DHS Announces Predeparture Screening Of International Passengers
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced steps that will strengthen aviation security through uniform and consistent passenger pre-screening against government watch lists. DHS is publishing two regulations that will initiate these changes:
(1) The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) Predeparture Final Rule enables the DHS to collect manifest information for international flights departing from or arriving to the United States prior to boarding.
(2) The Secure Flight Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regulation lays out DHS’ plans to assume watch list matching responsibilities from air carriers for domestic flights and align domestic and international passenger pre-screening. Both programs carry out Sept. 11 Commission recommendations.
“Stopping known threats before they board an aircraft, whether domestically or internationally, is a critical security measure,” says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “This enables our frontline personnel to get key passenger information prior to boarding. This information will better identify individuals who may pose a known or suspected threat to aviation or national security. These programs will improve the passenger experience by establishing a more consistent vetting process and better resolution for misidentified passengers.”
In 2004, Congress mandated that DHS’ Customs and Border Protection (CBP) establish a requirement to receive advance information on international passengers traveling by air prior to their departure, as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA). CBP currently requires commercial carriers to provide APIS and certain Passenger Name Record (PNR) data arriving to or departing from the United States.
The final APIS predeparture regulation will require air carriers to transmit manifests 30 minutes prior to departure of the aircraft or provide manifest information on passengers as each passenger checks in for the flight, up to the time when aircraft doors are secured. Receiving both APIS and PNR data at least 30 minutes before a plane departs allows DHS to perform security checks against federal watch lists prior to passenger boarding, taking this responsibility from carriers and eliminating potential flight diversions due to watch list concerns.
For vessels departing from foreign ports bound for the United States, current requirements to transmit passenger and crew arrival manifest data between 24 to 96 hours prior to arrival will remain unchanged, but vessel carriers are required to transmit APIS data 60 minutes prior to departure from the United States. The APIS final rule follows an NPRM published in the Federal Register on July 14, 2006.
DHS is also taking significant steps toward the implementation of the Secure Flight program, which would conduct uniform pre-screening of passenger information against federal government watch lists for domestic and international flights. Currently, air carriers are responsible for checking passengers against government watch lists.