New U.S. Entry Procedures Required for Foreign Visitors
Starting January 5, foreign visitors entering the United States with a visa are subject to new requirements under a program designed to both enhance U.S. border security and ease travel. Travelers entering at 115 airports and 14 seaports will have an electronic scan taken of right and left index fingers and will be photographed by a digital camera at the immigration inspection station to establish identity. This requirement does not apply to persons traveling on diplomatic visas.
If you currently have a valid U.S. visa, you do not need to come to the consulate for fingerprinting.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing the new procedures known as US-VISIT. "US-VISIT is actually a continuum of security measures that begin overseas, at the U.S. consular offices issuing visas, where biometrics will be collected to determine if the applicant is on a database of known or suspected criminals or terrorists," said DHS Under Secretary of Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson in a January 5 press release. "When the visitor gets to our border, we use the same biometrics -- these digital ‘fingerscans' -- to verify that the person at our port is the same person who received the visa or to see if we have learned new information about any involvement in terrorism or crime."
Since November 17, US-VISIT has been in place on a trial basis at the Atlanta, Georgia, airport where officials report that the new requirements add only 15 seconds to the entry process. The program is also to be phased in at land ports -- highways entering the United States from Mexico and Canada -- by the end of 2005.
Only visitors entering the United States with a visa are subject to the new requirements. The visa waiver program -- an agreement maintained with 27 nations -- allows travelers to enter the United States without obtaining a visa, so they will not be subject to biometric checks in the immediate future. In the future, passports issued by the 27 countries that participate in this program will contain biometric indicators. Citizens of these same nations entering to work or study are still required to have a visa, however, and also will be subject to the new requirements
New U.S. Entry-Exit System Aims to Enhance Security Department of Homeland Security fact sheet and frequently asked questions on US-VISIT
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has upgraded immigration procedures at 115 airports and 14 cruise ship terminals to require most visitors traveling on visas to have two fingers scanned by an inkless device and a digital photograph taken by immigration officials upon entry to the United States. The enhancements entered into force on January 5 and are part of US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) -- a new automated entry/exit system. Exit procedures of US-VISIT will be phased in at air and seaports later in 2004.
According to a DHS fact sheet, U.S. law requires that an automated entry/exit system be in place at the 50 busiest U.S. land border points by December 31, 2004 and at all ports of entry by December 31, 2005.
Following is the text of a fact sheet and compilation of frequently asked questions on US-VISIT, as released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. More information about the program is available at U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Want more information about United States visas? Please go to Department of State Travel site