The federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to establish a biometric exit program at all airports and seaports in the United States. This means obtaining digital fingerprints of every non-U.S. citizen leaving the country.

The exit system would meet the recommendations of the "9/11 Commission Report," according to a DHS statement.

“The 9/11 Commission called for biometric entry and exit records, because biometrics confirm that travelers are who they say they are and the purpose of their travel is as they claim it to be,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in the statement, issued Tuesday.

Currently, a digital photograph is taken of every incoming visitor and a digital scanner takes prints of both index fingers. The information verifies the visitor, making sure they are the same person identified by their visa (issued overseas). The identity is matched against criminal and terrorist watch lists.

Now the program would require air carriers and vessel operators to collect the biometric exit information and to transmit it to Homeland Security. This would be on top of the passenger manifest information already collected by carriers.

The proposed rule would not apply to small air carriers and vessel operators, or to general aviation.