The radio tags will be part of the standard registration process for entering the United States. The wireless technology is nearly identical to that already being used to speed up passage at tollbooths on many of the nation's highways, said P.T. Wright, the operations director for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT Program.
"You're not going to see much change, and that's the key message," said Wright, who joined U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on Monday to demonstrate the new system at the Thousand Islands Bridge crossing from Canada into the United States.
Testing of the radio frequency identification tags is also being done at the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway crossings in Blaine and two crossings in Nogales, Ariz. The testing will run through next summer.
If successful, RFID technology could help relieve congestion for travelers at border crossings, while also helping authorities weed out potential terrorists, drug dealers and other criminals.
"We want to push the border back so that individuals we don't want in this country are not only prevented from entering, but so that they can't even receive a visa," Wright said.
This is the second phase of US-VISIT, the federal government's new screening system launched in 2004 at 115 airports, 15 seaports and 50 of the nation's busiest land crossings into Canada and Mexico. The system requires scanning fingerprints and photographs of the visitor's face into a computer. The radio tags are the next step in the process.