Jan. 7, 2004 – Travelers required to have visas to enter the United States will soon be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival at the territory's airports, the Port Authority's spokeswoman, Monifa Marrero, said on Wednesday.
She said the Port Authority executive director, Darlan Brin, received a letter from Tarance Draft, who deals with federal homeland security issues in the territory, stating that the new security procedures would be implemented at the St. Thomas and St. Croix airports.
Marrero said the letter did not indicate when the procedures would be implemented. And "there is no mention of seaports," she said.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched its "US-VISIT" program at 115 airports and cruise ship terminals at 14 seaports around the country.
"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in our government's commitment to securing our nation while upholding America's ideals about freedom of travel and the spirit of welcoming foreign visitors," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in a release issued on Monday.
The program requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the U.S. on a visa have their two index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity when they enter the country. Authorities say tests indicate that the fingerprinting and photo taking add 15 seconds to the amount of time it takes to go through port entry procedures.
Citizens of the 27 countries where visas are not required to enter the United States are exempt from the new scrutiny procedures: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Canadians and Mexicans, who fall under special immigration rules, also are exempt. Canadian citizens generally do not need a visa. Mexican citizens also come under a different program, but need a visa or a border crossing card.
Congress mandated that the program be implemented at the nation's 50 busiest airports by this past Dec. 31 and at all other air- and seaports by Dec. 31, 2005.
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