Homeland Security Begins Fingerprint Scanning of Foreign Visitors

WASHINGTON

In a kind of access control for the entire country, the U.S. government began a new program Jan. 5 to fingerprint and photograph most foreign visitors entering the U.S. through 115 airports and 14 cruise ship ports.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says it aims to fingerprint and photograph some 23 million foreign visitors in the next year. Travelers from 27 countries whose citizens are not required to obtain visas for short stays are exempt, including Belgium, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

According to the DHS, visitors will place each index finger on a glass scanner. Photographs will be used with face recognition software, which can compare each face with millions of images in a database. The data will be stored by the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security. Officials from both departments have access and may share it with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The move has drawn complaints of discrimination from foreign nationals, according to Reuters. In protest, Brazil last week began fingerprinting and photographing all arriving U.S. citizens. The majority of foreign visitors pass through the Mexican and Canadian land borders, which is not covered by the new program.

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