The new system of tracking passengers departing from the U.S. was implemented by the U.S. Customs Service in the last few weeks.
The system, known as the Advanced Passenger Information System, or APIS, had already been recording inbound passenger details.
APIS was introduced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on America. According to the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens, the new system is also providing both arrival and departure information to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
A statement from the center said that the INS had been “enlisting the help of airlines in tracking the departure dates of visitors” since Oct. 1.
The information being recorded at this stage is significant but limited. It includes the names of passengers, their date of birth, nationality, gender and the individual’s initial date of arrival into the U.S.
It does now, for example, seek to discover a person’s destination within the U.S. or exact reason for visiting the country.
Nevertheless, the new tracking system will have “some serious implications” for Irish people living in the U.S., according to Emerald Isle.
Chief among them is that anyone who overstays the 90 days allowed under the visa waiver program faces the possibility of being barred from returning to the U.S. for either three or 10 years once he leaves the country.
“This is very serious,” Anne-Marie Scanlon of Emerald Isle said last week. “Naturally, we understand the public and governmental concerns. However, this will have a devastating effect on the undocumented community.
“Anyone planning a trip home for Christmas should evaluate these recent changes. It may well be their last trip out of the United States for some time.”
Additionally, said Scanlon, DV (Schumer) lottery visa applicants could be caught out by the new tracking system.
“If they do win, they will have to return to their native country for the interview,” she said. “Again, this will pose some serious problems if they have overstayed.”
An Aer Lingus spokesman confirmed that since Oct. 1 the airline had been collecting the information on departing eastbound passengers required by the U.S. Customs Service under the APIS system. An INS spokeswoman, Kimberly Weissman, confirmed that the information being gathered was being shared between U.S. Customs and the INS. “It’s a joint endeavor,” she said.
Weissman said that under the APIS system, both agencies were able to check who was en-route to the U.S. “We know who is coming in,” she said.
The system is being currently applied to countries included in the Visa Waiver Program, Ireland being one of them.
Weissman said that information is also being recorded on departing passengers. All the information, she said, is being fed into a database called the Arrival and Departure Information System, or ADIS. She said the database information could be used to trace anyone who stayed in the U.S. beyond the 90 days allowed under the Visa Waiver Program.
If someone, for example, stayed 95 days, he could incur a ban next time he attempted to enter the U.S., Weissman said.
Meanwhile, the Emerald Isle center is planning two information seminars on the new system. The first will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, at St. Barnabas School Cafeteria, 413 East 241st St. in the Bronx. The second will be in Queens the following night, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Emerald Isle offices, 59-26 Woodside Ave.