Fingerprints and photos taken for US trips

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The extension of checks to non-visa visitors, who are mostly tourists and business travellers, takes effect on September 30 and will continue for at least two years.

A US State Department spokesman said yesterday that the measures were needed to compensate for a two-year delay in introducing new biometric passports, containing fingerprint and photographic data.

US law required all visitors from 27 visa-waiver nations to have the new passports by October 26, 2004.

But the State Department and Homeland Security Department asked Congress to extend the deadline by two years because many visa-waiver nations are not expected to be ready in time.

The US has delayed issuing American citizens with biometric passports for two years because of similar “technical difficulties”

The only other option was to make all visitors to the US get a visa, he said. The new fingerprinting and photo process is expected to take less than 30 seconds.