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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 RenHoek (101570) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:21AM (#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 Boetsj (1247700) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:21AM (#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 fprintf (82740) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:32AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:41AM (#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."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:41AM (#26431823)
    It's more that we don't want a foreign (potentially hostile at some later date) government having/losing our biometric data along with our other personal details - or having them pop up as a false-positive in a burglary investigation in Utah
  • by qazsedcft (911254) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:50AM (#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.
  • Re:Herd instict (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:50AM (#26431921)

    Afaik, no state on this planet has my fingerprints yet, and I do not plan on handing them over any time soon

    I had to hand them over just to get a job (New York State requires them if you work for an OMH licensed facility) so I'm already "screwed" in this sense.

    For my contract at a school district in Pennsylvania I had to do a child abuse background check (Which had to be mailed in with a $10 money order, no personal checks), a $10 State Police background check, and $40 to have my prints put on file with the FBI/checked with the FBI via the local intermediate unit. It's widely required at other places of employment, as well.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:51AM (#26431935)

    One of my big annoyances with travelling to the US, especially under the visa waiver programme, is that evil landing card that they make foreigners fill out. It's worse because that form is 1) badly designed and a pain in the arse to fill out and 2) everyone warns of dire consequences for not filling it out correctly.

    It does have to be said that getting into the US, even for Australians and Brits (like me), is still a bigger pain in the arse than for many other countries. This is before you count in things like privacy issue, having to go through two security checkpoints to *ENTER* the country, the nuisance factor of having your fingerprints and photo taken, having to 'scan out' at those dinky little Homeland Security terminals upon leaving the country, that sort of thing.

    A curious situation for a country which prides itself on being the 'Land of the Free'!.

    So visa preapproval over the net, to do away with the horrible landing card (and having it valid for several years), in my book, is actually a slight improvement on the way things were.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:52AM (#26431949)
    When I first traveled from Germany to the US in 1988 no Visa Waiver Program was in place. You had to apply for a visa, pay an application fee (~$80), mail your passport, completed form, and passport pictures to the embassy/consulate and wait for two weeks to receive your stamped passport by return mail. If your application was rejected you had to appear in person.

    Today, the process does not incur any cost, is almost instantaneous, and you do not have to surrender your passport, answer intrusive questions during a life interview that that could go anywhere, depending on your answers and whims of the interviewer.

    The incremental change is that you have to be fingerprinted on your arrival in the US.

    I think that the new system is an improvement over the old one. You all seem to forget that international travel used to be much more restrictive and intrusive.

    Travel within the EU - while without any apparent border controls - is tightly controlled, over a much wider area, with tight cooperation from police, customs and other agencies. It only appears on the ground to be open and free.

    Talk to people that traveled in Europe and beyond in the 70's and 80's about travel restrictions. Not to mention Eastern bloc countries...
  • Re:Herd instict (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:55AM (#26431997)

    Guess you're not going to Japan, either:

    'All foreign nationals entering Japan, with the exemption of certain categories listed below, are required to provide fingerprint scans and be photographed at the port of entry. This requirement does not replace any existing visa or passport requirements."

  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by da_matta (854422) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:58AM (#26432035)

    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 MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:59AM (#26432055)

    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 drop further.

  • by corychristison (951993) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:00AM (#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 SkankinMonkey (528381) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:00AM (#26432073)
    The waiver program was supposed to be a way that citizens could get from their country to a friendly country without much hassle or processing times (aka a visa). It's supposed to go both ways, but now the US has put up a tiny roadblock to that smoothness. Here's to hoping the other countries don't reciprocate in classic xenophobic style.
  • by rundgren (550942) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:04AM (#26432139) Homepage

    As a potential Johnny foreigner, I will spend my hard won Euros somewhere else.

    So will I! The U.S. makes it so damn difficult getting into their country that it hardly seems worth the effort any more.. The worst part is that they deny visa (even 3 months of tourist visa) to ppl like me who have a small thing ($400 dollar fine) on our criminal record. A US citizen with the same record I have will have no problem entering my country (Norway).

  • by morgauo (1303341) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:11AM (#26432269)

    True, that's a pretty low barrier.

    But So What?.....

    Every half motivated tourist we don't get is money not in our (US) economy.

    Let's lock the Department of Homeland FUD out and let the tourists in.

  • by amake (673443) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:11AM (#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 mbone (558574) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:31AM (#26432655)

    Heck, I traveled a lot in the 1970's. Went to the USSR, went to Yugoslavia, Japan, India, etc. Never had to give fingerprints and (at least for the Common Market), the process was pretty painless.

    People used to make jokes about the USSR because of the difficulty and arbitrariness of their visa process. Just saying...

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:34AM (#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.

  • by aedil (68993) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:36AM (#26432729)

    It is utter irony of course that the US is so much for boasting freedom etc, but they are implementing measures that are supposedly done in the interest of security without really adding much of anything (beyond annoyance and essentially making the entire visa waiver program useless). It does however seem to indicate just what the US government thinks about the rest of the world: no one can be trusted.

    Of course, since apparently green card holders now will be subjected to the ridiculous US VISIT requirements as well, that distruct shouldn't surprise anyone.

    Sad thing is... I'd be willing to bet money that Obama won't change any of this during his presidency, which (to me) would be a clear indication that this isn't just the action of an adminstration under a crazy shrub, but rather a consistent move towards protectionism and isolation.

    Sad sad sad...

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @11:02AM (#26433163) Journal

    We are about to find out whether that is also true in the USA.

    I don't think it is. Yet anyway. How many states stood up and flipped Washington off over real-id? Our system is more decentralized than the UK's. That's one of the reasons I'm leery of the geniuses that think we should continue to expand the power of the Federal Government. Personally I'd chop the Federal Government down to size and shift the responsibility for the social safety net to the states.

  • by f1vlad (1253784) Works for Slashdot on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @11:22AM (#26433491) Homepage Journal

    Being a temporary resident to USA I have to agree with you completely. System is screwed and they're trying to do something about it.

    If you folks think American system is messed up, try to go elsewhere. But don't say "Oh I can go to Spain because I can enter there easily". That is probably because you have EU passport.

    I will give you some examples:

    I tried to go to Canada to watch F1 race. I had to go all the way to NYC to apply for visa. Stood in line for maybe 4 hours. When my time came to talk to immigration agent, she pretty much told me openly that I have not demonstrated that I will be willing to come back to USA, that I am potential illegal alien to Canada. I really wanted to ask for her rationale about Canada since as far as I was concerned I was in a better country to be an illegal alien, why would I want to become such in Canada? But I did not want to bother as they have a thing called "Black list". Once your name is there, chances are you will never be able to visit that country.

    I tried to go to Mexico. Same story as Canada except worse. I have to apply to so-called Immigration Institute for a permission to apply for visa. So it's even more coplex situation with Canada. Chances were I would get denied entry to Mexico, so I didn't even bother.

  • Re:Herd instict (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dryeo (100693) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @12:22PM (#26434535)

    Your government keeps your prints when you haven't been convicted of anything?
    Here in Canada they take your prints upon arrest and are supposed to destroy them IIRC 6 months after acquittal.

  • Re:Herd instict (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @12:39PM (#26434853)

    In any case, the outrage over this article is completely misplaced. RTFA -- they aren't requesting any information beyond that which is already requested on the paper forms you fill out in-flight. It seems to me that filling them out online 72 hours in advance isn't particularly burdensome.

    But that's not really the problem. What is the major problem is that now everything is a neat little database right from the get-go, with retention policies of basically infinity. The part that bugs me is that this is now very easily combined with all kinds of other databases, all accessible to law-enforcement people of all stripes.

    And judging by who gets hired into law-enforcement and what they do once they're hired, I find that quite scary. I don't want to be picked up by some cops just because I'm dating a cop's niece and he misspelled my name while looking me up in his little database. Yes, I know this is illegal. Doesn't stop it from happening.

  • by oliderid (710055) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @01:10PM (#26435423) Journal

    Of course, you're lying, and this story has fuck all to do with a decision to come to the US you may or may not have actually made, but it's funny that you'd choose to say the same retarded shit that pops up immediately in these conversations.

    Me lying? See Most of the time I booked my holidays a couple of days before taking them. I never know, a big project could force me to stay home.

    I simply browse the web and I try to find a place I can afford. Strictly nothing planned. I have been in southern asia, eastern europe, middle east, etc. There are certainly places I'd like to visit in the states but there are also a lot of things outside of it.

    I take holidays one time per year, it means if somebody ruins them like:

    • did you know that the grand grand uncle you have never seen was suspected of Nazi collaboration by the US army in the WWII?
    • tell us more about your friend Mohammed?
    • Your record shown that you have spend a night at the police jail when you were 18)

    I'm screwed. I'm the kind of guy looking for the less paper (I'm busy like hell, businessowner) and the most flexible destinations. With such measures and their state of mind (welcome you potential terrorist!) they are out of my radar until they change their mind.

  • by imarsman (305818) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @01:49PM (#26436109)

    This is a perfect tool for terrorists. If I were leading a group of 20 people intent on doing something criminal in the US I'd welcome this as a way to find out who was and wasn't likely to be stopped at the border. This isn't a way to keep America free of terrorism, it's the natural expansion of bureaucracy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @01:53PM (#26436173)

    You forgot a large part of travel -- it broadens the mind. You see and experience different cultures -- not just buildings and scenery. That's the part of travel that can change a person for life.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @02:55PM (#26437269) Homepage Journal

    I have travelled all around the world.

    Form Canada to South Africa, Vietnam, Namibia, all of Western Europe. You name it.

    Your immigration procedures are only comparable to those in Vietnam, a communist dictatorship.

    If that makes you feel great, all the power to you, if it was my country it would give me pause for thought: it would seem that to be safe you have to emulate totalitarian attitudes.

    If you think that poster is lying think again. I go back home frequently and flights with stop overs in the US are cheaper, but just to think about all the draconian, unnecessary procedures (I would be just in transit, no other country I know off needs you to apply for a visa in advance to go on transit) makes me feel sick. Thus I chose to fly using European or Canadian airlines, where I can change planes quickly, efficiently and with minimal fuss.

    Every time I flight back home your country loses an average of $1500 that it would gain if the intrusive bureaucracy wasn't so unreasonable.

  • Re:Herd instict (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grimbleton (1034446) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @04:34PM (#26438873)

    Hell, I wasn't even arrested. I was served with a summons to appear at trial, and mailed a letter to report to the courthouse for fingerprinting about a week before the trial.

    And I know nobody really cares, but just in case anyone wondered, I was charged with Trespassing in the 3rd Degree when I went back to my old high school to get my transcript while I was back home visiting, the new vice principal found me chatting with the office staff and told me to come back after the school day ended if I wanted to be in the building.

    Fair enough, I went back about 3PM. I get in the door and walk toward the office and he comes barreling out screaming "IF YOU DON'T GET OFF THE PROPERTY RIGHT NOW I'M CALLING THE POLICE!" so I sighed, turned around, and told him "I'll just fucking call and have it mailed then." and turned and left.

    About two hours later, back at my grandparents' house, there was a knock at the door, and there was a police officer (Sheriff's deputy, I think, actually) with a summons for me.

    To this day I still have no clue what the hell I did wrong, or why he was so angry about me being there. One of my friends who was two years behind me was still there so I asked her to find out, and all he did was flip out on her when she asked.

    Fucking small towns.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:20PM (#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 davej (75609) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @10:37PM (#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.

  • by Kharny (239931) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @06:11AM (#26445941)

    A good friend of mine refuses nowadays to return to the US, she is a us-born woman with filipino roots living in finland nowadays with her (finnish) husband.

    After twice being submitted to full strip searches entering her homecountry, she just couldn't stand it anymore.

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