The Green Card and the '40 Footer'


Visual security plays a huge part in the success of the U.S. Green Card for a highly pragmatic reason. While the role of machine-readable technology and intricate layers of overt, covert and forensic security features are key to the program, visual security is a front line defense at many U.S. borders and inspection points.

It's surprising but true that, no matter how advanced the technology in an identity credential, the most commonly used authentication method worldwide is still the human eye. Whether by airport security officials, law enforcement officers or border inspectors, ID documents are inspected by people more than 90% of the time.

This combination of advanced technology and visual authentication by people is the approach used for the U.S. Green Card, which was designed to meet the specific needs of border guards. Crowded border crossings can quickly turn into volatile situations if people in transit are not processed quickly. Scanning ID cards through readers can add seconds to the crossing process, which can translate into hours of extra wait time when thousands of vehicles and individuals are pressing to cross from one country to another.

The border security agency therefore asked for distinctive security features that are hard to counterfeit and mass-produce, the absence of which could be detected at some distance from the border crossing so that probable frauds could quickly be segregated for further investigation. Thus the concept of the '40 footer' was born - where inspectors boasted they could recognize a fake card from 40 feet away.

One of the ways in which HID's LaserCard Optical Secure Media (OSM) is used on the Green Card is to embed layered and blended security features into different visual elements. It includes sophisticated and advanced technology, as well as instantly-recognizable visual features. One such '40 footer' element is the metal-like OSM stripe, which so difficult to counterfeit that fraudulent versions can be detected at far away. At closer range, it's a simple matter for guards to match the photograph-like 'personal embedded hologram' with the cardholder's face.

As a result, examiners can scan and immediately view, recognize and confidently authenticate first level security features without taking time for close inspection. While some individuals will be subject to deeper checks, the legal majority of travelers are subject to fewer delays, and guards can concentrate on potential criminals.

Truly, the'40 footer' couldn't be a better term to summarize some of the unique security, efficiency and convenience benefits of HID Global's technology driving the U.S. Green Card. It's actually a shame I didn't think of it myself -- I must thank the border security officers, guards and inspectors for coming up with such a simple yet telling way to describe the value HID Global has brought to the U.S. Green Card program.