29 September 2004
BRUSSELS – European travellers entering America will face compulsory fingerprint scans from Thursday.
Under new rules introduced by the US customs authorities in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, travellers will also be photographed on their arrival to the country.
All nationals of EU states will have their left and right index fingers scanned as they arrive, measures that have so far only been applied to travellers from countries that require a US visa.
The fingerprinting is inkless and should take around 15 seconds, say US officials. Children under 14 and adults over 79 do not have to give the data.
The data is immediately transmitted to an immigration official’s computer where it is recorded alongside passport details for future reference.
Until now, western European countries have belonged to a visa waiver programme that has allowed their citizens to travel to the US only using their passport for up to 90 days on business or pleasure.
US Under-Secretary for homeland security, Asa Hutchison, has visited the UK this week to appeal for patience and understanding over the extra measures, the Daily Telegraph reported.
“Once a database has been established we will be able to build it into a frequent-traveller programme under which regular visitors will actually have their immigration procedure simplified,” he said.
The fingerprinting and photographing measures must be combined with the requirement to have a machine-readable passport.
These contain lines of letters, numbers and chevrons beneath personal details.
This requirement will become compulsory from 26 October, after which a US visa would be demanded.
Children, including babies, must have their own passport and cannot enter the US on their parents ID document.
Detailed forms must also be filled out on arriving in the country, outlining the exact destinations of the traveller.
Further measures will enter into force on 26 October 2005 that will require biometric indicators such as fingerprints to be stored on passports.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news