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[Federal Register: December 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 232)]
[Page 70413-70416]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



Office of the Secretary

[Docket No. DHS-2006-0063]

Privacy Act; Background Check Services System of Records

AGENCY: Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security.

ACTION: Notice of Privacy Act system of records notice.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974, the Department of 

[[Page 70414]]

Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, proposes to add a 
new system of records to the Department's inventory, entitled 
Background Check Service. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration 
Services, Office of Field Operations operates the Background Check 
Service. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts background 
checks on petitioners and applicants who are seeking immigration 
related benefits. To facilitate the background check process and to 
improve efficiency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services developed 
the Background Check Service as a centralized repository that contains 
the consolidated data on all background check requests and results. The 
Background Check Service allows authorized U.S. Citizenship and 
Immigration Services representatives to request background checks and 
access the data stored in the Background Check Service during the 
adjudication process in order to facilitate informed decision-making.

DATES: The established system of records will be effective January 3, 
2007 unless comments are received that result in a contrary 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by Docket Number DHS-
2006-0063 by one of the following methods:
     Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: 

Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Fax: 571-227-4171 (This is not a toll-free number).
     Mail: Hugo Teufel III, Chief Privacy Officer, Department 
of Homeland Security, 601 S. 12th Street, Arlington, VA 22202-4220

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For system related questions please 
contact: Greg Collett, Branch Chief of Application Support for Office 
of Field Operations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 
Department of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., 
Washington, DC 20529. For privacy issues please contact: Hugo Teufel 
III, Chief Privacy Officer, Privacy Office, U.S. Department of Homeland 
Security, Washington, DC 20528.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is congressionally 
tasked with processing all immigration benefit applications and 
petitions. In order to assist in this task, USCIS established a new 
system of records that will consolidate all background check requests 
and results on immigration benefit applicants/petitioners. This new 
system of records is called the Background Check Service (BCS). USCIS 
conducts three different background checks on applicants/petitioners 
applying for USCIS benefits: (1) A Federal Bureau of Investigation 
(FBI) Fingerprint Check, (2) a FBI Name Check, and (3) a Customs and 
Border Protection (CBP) Treasury Enforcement Communication System/
Interagency Border Inspection System (TECS/IBIS) Name Check. BCS will 
maintain the requests and results of all background check activity for 
    As a centralized repository containing all background check 
activity, BCS will provide the status and results of background checks 
required for completion of immigration eligibility petitions and 
application determinations from one web-based system to geographically 
dispersed field offices. This system supports USCIS's initiatives to 
reduce immigration benefit/petition case backlog and provide 
significant efficiencies in vetting and resolving the background checks 
that are required for USCIS benefits. Prior to BCS, information 
relating to the FBI Fingerprint Checks and the FBI Name Checks were 
stored in the FD-258 system and FBI Query system respectively. 
Information relating to the TECS/IBIS Name Checks was not stored in any 
    The information maintained in BCS is initially collected and 
maintained in one of the following USCIS case management systems and 
then it is transferred to BCS:
     Computer-Linked Application Information Management System 
(CLAIMS) 3, which is used to process applications including, but not 
limited to, an Adjustment of Status (Green Card) and Temporary 
Protective Status (TPS);
     CLAIMS 4, which is used to process applications for 
     Refugee Asylum Parole System (RAPS), which is used to 
process Asylum applications; and
     Marriage Fraud Assurance System (MFAS), which is used for 
processing information relating to investigations of marriage fraud.
    The benefit applicant/petitioner do not have direct interaction 
with BCS.
    The above systems will send necessary and relevant information to 
BCS in order to generate a Name Check Request for both the FBI Name 
Check and TECS/IBIS Name Check. Both the requests and results will be 
stored in BCS.
    Fingerprint information is collected from the applicant at the time 
the fingerprints are taken in order to conduct the FBI Fingerprint 
Check. Fingerprints are taken electronically at a USCIS Application 
Support Centers (ASC) or taken from hard copy fingerprint cards (FD-
258) that are submitted for those applicants who are unable to go to an 
ASC. The fingerprints are currently stored in the Benefit Biometric 
Support System (BBSS), which interfaces directly with FBI's Integrated 
Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The responses to 
the FBI Fingerprint Check are collected electronically from the FBI and 
stored in BCS.
    All information is currently collected as part of the established 
USCIS application/petition process and is required to verify the 
applicant/petitioner's eligibility for the benefit being sought. The 
FBI Fingerprint Check is a search of the FBI's Criminal Master File via 
the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). 
This search will identify applicants/petitioners who have an arrest 
record. The FBI Name Check is a search of the FBI's Universal Index 
that consists of administrative, applicant, criminal, personnel, and 
other files compiled for law enforcement purposes. The TECS/IBIS Name 
Check is a search of a multi-agency database containing information 
from 26 different agencies. The information in TECS/IBIS includes 
records of known and suspected terrorists, sex offenders, and other 
people that may be of interest to the law enforcement community. USCIS 
will use TECS/IBIS to access National Crime Information Center (NCIC) 
records on wanted persons, criminal histories, and previous Federal 
    The information collected in BCS as part of the background check 
process provides USCIS with information about an applicant/petitioner 
that has National Security or Public Safety implications or indicia of 
fraud. Having this information and taking action to prevent potentially 
undesirable and often dangerous people from staying in this country 
clearly supports two primary missions of DHS: preventing terrorist 
attacks within the United States and reducing America's vulnerability 
to terrorism, while facilitating the adjudication of lawful benefit 
    The results of these background checks will be used to make 
eligibility determinations, which will result in the approval or denial 
of a benefit. If fraudulent or criminal activity is detected as a 
result of the background check, information will be forwarded to 
appropriate law enforcement agencies including Immigration and Customs 
Enforcement (ICE), FBI, CBP, and/or local law enforcement.
    The Privacy Act embodies fair information principles in a statutory

[[Page 70415]]

framework governing the means by which the United States Government 
collects, maintains, uses and disseminates personally identifiable 
information. The Privacy Act applies to information that is maintained 
in a ``system of records.'' A ``system of records'' is a group of any 
records under the control of an agency from which information is 
retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, 
symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual.
    The Privacy Act requires each agency to publish in the Federal 
Register a description denoting the type and character of each system 
of records that the agency maintains, and the routine uses that are 
contained in each system to make agency recordkeeping practices 
transparent, to notify individuals reading the uses to which personally 
identifiable information is put, and to assist the individual to more 
easily find such files within the agency.
    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552a(r), a report on this system has 
been sent to Congress and to the Office of Management and Budget.

    Background Check Service (BCS).

    Sensitive but Unclassified.

    The primary BCS system is located at a Department of Homeland 
Security (DHS) approved data center in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan 
area. Backups are maintained offsite. BCS will be accessible world-wide 
from all USCIS field offices, service centers, and application support 
centers that are part of the DHS Network.

    Categories of individuals covered by this notice consist of:
    A. All individuals who are applying for benefits and or who are 
petitioning on behalf of individuals applying/petitioning for benefits 
pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act Sec. 101. [8 U.S.C. 
1101] (a)(b).

    BCS maintains three general categories of records: applicant/
petitioner identification information, Background Check Request 
information, and Background Check Result information.
    A. Applicant/Petitioner information includes biographic information 
associated with each applicant/petitioner including, but not limited 
to; Name, Date of Birth, Country of Birth, Address, and employment 
status. The applicant/petitioner information also includes uniquely 
identifiable numbers, including but not limited to: Alien Number, Z-
number, Receipt Number, Social Security Number, Armed Forces 
Identification Number, etc. This information would be derived from 
newly created benefit applications in USCIS Systems of Records or an 
update to previously submitted benefit applications.
    B. Background Check Request information contains data necessary to 
perform a background check through the FBI Fingerprint Check, FBI Name 
Check and CBP IBIS Name Check services. This data may include: 
Transaction Control Numbers associated with FBI Fingerprint Checks, 
Receipt Numbers, date/time of submission, physical description of 
subject, and a reason for the submission of the application (i.e. USCIS 
Form Code). This category also covers logs associated with the requests 
of background checks, which may include: requesting location and 
requesting person.
    C. Background Check Result information encompasses data received 
from the FBI and CBP. This data may include: identifying transactional 
information (i.e. transaction control number), biographical 
information, a subject's FBI Information Sheet (informally known as a 
RAP Sheet) as a result of an FBI Fingerprint Check, an FBI Name Check 
Report, and information from the CBP IBIS Database. The CBP IBIS 
Database includes data from TECS and NCIC databases.

    8 U.S.C. Sections 1103 (a).

    BCS is a single centralized system that records, reconciles, and 
stores Background Check Requests and Results of applicants and 
petitioners seeking USCIS benefits. The following types of Background 
Checks will be recorded by BCS: FBI Name Checks, TECS/IBIS Name Checks, 
and FBI Fingerprint Checks. The collection of information is required 
to verify the applicant/petitioner's eligibility for USCIS benefits. A 
background check of varying degree, determined by the benefit/petition, 
is required for any individual applying for USCIS benefits. The 
applicant/petitioner could not seek the benefits provided by USCIS 
without the information collected from the applications/petitions.

    In addition to those disclosures generally permitted under 5 U.S.C. 
552a(b) of the Privacy Act, all or a portion of the records or 
information contained in this system may be disclosed outside DHS as a 
routine use pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(3) as follows:
    A. To the United States Department of Justice (including United 
States Attorney offices) or other Federal agency conducting litigation 
or in proceedings before any court, adjudicative or administrative 
body, when it is necessary to the litigation and one of the following 
is a party to the litigation or has an interest in such litigation: (a) 
DHS, or (b) any employee of DHS in his/her official capacity, or (c) 
any employee of DHS in his/her individual capacity where DOJ or DHS has 
agreed to represent said employee, or (d) the United States or any 
agency thereof;
    B. To another federal agency (including the Merit Systems 
Protection Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), or 
to a court, or a party in litigation before a court or in an 
administrative proceeding being conducted by a Federal agency, when the 
Government is a party to the judicial or administrative proceeding.
    C. To an agency, organization, or individual for the purpose of 
performing audit or oversight operations as authorized by law.
    D. To a Congressional office, for the record of an individual in 
response to an inquiry from that Congressional office made at the 
request of the individual to whom the record pertains.
    E. To the National Archives and Records Administration or other 
Federal government agencies pursuant to records management inspections 
being conducted under the authority of 44 U.S.C. Sections 2904 and 
    F. To contractors, grantees, experts, consultants, students, and 
others performing or working on a contract, service, grant, cooperative 
agreement, or other assignment for the Federal Government, when 
necessary to accomplish a DHS mission function related to this system 
of records, in compliance with the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended.
    G. To appropriate Federal, State, local, tribal, or foreign 
governmental agencies or multilateral governmental organizations 
responsible for investigating or prosecuting the violations of, or for 
enforcing or implementing, a statute, rule, regulation, order, or 
license, where

[[Page 70416]]

USCIS believes the information would assist enforcement of civil or 
criminal laws;
    H. To Federal and foreign government intelligence or 
counterterrorism agencies or components where USCIS becomes aware of an 
indication of a threat or potential threat to national or international 
security, or where such use is to assist in anti-terrorism efforts and 
disclosure is appropriate to the proper performance of the official 
duties of the person making the disclosure;
    I. To a Federal, State, local, tribal, territorial, foreign, or 
international agency, if necessary to obtain information relevant to a 
Department of Homeland Security decision concerning the hiring or 
retention of an employee, the issuance of a security clearance, the 
reporting of an investigation of an employee, the letting of a 
contract, or the issuance of a license, grant or other benefit.

    Records in the system will be stored in a central computer 

    A combination of the following BCS data elements may be used to 
initiate a query in order to retrieve data from the BCS User Interface. 
These data elements include, an individual's Alien File Number; Name 
and Date of Birth; and Receipt Number.

    Information in this system is safeguarded in accordance with 
applicable laws and policies, including the DHS Information Technology 
Security Program Handbook. All records are protected from unauthorized 
access through appropriate administrative, physical, and technical 
safeguards. These safeguards include restricting access to authorized 
personnel who have a need-to-know, using locks, and password protection 
identification features. The system is also protected through a multi-
layer security approached. The protective strategies are physical, 
technical, administrative and environmental in nature and provide 
access control to sensitive data, physical access control to DHS 
facilities, confidentiality of communications, authentication of 
sending parties, and personnel screening to ensure that all personnel 
with access to data are screened through background investigations 
commensurate with the level of access required to perform their duties.

    The following USCIS proposal for retention and disposal is pending 
approval by the National Archives and Records Administration. Records 
are stored and retained in the BCS Repository for 75 years, during 
which time the records will be archived. Background checks are 
conducted on individuals/petitioners from the age of 14 and up. The 75 
year retention rate comes from the length of time USCIS may interact 
with a customer. Further, retaining the data for this period of time 
will enable USCIS to fight identity fraud and misappropriated benefits.

    Greg Collett, Branch Chief of Application Support for Office of 
Field Operations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department 
of Homeland Security, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 

    All individuals applying for Immigration benefits are presented 
with both Privacy Act notices and a Signature Certification and 
Authorization for Release of personally identifiable information on all 
USCIS forms, which must be signed. These two notices supply individuals 
with information regarding uses of the data.

    To determine whether this system contains records relating to you, 
write the USCIS Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act officer. Mail 
requests to: Elizabeth S. Gaffin, Privacy Officer, Department of 
Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 20 
Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Room 4210,Washington, DC 20529.

    See the ``Notification Procedure'' above.

    Information contained in this system of records is obtained from 
USCIS Systems of Records; including, CLAIMS3, CLAIMS4, RAPS, and MFAS. 
Information contained in the system is also obtained from the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Customs and Border 
Protection Services. All information contained in BCS is derived from 
the above systems.


    Dated: November 22, 2006.
Hugo Teufel III,
Chief Privacy Officer.
 [FR Doc. E6-20289 Filed 11-30-06; 8:45 am]