US-VISIT expands to visa waivers

Visitors from visa waiver countries soon will have to through the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program.

US-VISIT requires most foreign visitors arriving at a U.S. airport or seaport to have their two index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity. The exceptions have been visitors from the 27 countries in the Visa Waiver Program, whose citizens have been exempt from US-VISIT until this week.

But at a Sept. 27 briefing at Dulles International Airport, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department, emphasized officials' plan to start fingerprinting and photographing visitors from visa waiver nations as of Sept. 30. Travelers from those countries -- which include the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Ireland and Japan -- will undergo biometric identification at U.S. airports and seaports.

Since launching US-VISIT's entry program at 115 airports and 14 seaports in January, more than 8.5 million foreign nationals have been processed without adversely impacting wait times, Hutchinson said. "It's clear that US-VISIT is working," he said. "It's clean, it's quick, it's simple and without question, it is enhancing the integrity of our immigration systems, while protecting individual privacy."

DHS officials use biometrics such as digital, inkless finger scans and digital photographs to determine if a person applying for entry to the United States is the same person to whom the State Department issued a visa. Additionally, the biometric and biographic data is checked against watch lists, improving DHS personnel's ability to make admissibility decisions as well as State officials' ability to make visa determinations.

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