U.S. Proposes Visitor Tracking System

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Millions of travelers arriving and departing the United States will have to submit detailed personal information this year under rules proposed by the federal government Friday as part of the war on terrorism.

The rules proposed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, once they are finalized, seek more information from travelers than under current law and for the first time extend the requirements to U.S. citizens and others previously exempted.

All airlines, cargo flights, cruise ships and other vessels carrying crew or passengers will be affected, with the exception of ferry boats. The information will be sent electronically to the government before a traveler arrives in the United States or departs from it, giving officials a complete manifest of exactly who is on board.

"It's another way to enhance security for travelers," said INS spokeswoman Kimberly Weismann.

The changes were mandated by broad border security legislation that passed Congress overwhelmingly and was signed into law May 14 by President Bush. The law also tightened rules regarding issuance of visas to visitors and students coming to the United States and adding more Border Patrol officers, among other things.

For years, international travelers have been required to fill out forms detailing their arrival and departure from countries around the world. The U.S. government, however, has not previously required its own citizens to submit such forms. Canadians, permanent resident aliens and certain other people were also exempted.

The proposed INS rule would require all passengers arriving or departing, as well as crew members, to provide this information: name; date of birth; citizenship; sex; passport number and country of issuance; country of residence; U.S. visa number and other details of its issuance; address while in the United States; and, where it applies, alien registration number.

The law also gives Attorney General John Ashcroft leeway in proposing further requirements. In the INS rule, Ashcroft has added a proposed "passenger name record" for airlines that will enable the government to better match a departure record with one for an arrival.

Once the information is collected, it will be transmitted to the U.S. government and matched against "the appropriate security databases" prior to the travelers' arrival. Anyone who raises a red flag regarding terrorism or other law enforcement concern could be met by officials when the ship or plane arrives in this country.

That computer system is still being developed, meaning the rules will probably take full effect later this year. The INS estimates they will affect 108 large commercial air carriers and ship lines, as well as more than 14,400 smaller carriers of both kinds. Initial costs to the private sector in complying with the rules are pegged at $166 million.


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