New US Entry Rules for Foreign Visitors
New 'US Visit' program goes into effect January 5
WASHINGTON, DC - 12/30/03 - The US will soon launch a new security program that will serve the dual purpose of speeding the entry of all legal foreign visitors into the country while keeping out potential security threats, according to a senior official in the US Department of Homeland Security.
The program called 'US Visit' will be launched January 5 and will utilize "the latest in high technology to increase security at US ports of entry," according to Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary for Borders and Transportation in the Department.
Hutchinson said 'US Visit' will use a biometric - or fingerprint - confirmation of those holding valid visas to enter the US.
The program will minimize the possibility of document fraud, and identify individuals who are on a terrorist watch list with the goal of preventing them from entering the country, he said.
As originally approved by the US Congress before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the program "was designed to attack the problem of visa overstays in the United States," said Hutchinson.
"But obviously it was accelerated after 9/11 and the security aspects of it have been dramatically increased," he said, adding that 'US Visit' will initially be applied at US airports and seaports, and will later be expanded to other ports of entry.
The program will be directed at visitors from all parts of the world who wish to come into the US.
Hutchinson said the US wants to continue to be a "welcoming nation" and the new program "will help us focus on the 'at-risk traveler' and to facilitate the entry of people who are no risk or frequently visit the United States."
'US Visit' "is not a matter of inconvenience because as we develop the system, we will be able to quickly identify someone who has a good record of visiting the US, who has honored our visa laws, and we will expedite their entry," he said.
Hutchinson defined the at-risk traveler as anyone with a connection with terrorism, who has a history of overstaying his visa, or who has not followed US legal requirements for entering or staying in the country.
Asked by reporters about US Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's recently reported comments that illegal aliens in the US should be given "some kind of legal status," Hutchinson said the comment "reflected the ongoing debate within the Bush Administration and the US Congress over how to address the complex immigration issues" facing the country.
Hutchinson said his agency has an "influence" on the policy debate over that controversial issue, but he said his primary mandate is to secure the borders and transportation systems of the US? from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.
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