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DHS Under Secretary discusses US VISIT expansion
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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 Hutchinson said.

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 State.

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 security.

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