APIS (Advance Passenger Information System)

APIS (Advance Passenger Information System)

The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) is an electronic database system that stores information about airline travelers. The system, operated by the United States Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), provides searchable biographical and security information on air travelers entering the United States from a foreign location.

As of March 1, 2003, the newly created United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) absorbed the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). All INS border patrol agents and investigators—along with agents from the U.S. Customs Service and Transportation Security Administration—were placed under the direction of the DHS Directorate of Border and Transportation Security (BTS). Responsibility for U.S. border security and the enforcement of immigration laws was transferred to BTS.

BTS is scheduled to incorporate the United States Customs Service (previously part of the Department of Treasury), the enforcement division of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (previously part of the Department of Justice), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (previously part of the Department of Agriculture), the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (previously part of the Department of Treasury), Transportation Security Administration (previously part of the Department of Transportation) and the Federal Protective Service (previously part of the General Services Administration).

Former INS immigration service functions are scheduled to be placed under the direction of the DHS Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under the reorganization the INS formally ceases to exist on the date the last of its functions are transferred.

Although the description of the technologies involved in the APIS entry security program remained stable, in an effort to facilitate border security BTS plans envision higher levels of coordination between formerly separate agencies and databases. As of April 2003, the specific coordination and future of the APIS dtaabase was uncertain with regard to name changes, database administration, and user policy changes.

Common APIS data includes information that that is routinely found on a passport or visa and airline boarding card, such as an individual's name, birth date, country of residence, country of origin and final destination. Records also note if the passenger has been issued a United States visa. In some locations, optical scanners are used to obtain digital records of passports, visas, and other documents.

Although initiated as a voluntary program for air carriers in 1988, anti-terrorism and security legislation passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks mandated participation in the APIS. Prior to departure of every international flight bound for the United States, APIS information is checked against the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) database. IBIS is a combined Federal law enforcement database consisting of records from the Department of State, INS, Customs Service, and other agencies. IBIS, when used in conjunction with APIS, prevents entry into the United States by illegal aliens, and persons wanted on visa or customs violations. APIS information is also cross-checked with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and State Department wanted persons files.

A new voluntary programs encourages air carriers to submit APIS manifests for flights departing from the United States for international destinations. The INS is developing and testing various database systems to monitor more closely foreign nationals with U.S. visas. The outbound APIS program allows authorities to confirm when foreign nationals with visas leave the United States when their documents expire. Voluntary APIS is also being used on limited domestic flights.

Since its inception, over 200 million passengers have been processed through the APIS system.



Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. INSPASS. March 1, 2003. < http://www.immigration.gov/graphics/howdoi/inspassloc.htm > (April 14, 2003).

Department of Homeland Security. April 2, 2003. < http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/index.jsp > (April 11, 2003).

United States Department of Homeland Security. Immigration Information, INSPASS. March 4, 2003. < http://www.immigration.gov/graphics/shared/howdoi/inspass.htm > (April 9, 2003).

United States Department of Homeland Security. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, PORTPASS. March 11, 2003. < http://www.immigration.gov/graphics/howdoi/portpass.htm > (April 9, 2003).


IBIS (Interagency Border Inspection System)
IDENT (Automated Biometric Identification System)
INSPASS (Immigration and Naturalization Service Passenger Accelerated Service System)
NAILS (National Automated Immigration Lookout System)
PORTPASS (Port Passenger Accelerated Service System)
SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers' Rapid Inspection)

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