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Visitors To US Now Required To Register Online 734

Posted by kdawson
from the e-papers-please dept.
mytrip sends a reminder that starting today, visitors to the US from 35 visa-waiver countries will be required to register online with the Department of Homeland Security in advance. The DHS is asking people to go online for the ESTA program 72 hours before traveling, but they can register any amount of time ahead. Approval, once granted, is good for 2 years. DHS says that most applications are approved in 4 seconds. If an application is rejected, the traveler will have to go to a US embassy and get a visa. CNet reports that information from applications will be retained for 12 years, and eventually up to 75 years.
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Visitors To US Now Required To Register Online

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  • by Goffee71 (628501) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:14AM (#26431473) Homepage
    Johnny Foreigners, as long as they've filled in the right form!
    • by oliderid (710055) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:18AM (#26431509) Journal
      As a potential Johnny foreigner, I will spend my hard won Euros somewhere else.
      • by mrops (927562) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:39AM (#26432797)

        Code is simple on the backkend

        boolean reject=false;
        if (name.matches("m(o|u)h(a|u)m{1,2}(a|e)d") {
              reject = true;
        }

        Only thing I can't figure out, why the hell it takes 4 seconds to execute such simple code. Must be perl or java, maybe network latency.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:41AM (#26431805)

      It's nice and friendly - look what you get as a pop-up as soon as you visit the registration page:

      "You are about to access a Department of Homeland Security computer system. This computer system and data therein are property of the U.S. Government and provided for official U.S. Government information and use. There is no expectation of privacy when you use this computer system. The use of a password or any other security measure does not establish an expectation of privacy. By using this system, you consent to the terms set forth in this notice. You may not process classified national security information on this computer system. Access to this system is restricted to authorized users only. Unauthorized access, use, or modification of this system or of data contained herein, or in transit to/from this system, may constitute a violation of section 1030 of title 18 of the U.S. Code and other criminal laws. Anyone who accesses a Federal computer system without authorization or exceeds access authority, or obtains, alters, damages, destroys, or discloses information, or prevents authorized use of information on the computer system, may be subject to penalties, fines or imprisonment. This computer system and any related equipment is subject to monitoring for administrative oversight, law enforcement, criminal investigative purposes, inquiries into alleged wrongdoing or misuse, and to ensure proper performance of applicable security features and procedures. DHS may conduct monitoring activities without further notice."

  • *sigh* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:17AM (#26431497) Homepage
    Yeah, so much for "your huddled masses" :( Additionally, watch Americans be completely surprised when these countries reciprocate the generosity.
    • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Informative)

      by SkankinMonkey (528381) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:19AM (#26431523)
      I was horrified when I went to Japan recently and had to let them take my fingerprints and a picture. I was even more horrified when I complained to my Japanese friends and they let me know that America has the same practice.
  • by RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:21AM (#26431557) Homepage

    Do people still visit that country?

    I mean I don't even get a shopping card from our local supermarket because I don't think it's necessary for them to have my personal information...

    I'm not a criminal, and I don't want to be treated as such. It would be would be debatable if they kept personal information for say a year or so and you could trust them to delete your information afterward.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:35AM (#26431731) Journal

      Did anybody bother to RTFA?

      Derwood Staeben, U.S. consul general in London, said nearly all applications would be approved in less than 10 seconds. He said travelers would not be required to give any more information than is already requested on the paper immigration forms, which are being replaced.

      This information was already collected. Are we really supposed to believe that collecting it in advance instead of in-flight is really that burdensome? If this is all it takes to deter you from coming to the US then I'm guessing you weren't that serious about coming in the first place.

      • by RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:43AM (#26431841) Homepage

        I've visited the US several times for a month at a time. This was both pre- and post-"9/11". However I stopped going once the draconian identification measures got introduced at the border.

        Now you might be a member of the crowd that goes "If you're innocent then you've got nothing to hide" but I'm more of a guy in the "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither" crowd.

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:50AM (#26431913) Journal

          Now you might be a member of the crowd that goes "If you're innocent then you've got nothing to hide" but I'm more of a guy in the "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither" crowd.

          I'm not a member of the former crowd. I'm actually a member of the latter crowd. Dive into my posting history if you care to do so.

          I also recognize that every government on this planet exercises sovereignty over their borders and that said governments have a legitimate interest in preventing known bad actors from entering their country. It has nothing to do with "if you are innocent you have nothing to hide". Given the ease with which one can obtain falsified identification documents are you really that surprised that they've expanded the entry/exit process into biometrics?

          Canada will deny you entry if you've been convicted of drug possession or DWI -- even if said conviction was a misdemeanor/civil affair if your home country. Why don't I see anybody complaining about that?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:59AM (#26432061)

            Canada will deny you entry if you've been convicted of drug possession or DWI -- even if said conviction was a misdemeanor/civil affair if your home country. Why don't I see anybody complaining about that?

            Because nobody cares about Canada.

            Really.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vlm (69642)

            I also recognize that every government on this planet exercises sovereignty over their borders and that said governments have a legitimate interest in preventing known bad actors from entering their country. It has nothing to do with "if you are innocent you have nothing to hide". Given the ease with which one can obtain falsified identification documents are you really that surprised that they've expanded the entry/exit process into biometrics?

            What you're missing, is this harassment only applies to legal entries. The borders remain utterly wide open for illegals. Regulations like this are only there to hassle middle class people or fools who still believe in the rule of law in the USA. The method of BSing the populous is to claim it'll solve terrorism or some other BS. So, if you don't want the "legal" hassle, fly into mexico or canada and simply walk across like everyone else. That plays into the other Orwellian theme of modern america, whi

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Xelios (822510)
            said governments have a legitimate interest in preventing known bad actors from entering their country.
            I guess they slipped up with Keanu Reeves.
    • by qazsedcft (911254) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:50AM (#26431919)
      I'm a Canadian citizen. Naturalized, to be honest, but having lived in Canada for almost my entire life. I've had my car searched, my cell phone searched, my photo and fingerprints taken. I have been delayed for hours, having had to give lengthy explanations to arrogant border agents. I have even experienced attempts at intimidation. One border agent has stopped me when I was about to go back north and tried to force me to admit to having worked illegally in the US (which I have not), and tried to force the same kind of admission from my 12-year-old step-daughter. He wasn't just warning me. It was direct intimidation - his exact words were "I will fuck you. I will ban you from visiting my country".

      I have long ago given up on ever going back to the USA for any reason whatsoever (not because I can't but because I don't want to). And now this. They have the insolence to pretend that they have a right to preserve my personal information for the duration of my lifetime. That is too much. Now I am absolutely certain to never want to have anything to do with that country ever again.
  • by Boetsj (1247700) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:21AM (#26431559)
    ... too bad, I'd really liked to have seen those miracles of nature within the US borders. Ohwell, I'll pour my money into another country's economy. Northern Spain is pretty nice in spring, I've heard.
    • by Yer Mum (570034) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:42AM (#26432839)

      The thing is if you fly to Spain from outside the Schengen zone you have to do a similar thing, although your airline forwards the data on your behalf. And so on for the other Schengen countries (if a Schengen country doesn't currently require it then it'll be rolled out soon).

      The main difference between the US and EU might be some aspect of data retention, where usually in the EU the data is deleted after one or two years and there are a few more limitations on who can get to see that data, unlike the US.

      So effectively the US and the EU are equally screwed in this respect and each new 'advance' in technology on one side of the pond will end up appearing on the other side, sooner or later.

  • by ACK!! (10229) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:25AM (#26431601) Journal
    "CNet reports that information from applications will be retained for 12 years, and eventually up to 75 years. " Like as in, This will go on your permanent record!
  • by Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:31AM (#26431665)
    ..especially as I find the American people on the whole some of the most freindly welcoming and interesting people to visit. Sadly however I simply cannot stomach the attitudes and actions of their Govt. I made up my mind never to visit again after a 5 hour wait in Dulles to get through immigration, and was greeted by the most pig ignorant downright hostile group of people I've ever met at the DHS/TSA desk or whatever. You want my fingerprints, you want my details, sorry. Convict me of a crime first. Wanting to visit and spend my dollars in your country is not a crime I'm afraid - I'll go visit Canada instead.
  • Not that new (Score:5, Informative)

    by matt4077 (581118) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:32AM (#26431675) Homepage

    The test itself isn't new, it's just online now. I've been filling out those forms for years, and might actually welcome the new procedure. I've frequently been told by flight attendants that the slightest mistake requires to fill out a new form. That includes the different ways some digits are written (1 and 7), writing in the wrong line etc. I've gotten used to it, but for some people it takes five or more tries to get it right which is highly annoying when they're seated next to you.

    BTW: the questions are obviously ridiculous ("Are you traveling to the US to commit a crime?", "Have you been involved in a genocide?"). I guess the goal is to have more legal ammunition if you want to deport someone later.

    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Interesting)

      by da_matta (854422)

      This is just an electronic form of the I-W94 Visa waiver form (or something like that) that you have to submit each time. Having this would actually be better than filling that paper thing.

      Silly part is that now there are three "entry notifications": this, the paper form, and the notification you either do at the checkin/gate or is done by the travel agent. I guess they'll eventually be unified...

  • by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:32AM (#26431691) Journal

    Ok, time to cue the "I'm not going to the U.S. now" comments... this should be predictable.

    The thing is, besides the inevitable furor from the tin-foil hatted crowd, is this policy a step in the wrong direction, or just a return to slightly stricter times? When I came to this country in the early 1970s it was required that we get visa's and passports, present them at the U.S. border, fill out extensive forms documenting our stay etc. And yet we were still thrilled to come here, despite some pretty awful things that had happened in the 60s. We had no doubt that our information was kept on file, and yet it was definitely worth it to come here.

    So I am not sure if this policy is just a return to slightly stricter immigration control. If it is, can the policy work and is it necessary? Let's have some constructive discussion instead of whining please.

    • by mdwh2 (535323) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:39AM (#26431787) Journal

      When I came to this country in the early 1970s it was required that we get visa's and passports, present them at the U.S. border, fill out extensive forms documenting our stay etc.

      Sure - but saying that the political clock's been turned back 30-40 years isn't exactly something to be thrilled about. That's an immense step backwards. I'd like to think we'd move towards a society with easier movement in time, especially given that there is far more intercontinental communication between people (both business, and personal) than decades ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You've just made it harder for people to visit - hope that goes down well with your tourism industry. Most countries I can just turn up and get a 60 day tourist visa when I turn up - NZ, Argentina, etc. Of course, all the EU is open to me as well, as a British passport holder. Now the pound has tanked against the dollar, and the long standing shitty treatment of visitors by CBP, it's getting harder and harder to justify a trip to the US to myself. Not saying it's evil and wrong, but visitor numbers will dro

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I can travel around the entirety of Europe without needing anything like this, just show ID. Nothing recorded, nothing logged, no database of my movements, nothing. Admittedly I am a dual national like all EU members are but the benefits to travel, employment opportunity, tourism etc are immense. To deliberatly restrict such momement does seem somewhat backwards that's all.
  • by meist3r (1061628) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:38AM (#26431763)
    When I started college 3 years ago I was actually planning on spending a year in the US just to see what the standards and discussions are like and to see whose history I'm studying here. Since then, each year, the American governments makes one shit move after another and my interest in actually visiting this country dwindles with every one. I'm not having my fingerprints be stored for almost two decades in your "potential foreign sleeper terrorist" list and I'm not going through the silliest questions ever invented -again- (the actually DO have that "Did you come here to kill the president" question, I had to answer that when I was 14).

    One more time the bigotry triumphs. Leader of the world, biggest and strongest army ... locked away in his castle on the hilltop shooting at the mailman scared for his life. Congrats America, if that's what your freedom looks like ... no wonder "they" hate it. I do too. The USA used to be a symbol for immgration, diversity and -hell- freedom. Now it's become a symbol of lies, deception, bigotry, intolerance and paranoia. It makes me sad actually.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:34AM (#26432689) Homepage Journal

      When I started college 3 years ago I was actually planning on spending a year in the US just to see what the standards and discussions are like and to see whose history I'm studying here. Since then, each year, the American governments makes one shit move after another and my interest in actually visiting this country dwindles with every one.

      My sincere advice to you is: DON'T. Every country has beautiful, impressive, and important sights to see. If you must travel abroad, go someplace nearby and minimally fascist.

      The USA could really use your tourist dollars right now, but coming here and giving them to us would just be rewarding bad behavior, which only guarantees more of it.

      Please, visit a country whose government supports personal freedom. Don't put your money into the USA. You're only funding global terrorism.

  • Cutting it fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:40AM (#26431797)
    From tfa [google.com]: Travelers are being asked to fill out the forms at least 72 hours in advance of travel. .... Travelers filling out the online form will be told whether their request is authorized, denied or pending, he said. Those who are marked "pending" must check back in 72 hours to see if they have been approved, he said.
  • by corychristison (951993) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:00AM (#26432069)

    Being Canadian and having family that cross the border on a regular basis, how will this affect Canadians? Will we have to register online?

    Canadians entering the states (who are driving, not flying) do not need anything other than a valid drivers license and a clean criminal record (which they look up upon entering).

    If you are flying in, all the rules for everyone else is the same.

    So, to reiterate, do Canadians driving into the country have pre-register online?

  • by Moskit (32486) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:03AM (#26432127)

    Waiver of Rights: I have read and understand that I hereby waive for the duration of my travel authorization obtained via ESTA any rights to review or appeal of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer's determination as to my admissibility, or to contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
    In addition to the above waiver, as a condition of each admission into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, I agree that the submission of biometric identifiers (including fingerprints and photographs) during processing upon arrival in the United States shall reaffirm my waiver of any rights to review or appeal of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer's determination as to my admissibility, or to contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.

    So if you decide to travel, you do not have any right to question/appeal decision of the officer at the arrival airport. If he says you go back, you go back, without any possibility to talk with supervisor or explaining your case (you just waived that by submitting online request).

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:10AM (#26432245)
    I have to agree with another poster that I'm not surprised at the amount of anti-America bashing this generated. However, those of you who live outside the USA and are not American citizens should probably consider the following.

    1. Most Americans never travel outside of North America and have no desire to do so.
    2. The US government regards everybody except Canadians as potential illegal immigrants. Yes, even you EU guys and gals. Trust me when I tell you that while there are certainly American businesses that do want your money, my government really doesn't care if nobody comes over to visit.
    3. Probably less than 1% of Americans know the visa requirements for foreigners to come here. Almost everybody I've talked to in the USA had no idea how difficult to impossible it is for citizens of non-Visa Waiver countries to get visas to come here. Almost all Americans think that Mexicans and others need only apply for visas to come here legally and they are simply too lazy to do so. I've seen shocked expressions on the faces of many people when they found out how difficult it truly can be to even visit here as a tourist. I've known of cases of legal immigrants who were unable to get tourist visas for family members to come here to visit.

    So if you non-USA people expect us to "fix" our broken system, well, good luck with that because the truth is that almost nobody knows how it really works and almost nobody cares if it discourages you from coming here. That is reality. If you don't want to fill out an online form to come neither my government nor the vast majority of my fellow citizens care if you don't come because you don't like the rules. If you think this is some sort of meaningful protest, you are mistaken.
    • by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:45AM (#26432891) Journal

      1. Most Americans never travel outside of North America and have no desire to do so.

      As a naturalized citizen of the U.S., and having traveled the world when I was younger, I can tell you that this country is big enough for anyone to travel, with enough really wonderful places to visit and not have to visit anywhere else in the world. My father has traveled much more extensively than me, and he agrees that it is absolutely not necessary to visit other countries if you don't want to. We have variation in topography (mountains, plains), beaches, lakes, oceans, mountains... you name it. You can spend a lifetime, and certainly a retirement visiting the sights and never visit a place twice or run out of things to do... hence the popularity of Recreational Vehicles (RVs) here.

      What is missing is history. With the exception of some native settlements in the West, everything here is less than a few hundred years old. Our "oldest" places are those dedicated to our revolutionary and civil war periods. When going to Europe one is struck immediately by the history - that certain buildings have been standing for centuries, even things as mundane as apartments. In NY City, if you have an old Brownstone built in the 1890s you have an old building. If you don't have a desire to relive old history, for most people that seems to be visiting the countries where their ancestors lived, then . I would say that most people here are quite satisfied to stay here... plus it is really expensive to leave, having to fly 3,000 miles to get to Europe, whereas if you live in Europe you can visit 20 countries in 10 days and get a different cultural experience at each one.

      • by clickety6 (141178) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @11:45AM (#26434977)

        Not just history but culture, language, attitudes, food, music, scenery (not all the marvels of the natural world are contained in the US), art, ...

        Yep, there's a lot of natural beauty to see in the US but there's a hell of a lot more of it outside the US plus all the other things that makes travel broaden the mind...

      • by Scrameustache (459504) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @06:20PM (#26441079) Homepage Journal

        this country is big enough for anyone to travel, with enough really wonderful places to visit and not have to visit anywhere else in the world.

        And never be exposed to a different culture than the one they already know.

        There's plenty of neat places in all the countries in the world to keep people busy their entire lives, but there's more to travel than kodak moments.

  • by amake (673443) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:11AM (#26432297) Homepage

    I'm a US citizen living in Japan, and I wanted to see what my friends and coworkers will have to deal with, so I checked out the Japanese version of the registration website.

    It's very poorly planned out in the following ways:

    1. Translation is confusing and broken in parts. There were sentences that just broke off halfway through.

    2. Due to the details of Japanese text input on computers, you have to specifically tell users to enter single-byte characters in text forms, and actually enforce the this requirement with proper input validation because many people don't really understand the difference. This is unless, of course, you're prepared to handle double-byte alphanumerics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fullwidth_form) on the back end. Anyway, the form tells you to enter your info in the Latin alphabet (romaji), but nowhere does it specify single-byte. I wanted to test the form to see how well it coped with double-byte characters, but I didn't want the DHS knocking down my door in the middle of the night.

    3. The website is not designed with mobile access in mind (or so I assume; I couldn't even connect to the site on my AU phone). Many, many Japanese people don't have PCs, and do all their internet activities on their mobile phones with very limited browsers.

    4. The website does no geo sniffing and ignores preferred language settings, defaulting to English and throwing up a giant legalese JavaScript popup. Talk about unfriendly.

    Ultimately I suspect that people will end up leaving all this bullshit to travel agents, and very few people will personally deal with the system on any level (unless that's not allowed; of course I didn't RTFA).

  • by xcal78 (1451701) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:39AM (#26432793)
    And people wonder why the US likes to check and double check who's comming into the country? "A security van carrying blank visas and passports was hijacked near Manchester in north England at 6:40 a.m. Monday, 28 July 2008. At least 3,000 blank passports and visa stickers in 24 brown cardboard boxes - intended for distribution to embassies and consulates abroad - were stolen." Ref: http://www.workpermit.com/news/2008-07-30/uk/blank-e-passport-visa-theft-england.htm [workpermit.com]
  • by adsl (595429) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:44AM (#26432879)
    Instead of filling in an "I95" on the plane one has to spend a few seconds giving the same details on line once and it lasts a couple of years.... What's the big deal to this? It actually saves time if you visit more than once in 2 years. Sometimes the planes run out of paper I95s and create more inconvenience. A while ago I visited Australia and had to apply for a paper visa, in my passport, via one of their embassies. If I had been given the choice of doing it all online I would have jumped at the convenience. Move along people. Borders and immigration stuff exists worldwide. What the US does today the EU will do tomorrow and vice versa. That's the world we live in.
  • Countries Affected (Score:5, Informative)

    by prograde (1425683) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:01AM (#26433149)

    If anyone is wondering, here's a list of the 35 visa-waiver countries:

    Andorra
    Australia
    Austria
    Belgium
    Brunei
    Czech Republic
    Denmark
    Estonia
    Finland
    France
    Germany
    Hungary
    Iceland
    Ireland
    Italy
    Japan
    Latvia
    Liechtenstein
    Lithuania
    Luxembourg
    Monaco
    Netherlands
    New Zealand
    Norway
    Portugal
    Republic of Malta
    San Marino
    Singapore
    Slovakia
    Slovenia
    South Korea
    Spain
    Sweden
    Switzerland
    United Kingdom

  • by davej (75609) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:37PM (#26443141) Homepage

    You folks don't know the half of it..

    My flight to London from Australia went via LA recently. I had to sign a "visa waiver" that basically said I waived all my rights whilst in transit in LA.

    I had no intention of entering the USA at all. I was "in transit" from Australia to London.

    However, I was directed through USA imigration into the baggage claim area (my baggage didn't leave the plane of course..) and then herded back around immigration into the transit lounge.

    At the immigration desk I was photographed and fingerprinted. When I stated that I didn't want to enter the USA and asked why I was being fingerprinted, the immigration officer was quite rude and basically said "What do you have to hide?".

    I found the whole incident truly scary and it made me quite sick to my stomach. I will never take any flight that transits the USA ever again and I will certainly never visit the USA.

    Two things get me about this.

    The first is that the process effectively mixed me (an in-transit passenger) with visitors to the USA _after_ immigration. This is stupidity of the highest level.

    The second is that the USA now have my photo and fingerprints on record against my will and I have absolutely no say in how those records are used or stored.

    During this experience I had the awful thought that if my photo happened to match some dickhead criminal, I could have been thrown in a USA prison, something that doesn't really appeal to me.

    I advise anyone traveling overseas to avoid the USA if at all possible.

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