US enacts new rules for visa-free visitors

June 4th, 2008 - 2:24 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 4 (DPA) Citizens of countries who do not need visas to travel to the US beginning next year will be required to register with the US government before boarding a flight, said the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday. The new rules are designed to ensure that terrorists are not able to reach the US from Europe or other countries in the Visa Waiver Programme, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said.

“Getting this information in advance enables our frontline personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveler presents a threat, before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores,” Chertoff said.

Once the rules are in place, foreign travellers will have to go online and fill out a form identical to the one passengers fill out shortly before the flight arrives on US soil.

“It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen our security, and that of international travelers, while helping to preserve an important program for key allies,” Chertoff said.

The plan is part of the recommendations of a commission set up to investigate the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The programme will begin on a voluntary basis in August and will be mandatory in January.

Once a visitor completes the online form, it will be valid for two years. The rules apply to citizens from 27 countries who do not need visas. Among them are most of Europe and key US allies like Japan and Australia.

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