Thursday, June 05, 2008

Travelers without visas will soon register before U.S. trip

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States said Tuesday that it will require visitors who are allowed to enter the country without visas to register biographical details online at least three days before they travel.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who announced the changes, said they will help the United States boost the security of its visa-free travel program by allowing the government to screen visitors before they travel. Currently, visitors fill out paper forms en route and are screened by U.S. customs agents upon arrival.

The U.S. will begin implementing the changes in August, Chertoff said. Online registration will be mandatory for all visa-free travel by Jan. 12.

[Full story here ]

As far as I know, there is supposed to be a visa reciprocity agreement between the different countries. There are currently 27 countries whose citizens are not required to obtain visas for U.S. entry, including those in most of western Europe as well as Andorra, Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore. Eight other countries — among them the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Korea — are expected to be admitted to the visa waiver program.

I understand the security concerns here, and registering online would definitely be a lot more convenient than having to queue at the embassy for a visa. But what makes this new policy "safer"? What is to stop potential terrorists from registering false personal information? And say, you forget to register 3 days before you fly into the US? What then?

Why is this interesting to me?

I hope to make a short trip to New York later this year. I just hope I don't get myself screwed over by sudden changes in visa policies.

Say, anyone has recommendations for places (not too expensive please) to check out when I'm in New York? Quirky bookstores or vegetarian-friendly restaurants that I must visit?


Melwyk said...

From my one brief trip to NY -- bookstores, Gotham Bookmart for it's Edward Gorey cats, Strand for it's excessive number of books (though I wasn't too keen on it over all)... Restaurants, Zen Palate for purely veg, and a serendipitous find, a veg-friendly Italian place on Columbus around 74th or so - I'll have to look up the name for you. It was a while ago now.

darkorpheus said...

Melanie I understand if you can't find it. Thank you just for checking and sharing!

serene said...

Two words: The Strand

I could stay there forever...

Another good one is Book Culture (, but that's all the way uptown near Columbia. Depending on where you're staying, that might a bit of a hike.

darkorpheus said...

Serene Thanks! Definitely will put The Strand down on my list. But I'm going to restrict the number of bookstores I visit.

Will check out Book Culture if I'm allowed. My travel mates might start throwing books at me for visiting too many bookstores! ;p

Eating is just fine - because we all eat!

We haven't figured out where to stay yet. Everyone is on a budget - but one of my friend is OCD so she insists on cleanliness.

I'm just fine as long as I don't have to make friends with bedbugs.

wil said...

Another vote for Strand -- it's huge and crowded -- great for browsing (if you don't mind jostling with the other browsers), but hard to find anything if you're looking for something specific.

Recommended vegetarian/vegan restaurants: Angelica Kitchen, Candle Cafe, Counter. IMO, Counter's the hippest, Angelica Kitchen is the hippy-est (Angelica Kitchen is my wife's favorite).

darkorpheus said...

Wil Thanks for the recommendations. I've heard of Candle Cafe but not Counter or Angelica. Will have to google them for the address.

And hopefully we can find our way there.

I guess that will be half the fun. :)

Anonymous said...

Of course the new policy doesn't make anything safer. It's a paranoid country trying to protect itself against any and all potential bad incidents which is impossible!

I hope your trip is wonderful. Have only been to NYC once and loved it but don't know enough to make recommendations.

darkorpheus said...

gartenfische Thanks, and no worries about the recommendation. I'm hoping we can do more wandering - seems more fun to find things by accident.

I really hope we would enjoy the trip. For some reasons one of the girls NEEDS to visit Victoria's Secrets in New York.

We can work it in of course - but - heh?