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U.S. ready to fingerprint visitors

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Visitors to the U.S. with visas will be asked for fingerprints and photographs as part of a new anti-terrorism program. CNN's Elaine Quijano reports (January 5)
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Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (for citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security
Acts of terror

(CNN) -- Many visitors to the United States now face a demand for fingerprints and photographs as a government program intended to fight terrorism takes effect Monday.

The new program covers those overseas visitors who are required to have a visa to enter the United States -- an estimated 24 million people a year.

Not everyone will be put through the extra security steps.

Citizens from more than two dozen countries, mostly in Europe, aren't required to carry a visa if their visit is less than 90 days. Visitors from those countries are exempt.

Outside of Europe, the exempt countries include Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Brunei. Citizens of Canada generally do not need a visa to enter the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the goal of the US VISIT program is to track the millions of people who come to the United States every year on business, student and tourist visas -- and to use the information as a tool against terrorists.

US-VISIT stands for United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology.

Critics say the broad-reaching program will cause unnecessary travel delays and may never prove to be effective.

"There's so much information in such volumes that there's a limit to what any analyst can absorb," said Larry Johnson, an aviation security consultant.

Faiz Rehman, president of the National Council of Pakistani-Americans, points to the disruption in travel.

"Without proper training, there will be long lines, there will be missed flights, there will be people who would be wrongly stopped," Rehman said.

Outside the United States, there has been a backlash as well.

In reaction to the U.S. policy, Brazil will require that American visitors be fingerprinted and photographed.

The U.S. program, which has a budget of $380 million, will require an estimated 24 million visitors to submit two finger scans and have a photograph taken upon entering any of 115 airports or 14 seaports.

Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger said once screeners become proficient, the extra security will take only 10 to 15 seconds per person, The Associated Press reported.

Inkless fingerprints will be taken and checked instantly against a digital database for criminal backgrounds and any terrorist lists. The process will be repeated when visitors leave the United States as an extra security measure and to ensure they complied with visa limitations.

Lawmakers who included the program in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 say the program will improve security.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, is among those who believe the new measures could help prevent a repeat of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"We want to keep the bad guys out of our country," Harman said. "We want to identify them and keep them out, and we want to find them if they're already here. And we did a bad job of that on 9/11."

Tim Edgar, a critic of the program and legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said it will not take the place of improved intelligence gathering.

"The problem with 9/11 is that we didn't know who the terrorists were," Edgar said. "We could have put them through this system and they would have gotten through without any problem."

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