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O'Hare to fingerprint foreign travelers

By Karoun Demirjian
Tribune reporter

CHICAGO, Ill. — Foreign travelers arriving at O'Hare International Airport face increased security measures as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rolls out a new ID system that requires visitors to be fully fingerprinted before they are allowed to enter the country.

The new system requires all foreigners passing through U.S. Customs booths at O'Hare to give digital prints of all 10 fingers and take a photo for a growing Homeland Security database containing information on visitors to the U.S. The system is an upgrade from the former index fingerprint standard that has been in place since 2004.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Tuesday the additional information they will collect will help them ensure safe travel.

The new digital prints "help us better prevent the use of fraudulent identification, protect visitors from ID theft and stop criminals from entering our country," said Brian Humphrey, assistant director of field operations for Homeland Security's Chicago office. "Taking 10 fingerprints helps us better match those who intend to do us harm."

The fingerprint and photo information collected at the booths goes into a database and can be compared against existing FBI and homeland security databases of known criminals and those who have overstayed their visas or committed other immigration infractions.

The whole process is meant to take less than 30 seconds. Travelers are asked to put the four fingers of their right hand on the scanner followed by the same on the left hand, and then both thumbs.

"It's not much of a problem at all. It was really fast," said Karen Kua, 24, who traveled to Chicago from Singapore on a business trip.

Copyright 2008 The Chicago Tribune

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