Friday, 2 April 2004
USA wants to extend fingerprinting and photographing to all visitors except Canadians
The USA Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State today joined in asking Congress to expand the requirement for fingerprinting and digital mug shots of foreigners entering or transitting the USA to include even those travellers who aren't required to have visas under the "Visa Waiver Program" (VWP) by 30 September 2004.
Current USA law requires anyone wishing to enter or transit the USA under the Visa Waiver Program after 26 October 2004 to have a machine readable biometric passport in whatever format is adopted by ICAO as a standard.
It's been apparent for months that iuusing new passports for citizens of all VWP countries so quickly would be prohibitively expensive, even if all the countries the USA has allowed to participate in the VWP were willing to replace all their passports to satisfy USA demands. (The USA doesn't plan even to start issuing passports for USA citizens of the type it wants to require for foreign visitors until at least some time in 2005.)
The DHS and Department of State said today that they plan to propose that Congress extend the deadline for VWP countries to issue machine-readable biometric passports for 2 years, until 26 October 2006. But the "tradeoff" for being so generous as to allow their citizens to use the same passports to travel to or through the USA that they already use in the rest of the workld (and that the USA uses for its own citizens) will be to subject them to fingerprinting and digital mug shots each time they enter, leave, or transit the USA.
Today's announcement made no mention of any changes to the requirements for Mexican and Canadian citizens travelling to or through the USA unde two other programs from the VWP.
Most Mexicans travelling to or from Europe or Asia (like most travellers between Europe or Asia and the rest of Latin American) have to change planes in the USA, and the USA abolished all facilities for transit without visa as part of the implementation of the US-VISIT program.
Mexico has never been included in the "Visa Waiver Program". Fingerprinting and photographing of Mexican citizens arriving or transitting by air is already required by the USA, and must be expanded to Mexico-USA land border crossings by 31 December 2004 unless the law is changed. Some Mexican citizens have already been fingerprinted, photographed, and investigated by the USA in order to obtain special "laser visas", and President Bush has said that he will propose legislation to exempt holders of "laser visas" from being fingerprinted and photographed again on each visit, as long as they enter by land, don't stay in the USA for more than 3 days at a time, and don't go more than 25-75 miles into the USA. But that legislation hasn't been introduced yet, and wasn't mentioned in today's announcement.
Canadians have been allowed to enter the USA without visas under a separate set of rules from the Visa Waiver Program. Since no proposed change in their treatment was mentioned in today's announcement, they would presumably remain the sole exception to the fingerprinting and photogrpahing requirements -- further angering Mexicans at their unequal treatment as "partners" with the USA and Canada in the North American Free Trade Agreement.Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 2 April 2004, 11:09 (11:09 AM)