On May 4, 2007, DHS (through USCIS) proposed the Biometric Storage System (BSS), a new system of record-keeping. The BSS will eventually replace existing record-keeping efforts performed by the Image Storage and Retrieval System, as well as portions of the Biometric Benefit Support System. It will consolidate all biometric information—such as fingerprint data required of applications, petitions, and other benefits in order to verify the applicant’s identity—into a paperless, centralized system. This information would be used not only to verify an applicant’s identity, but also to conduct fingerprint-based background checks and to produce benefit cards/documents. DHS promotes the program as helping applicants avoid multiple trips to the Application Support Center (ASC) in order to provide fingerprints at various stages during the case adjudication process. It also argues that the centralized database will enable greater control and security in regard to the data.
Fingerprints will be taken electronically at an ASC or from hard copy fingerprint cards that are submitted for those applicants who are unable to go to an ASC. DHS will then assemble these fingerprints and other biometric and limited biographical data into an Electronic Fingerprint Transmission Specification file.
Information will be transferred to the FBI to identify applicants and petitioners with arrest records. The FBI will then transmit back any criminal history it identifies. Further, BSS will submit the fingerprint and other biographical information for a search of US-VISIT’s database, which will identify applicants or petitioners who have previously entered or exited the country, subject to any outstanding warrants, or subject to other law enforcement/investigative activity. The resulting information will not be stored by BSS. These checks will be used to assist in eligibility determinations for various benefits.
BSS will also store information from the cards of individuals who have received benefits (such as Permanent Resident Cards and Border Crossing Cards), including photographs, signatures, pressprints, and card production status.