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Screening of Foreign Visitors to Expand

Associated Press
Tuesday, September 28, 2004; Page A25

Beginning Thursday, foreign visitors from 27 more countries will be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Until now, citizens of 22 European countries including Britain and France, along with Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore, have not had to undergo such screening because they can travel to the United States without a visa. That will change Thursday.

Since January, most foreign visitors who travel with a visa have had to be photographed and fingerprinted under the US-VISIT program when they arrive at 115 major airports and 14 major seaports. The information is checked against databases to verify documents and flag names that appear on terrorist or law enforcement watch lists.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates the new requirement will affect 33,000 people coming to the United States every day.

Homeland Security spokesman Dennis Murphy said the government wanted to make sure that US-VISIT worked before expanding it.

Canadians can enter the country with little more than a declaration of their citizenship.

Mexicans with laser visa cards -- border crossing cards -- who stay for 30 days or fewer are exempt from the system for now.

US-VISIT is scheduled to be in use at the 50 busiest land ports by the end of the year.

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