International Travel Issues for Americans
I can’t just enter the U.S. anymore?
Question: I have heard that the United States has a new policy in place when people enter the country. I am wondering if it will increasingly delay the entry or prevent the entry of many people. Could you elaborate?
Answer: Yes. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has just issued new regulations that mandate a new procedure for certain persons entering the United States. Secretary Tom Ridge has now ordered that aliens applying for admission or admitted as a nonimmigrant visa are subject to the new rules. It states that biometric information may be collected at time of the application for admission to or departure from the United States.
Question: Are there any exceptions?
Answer: The exceptions are very limited. The following visa categories are exempt: A-1, A-2, C-3 (except for attendants, servants or personal employees of accredited officials), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 and NATO related visas. Children under the age of 14, and persons over the age of 79 are also exempt.
Question: What exactly is ‘biometric information’, and what type of information will they be gathering?
Answer: Biometric information is a way of getting very personal information in a technologically advanced way. Upon arrival at designated air and seaports, fingerprints and photographs will be taken. This will also occur at the time of departure. Additionally, the visas of the person will be scanned.
Question: Will this delay entry into the United States?
Answer: It is expected to add only a few minutes to entry. However, since it is just now going to go into effect, we have yet to see exactly how long this new procedure will take.
Question: Once they receive the biometric information, what will they do with it?
Answer: Supposedly, the information will go into some type of database to be shared with all the necessary government officials. If there is a ‘hit’, then the person will most likely not be allowed into the country. Whether this will have the desired effect to keep out suspected terrorists, or just create increasingly difficult levels of red-tape for the average visitor or business person to the United States remain to be seen.