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US to Fingerprint British Visitors, Other Allies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it will fingerprint and photograph the citizens of 27 nations that do not require U.S. visas, including visitors from close allies like Britain, Australia and Japan.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the new policy would be put in place at all U.S. airports and seaports by Sept. 30, requiring citizens of the 27 Visa Waiver Program countries to provide "two digital index finger scans and a digital photograph" to verify their identity.

The photographs and fingerprints are already required from citizens of other nations that do require U.S. visas and have proved unpopular among many, although U.S. officials say the process takes a matter of seconds and is needed to protect against attacks like those of Sept. 11, 2001.

Under U.S. law, the 27 nations must introduce passports with "biometric" data like fingerprints by Oct. 26 but the State Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have asked Congress to approve a two-year extension because most, if not all, are not expected to meet the deadline.

"We believe that an extension ... will avoid potential disruption to international travel and at the same time (requiring the fingerprints and photographs) will help mitigate the security concerns related to extending the deadline for biometric passports," Ereli told reporters.

The 27 countries affected are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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