Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Britons Visiting US Face New Visa Hurdle

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Britons Visiting US Face New Visa Hurdle

Article excerpt


BRITISH visitors to the United States will be forced to apply in person for visas under strict new security rules, it emerged today.

From October, many travellers will have to turn up at the US Embassy in London and pay [pounds sterling]67 for a visa, even for the briefest of visits.

The move came as the US administration disclosed that terrorists had planned a Christmas attack more devastating than the September 11 atrocities.

American agencies detected "a stream of intelligence" pointing to air attacks on US cities. US homeland security secretary Tom Ridge said: "It talks about attacks equal to or greater than those that occurred on September 11, talked about these attacks occurring in a time frame that covered our traditional holiday period, and it also included reference to aviation."

In a further restriction on travellers, air passengers have been told that they must not queue for the lavatories on flights in US airspace.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are understood to be resisting a ruling that passengers should not "congregate in groups" in the aisles.

Security chiefs fear terrorists could pretend to queue while preparing for a hijack.

The visa restriction on travel to the US will affect anyone with new British passports issued after 26 October this year. From that date, under rules imposed by Congress, all new passports must be of the "biometric type".

Britain will be unable to produce these until the middle of next year at the earliest. Travellers will still be able to travel to America without a visa if they have passports issued before October 2004, provided these contain-a computer barcode.

Visas for British tourists visiting America have not been necessary since 1986.

British diplomats in Washington said the US decision created an " impossible situation" and vowed to press hard for a postponement.

If they are unsuccessful, tourists from Britain and 26 other trusted American allies will have to visit their nearest US consulate or embassy for fingerprinting, photographing and an interview.

Mr Ridge said intelligence had pointed to threats on specific flights. …

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