Monday, 5 January 2004

USA starts fingerprinting visitors. Brazil reciprocates.

Effective today, the USA is fingerprinting and photographing all visitors arriving or departing from the USA except short-term tourist visitors from a few mostly Western European countries, and will retain the digital images in a new US-VISIT database .

Most countries have waived the usual international reciprocity of entry requirements when it comes to the USA. But not necessarily all countries: Brazil has imposed the same requirements on visitors from the USA to Brazil as are imposed on Brazilian visitors to the USA.

That should come as no surprise, as Brazil has been one of the few countries insistent on reciprocity, in an effort to negotiate mutually easier travel by both USA and Brazilian citizens between the 2 countries. Brazil has offered to lift its visa requirement for tourists from the USA as soon as the USA does the same for Brazilian tourists, and to lower the US$100 visa fee as soon as the USA lowers its US$100 tourist visa fee for Brazilian (and most other) visitors to the USA.

Brazil hasn’t been fully reciprocal: USA citizens are still allowed to transit Brazil without visas, as long as they hold onward tickets and don’t leave the transit area of the airport, even though the USA has completely abolished its transit without visa program, of which Brazilians travelling to and from Canada, Europe, and Asia via the USA (mainly LAX, MIA and JFK) were the biggest users.

Now, a Brazilian judge has ordered that as long as Brazilians must be fingerprinted to enter or leave the USA, USA citizens must be fingerprinted on entry to Brazil .

My friend Wayne Bernhardson , who writes the guidebooks to Southern South America in the Moon Handbooks series, notes that, “This matter is not so simple as it seems at first glance, as it appears to be the action of one indignant rogue judge….

“Both the Brazilian federal police and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro have already spoken out against it. The police, who handle immigration matters at the border, appear to lack the resources to carry out such an order, while the mayor of Rio is concerned that this will negatively impact tourism in the upcoming Carnaval season. Their objections appear to be purely pragmatic.”

The USA, on the other hand, appears to be paying no attention at all to the likely effect on inbound international tourism, business travel, and visitor spending of of more burdensome requirements and more intrusive scrutiny of visitors.

As Wayne Bernhardson also points out, Brazilians (and others) being fingerprinted in the USA “… will already have gone through an exhaustive US visa process that includes a personal interview at the US consulate in their own country.” That’s particularly onerous in large countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Russia, etc., where the nearest USA embassy or consulate could be a thousand miles or more and a couple of days bus ride away.

Meanwhile, airline pilots in the UK are reportedly refusing to agree to operate flights with armed guards on board . According to different reports, pilots have argued that:

  1. The presence of firearms will make flights less safe, not more safe,
  2. If there is so much danger that armed guards are required, flights shouldn’t be operated at all, and
  3. under international aviation law, any onboard guards must be subordinate to the command of the pilot, as the captain of a vessel in international airspace — which hasn’t been assured for so-called “sky marshalls”.

I’ll be discussing the US-VISIT program, the Brazilian reciprocity policy, and the impact on travellers tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 6 January 2004) from 8:00-8:30 a.m. PST (16:00-16:30 UTC/GMT) on The Morning Show on KPFA , 94.1 FM in Berkeley, CA. For those outside the broadcast area, there’s real-time streaming audio and archived audio files after the show.

[Addendum, 5 January 2004: More on the proposed uses of biometrics in passports, visas, and other travel documents and security systems, from The Economist , 4 December 2003: Prepare to be scanned . See the full story for details. Here’s the conclusion: “Spurred by the misplaced enthusiasm of governments around the world, biometrics seem headed for dramatic growth in the next few years. But calm, public discussion of their benefits and drawbacks has been lamentably lacking. Such discussion is necessary both to prevent the waste of public money in the short term — for the most part, the private sector has been wiser in its adoption of biometrics — but also to regulate what will eventually have the potential to become a powerful mechanism for social control.” (Thanks to Wayne Bernhardson for the reference.)]

[Further addendum, 6 January 2004: Audio archive of the KPFA segment with me on US-VISIT (20 minutes, 50 seconds). If this doesn’t work with your browser, the full 2-hour show is archived on the KPFA Web site; the segment with me is from 1:10 to 1:32 of the archive file.]

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 5 January 2004, 08:31 ( 8:31 AM)

IMO it isn't only that the new fingerprinting procedures are a violation of privacy and human rights - since 9/11 America has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world to visit. As an "alien" you only need to happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and you'll be considered guilty until proven innocent. As long as the "war on terror" continues, international travelers avoid these risks and humiliations by purchasing round-the-world tickets via Canada or South America and refuse any routing which touches the U.S.A.

Posted by: David Stanley, 5 January 2004, 17:05 ( 5:05 PM)

i think your web site is absolute rubbish and it should be DELEATED

Posted by: Amy Richardson, 8 January 2004, 03:49 ( 3:49 AM)

As a Lecturer in International Politics at a major English University I think you might find the majority of Europeans agree with you. A recent poll was conducted by La Monde and it appears that nearly 90% of Europeans feel they would remove the USA from their tourist agenda due to the fingerprinting. While the USA are doing their best to protect their homeland security, they probably fail to realize that most of the world associate the taking of fingerprints with criminal activity and therefore find it hard to accept the automatic taking of fingerprints at borders as a total infringement on their right. Sadly, the USA tourist industry will suffer. In fact has suffered dramatically according to the International Association of Tourist Administration. It seems that the USA may become known as 'Fortress America' isolating itself from the rest of the world. This could be a huge mistake as it's enemies agenda is aimed more at financial institutions to bring the USA to it's knees. I doubt the USA is really aware of that yet and is more concerned with physical attacks. Which probably will not occur again.

Posted by: Jenny Bracknell (Phd), 31 October 2004, 10:02 (10:02 AM)

i am from india i want to know that is fingerprinting is taken all applicants or who get a visa in usa visa waiver
thax rajni

Posted by: rajnikant, 4 March 2005, 01:39 ( 1:39 AM)

i think its all bs! we should come and go whenever we like! as a brazilian citizen i feel offended by all this fingerprint-photos-circus.and as long as USA think they have the need to put us on the "LIST",i think we should do the same to them.and by the way there are other countries in the world.thank god!Keep the faith Brazil xxxxxxxxx

Posted by: jeysa, 4 May 2007, 06:01 ( 6:01 AM)

I'm German and I recently had to travel to the USA in order to meet my American boyfriend's relatives. I can assure you that they take fingerprints even of "wealthy European countries" that are part of the visa waiver program - nobody except Canada and Mexico (curiously) is exempt for now, probably due to the problems of introducing fingerprinting at drive-through land borders. And they take fingerprints every single time, even if they already have them on file from a previous visit.

If you feel like me and want to stop this utter violation of human rights, please sign my pledge on Pledgebank.
For non-Americans:
For Americans:

Posted by: Judith Meyer, 6 November 2007, 12:42 (12:42 PM)

Big nuclear superpower bogged down in Afghanistan with oppressive transit requirements for foreigners.

Russia 1980 == America 2007

Fscking unbelievable. And we all saw how far isolationism and ideological imperialism got the Soviet Union didn't we. Don't history books get read in the US of A?

Yep, the USA is off my travel agenda too as well as that of other engineers and academics I know. Bang goes the lucrative conference hosting trade.

Shame. Great country run by morons. Get back to me guys when you get a clue. I don't need yer.

Posted by: carl, 11 December 2007, 18:08 ( 6:08 PM)

That is why Brazil rocks. Though I don't improve of continuosly increasing security demands.

Posted by: Anonymous, 26 July 2009, 05:07 ( 5:07 AM)
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