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23 Million Travellers to US May Face Fingerprints & Photograpghs - 2004-01-05

The U-S government has launched the U-S-Visit program. Under the new rules, an estimated 23-million travelers requiring visas to enter the United States will have to be fingerprinted and photographed. The new measures take effect amid heightened terrorist alerts.

The new border security measures have been introduced at 115 airports around the country, as well as cruise ship terminals at 14 U-S seaports.

U-S Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says the process is not invasive, and should take only about 15 seconds to complete.

"It is part of a comprehensive program to ensure that our borders remain open to visitors, but closed to terrorists."

Border agents now will take ink-less digital fingerprints and a digital photo that will be matched against information on file at U-S consulates overseas, where the entry visas were issued. Only citizens from 28 countries, mostly in Europe, will be exempt, because they do not require visas to visit the United States.

Critics say the program could prove ineffective, if a potential terrorist has never been officially photographed or fingerprinted.