US Airlines to collect fingerprints of outbound foreign tourists

Plans to collect biometric data of foreign travelers to counter illegal immigration and terrorism.

29 April, 2008:

The United States Government is moving to ask airlines and cruiseliners to take biometric data from foreigners leaving the country. This is a part of the US Department of Homeland Security’s new plans to counter terrorism and illegal immigration.

The Immigration Services have been, since January 2004, taking a photograph and fingerprints from each foreigner entering the United States to identify those using a false name and to stop terrorists, drug traffickers or illegal immigrants, according to the Associated Press.

Over 90 million such fingerprints have already been collected. But, under the proposed law announced by the Department of Homeland Security, the system would be expanded to every foreigner leaving the country by sea or by air.

The US-VISIT program, which is open to consultation for the next two months, would enable authorities to ascertain who has overstayed their visa, though there are no plans as yet to extend it to people leaving the country overland.

The new proposal by the Department of Homeland Security would require airlines and cruiselines to collect the information and transmit it to the Department of Homeland Security within 24 hours of their passengers leaving the country.

The department says that it must install the procedures by January 2009 if it must extend the Visa Waiver Program privileges to new countries, as planned from June 2009.

In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said,“We have built an effective entry system, and combined with the proposed exit system, we will have made a quantum leap in America's border security.”

However, according to US media reports, airlines are not happy about the new initiative, which is likely to cost them $2.3 billion-$3.5 billion over 10 years. US Airlines are already struggling to stay afloat with rising fuel prices and maintenance costs.

Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), was quoted as remarking,“It makes no sense to have the government outsource this type of law enforcement and customs function to the private sector. In addition to the cost, collecting such data could be a major disruption for airlines and add even more confusion to the process for foreign travelers who are already facing extra security measures at US airports.”

The procedures would also caused delays if prints were to be taken at boarding gates. Also, if the prints were to be collected at check-in, then online check-in would cease to be an option for passengers.

Giovanni Bisignani, director-general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, reacted thus in a statement,“Border protection and immigration are the government’s responsibilities. Airline counter staff are not a substitute for trained border patrol officers and outsourcing exit formalities to airlines is not a responsible approach.”

Roger Dow, CEO of the Travel Industry Association (TIA), has called for a “fair and rational dialogue” between the government and airlines, adding that a stalemate on the issue was not acceptable. “Expanding the visa waiver program – which will increase the countries whose residents can visit the United States without a visa – is expected to bring an extra 2 million travellers to the country.”







Auto news for auto freaks!
DWS community! / Cricket blog







Latest updates    Contact Us - Feedback    About Us   Complete Flights Archive