American anti-terror chiefs are threatening to withdraw the Visa Waiver Scheme for British and European tourists unless the EU signs an agreement on the new measures before Christmas.
Under the US Homeland Security scheme, all travellers – including children – without a visa must fill out a detailed online questionnaire about their health and criminal history at least three days before departure.
Travellers are currently required to answer similar questions by filling in forms on board transatlantic flights, which are handed to immigration officials when they land.
But from January 12 next year, the Department of Homeland Security wants this information in advance to check its blacklists for terrorists or anyone considered ‘undesirable’.
But Michael Chertoff, director of the Department of Homeland Security, has called a halt to negotiations and is warning the European Commission that it must agree to the measures before the end of the year.
In a letter last week to Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the EC, Mr Chertoff warned: ‘The data we gather under US law from those seeking to enter the United States is not subject to negotiation.
'The US lays down the law and expects the EU to comply and if it does not then – as on visas – the US simply negotiates behind its back with individual member states.’
The warning could force Britain to come to a unilateral agreement with America to keep UK citizens in the arrangement.
The measures have caused concern among European leaders and data protection authorities, with the EU demanding assurances about how the information will be used, who will have access to it and how long it will be kept.
Now Brits could be forced to apply for a visa before travelling to America in EU security wrangle
wow. this is kinda eye opening how much arm twisting is going on from the DHS.