingerprints from the FBI, to which local and state police authorities have previously sent information. This way immigration control can know almost immediately if the foreigner who wishes to enter the United States has a criminal record, and can proceed to arrest or expel this person. Currently, IAFIS hosts more than 55 million records, it´s the largest database in the world of this kind.
In most cases, the whole process of accessing the US border will be very quick. Currently, more than 900,000 people pass through the US borders on a daily basis. An average of 32,000 daily cases will require a second inspection. From that last figure, about 15 people will be required to provide information from their electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers, cameras, tablets, etc. Nonetheless, these are very extraordinary cases and generally respond to issues related to national security, terrorism or horrendous crimes such as child pornography or drug trafficking.
Always remember that even if you already have the visa you still have to pass the US Customs control, and officers will ask you a whole other set of questions there, so you must be prepared. In Visa USA Now we are specialists on the whole visa procedure, so just contact us for professional and useful advice on this matter, and get started today.