Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson Discusses Expansion of US-VISIT Program to Include
Visitors Traveling Under the Visa Waiver Program
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: Garrison Courtney or Brian Doyle, 202-282-8010
September 27, 2004
Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson today gave a briefing at Dulles International Airport
in advance of the September 30 expansion of the US-VISIT program to include foreign
visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Under Secretary Hutchinson described how US VISIT procedures are fast, easy and
clean and how the program enhances security for our citizens and visitors while
facilitating legitimate travel and trade through our borders. He stressed that
“one of our highest priorities at US VISIT is to make sure that the United
States continues to be a welcoming nation and that travelers continue to come
to the United States, whether for business, vacation or study.”
Under Secretary Hutchinson noted that since deploying US-VISIT entry capabilities
at 115 airports and 14 seaports on January 5, 2004, more than 8.5 million foreign
nationals have been processed without adversely impacting wait times. He added
that the systems are in place to ensure that the expansion to include visitors
traveling under the Visa Waiver Program will maintain this track record of not
adversely impacting wait times.
“It’s clear that US-VISIT is working. It’s clean, it’s
quick, it’s simple and without question, it is enhancing the integrity of
our immigration systems, while protecting individual privacy,” Under Secretary
US VISIT is a continuum of measures that collect biometric and biographic information
from foreign visitors at U.S. visa-issuing posts around the world and upon their
arrival in and departure from U.S. air, sea and land border ports. It draws on
eligibility determinations made by both the Departments of Homeland Security and
The goals of US-VISIT are to: enhance the security of our citizens and visitors;
facilitate legitimate travel and trade; ensure the integrity of our immigration
system; protect the privacy of our visitors.
Currently, US-VISIT requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the U.S.
on a visa and arriving at an air or seaport have their two index fingers scanned
and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity at the port of entry.
By September 30, 2004, this process will also apply to visitors traveling under
the VWP at all air and sea ports of entry.
An estimated 13 million visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program enter
the U.S. each year. Travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries are allowed to
enter the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure using only a passport.
The following 27 countries are currently in the VWP: Andorra, Austria, Australia,
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
(for citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland,
Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).
Since its launch in January, the US-VISIT program has helped intercept more than
280 persons with prior or suspected criminal or immigration violations. These
included convicted rapists, drug traffickers, individuals convicted of credit
card fraud, a convicted armed robber and numerous immigration violators and individuals
attempting visa fraud.
The U.S. is not alone is using biometrics to enhance identity verification and
security. The worldwide use of biometric technologies is the basis of an extensive
array of highly secure identification and personal verification solutions.
Expanding enrollment of foreign nationals traveling under the VWP builds on the
Department’s progress to secure our ports of entry without harming our economic