19 May 2003 23:58 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (CNI)--The new US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Monday that beginning 1 January it will implement new customs and immigration procedures that will include on-arrival fingerprinting and photos of all arriving visitors at US air and sea ports and border crossings.
In a speech today in Washington, DC, DHS under secretary Asa Hutchinson said his department put in place by year end those two "biometric identifiers" as a routine part of processing arriving and departing visitors, both business and leisure travellers.
He said that while the biometric identifiers at first will involve only finger printing and on-arrival photos of all incoming visitors, DHS will add more advanced biometric identification technology as it becomes available, including facial recognition or iris scans.
The increased security measures are being put in place, Hutchinson said, to both speed the processing of legitimate trade and travel and to "stop terrorists in their tracks."
For those who require advance visas to visit the US, Hutchinson said that beginning with the new year "those visas will use biometric features that will enable us to identify the visitors when they arrive at an airport or seaport and to access the information about that visitor."
Visitors who hold passports from so-called visa-waiver countries - those who are not required to obtain a US visa in advance - will be required by late 2004 to carry tamper-proof passports that include biometric identifiers. Hutchinson said the US will require visa-waiver countries to have such passports in use by late October 2004.
With these additional security measures, Hutchinson said, "we will know who violates our entry requirements, who overstays or violates the terms of their stay, and who should be welcome again."
Created in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the US, the DHS will take over control of US visa procedures and other immigration issues at year end.
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