This Technology will Revolutionize Border Control

border control

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Blockchain first gained wide notoriety as the system that runs the Bitcoin digital currency transaction confirmation process. As a shared, synchronized database, with no centralized data storage, the system is designed to remove the “single point of failure” risk (including technical malfunction and malicious alteration) that is present in many other systems. 

So far, Blockchain has proven extremely resistant to any type of hacking or alteration, and that makes it especially attractive for US Homeland Security.

Blockchain should be introduced more widely amongst government departments in order to cut costs, save time and reduce fraud. The DHS technology branch (DHS S&T) has identified blockchain’s potential to render public services more transparent, as well as automate paper-based systems. Many of the applications involve the issue of entitlements, attestations and certifications. 

S&T initially ran a successful pilot with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and is extending that work to other agencies. The initial pilot with CBP involved leveraging blockchain to facilitate customs checks. Customs mainly wanted to use blockchain to verify that shipments comply with trade agreements such as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (The Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement).

By introducing transparency and traceability to the import supply chain, customs officers can verify that goods meet the required standards, according to

The proof of origin of goods is usually provided by certification from a local Chamber of Commerce at the point of origin. In the future, if those are attested on a blockchain, it will reduce fraud. 

But for NAFTA in addition to a proof of origin, the exporter will often provide a letter or answer a questionnaire to demonstrate compliance with the trade agreement.

Last year DHS solicited for blockchain bids and outlined another hypothetical blockchain use case. That related to validating the identity of an organization. And also to ensure that the person acting on behalf of the organization is indeed affiliated with that organization.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) also expressed a desire to update their current manual, paper-based system. USCIS is responsible for issuing documents proving citizenship and immigration status, and work permits. These documents must be issued rapidly but must also be highly secure and difficult to forge. USCIS is now working with S&T to introduce blockchain technology to these processes. This involves digitizing official documents. It hopes to reduce instances of fraud.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is known as the agency that runs passport control at airports, wish to introduce blockchain to automate the document verification process. Currently, officers verify that passengers’ identity documents match the name on their ticket visually. They must make decisions quickly, to avoid the buildup of queues.