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.
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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?