US president Barack Obama has scrapped the visitor registry programme that monitored visitors from a number of Muslim countries, weeks before Donald Trump takes office.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was introduced following the September 11 attacks in 2001 and was last used in 2011, making its dissolution largely symbolic.

President-elect Trump's initial campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US, which morphed into plans for extreme vetting of people from countries with a history of Islamist extremism, would likely have used NSEERS as a basic blueprint.

But Obama has handed Trump a potential setback with his decision to scrap the programme, originally suspended in 2011, after it emerged not one terrorism conviction had been made as a result of the 80,000-plus people it registered.

"DHS ceased use of NSEERS more than five years ago, after it was determined the program was redundant, inefficient and provided no increase in security," the agency said in a statement seen by The Hill.

"The intervening years have shown that NSEERS is not only obsolete, but that its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures."

NSEERS required citizens from 25 countries, all but one being majority Muslim, to register when entering the US, and check-in with officials during their stay if they were non-immigrant visa holders.

Human rights previously expressed concern that the scheme could lay the ground work for oppressive measures against Muslims by Trump.