Fliers must register 3 days before US travel

IRISH people travelling to the US are to face tighter restrictions by having to register their personal details online in advance of their trip.

The 500,000 Irish people that head Stateside every year will have to register with the American government at least 72 hours before they leave.

The rules, which take effect in January, will aim to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to enter the United States.

The government will ask for the same information that travellers fill out on the I-94 card, which is handed out on the plane and turned in to customs on arrival in the United States.

In time it is expected the online registration will replace the 1-94 card, which includes information such as passport number, country of residence, disclosure of communicable diseases or involvement in terror activities.

A spokeswoman from the Homeland Security Office said it is not asking for new information — they’re just getting it earlier.

Travellers can register with the US government beginning in August, and the information will remain valid for two years.

Anyone can register, even if they are not planning on travelling to the US.

Homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff said: “Rather than relying on paper-based procedures, this system will leverage 21st century electronic means to obtain basic information about who is travelling to the US without a visa.

“Getting this information in advance enables our frontline personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveller presents a threat, before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores.

“It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen our security, and that of international travellers, while helping to preserve an important programme for key allies.” The business community in Ireland has reacted angrily to the rule expressing concerns about last-minute travel.

The chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association, Mark Fielding, said it will be an extra pain for US-bound travellers.

He said it would particularly affect business people looking to book last-minute flights to the US. To overcome the problem a trusted traveller programme should be introduced, according to Irish Exporters’ Association chief executive John Whelan.

“This new rule is not ideal and it doesn’t facilitate trade and freedom of movement of people.

“We do however understand that there needs to be tighter security measures in place following 9/11,” he said.

The programme is known as Interim Final Rule for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and was called for under the implementing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act in 2007, DHS said.


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