U.S. fingerprinting everybody now

Washington has reversed course and will require millions of travellers from 27 countries to be fingerprinted and photographed before entering the United States.

The change affects citizens from 27 previously-exempt countries, including close U.S. allies like Great Britain, Japan and Australia. Up to now, visitors from those and other countries had been allowed to travel within the U.S. for 90 days without a visa.

Starting Sept. 30, however, travellers from those countries will be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter the U.S. through any of 115 airports and 14 seaports.

The decision to change security was made after Bush administration officials determined that the so-called “visa-waiver countries” wouldn’t be able to meet an October deadline for machine-readable passports containing biometric information, including fingerprint and iris identification features. Such features make documents virtually impossible to counterfeit.

Canadian and Mexican travellers remain exempt from the system.

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