Foreign students not bothered by airport ID plan

by Emily Ayshford

It was the first time in her life that someone needed Napsugar Linnert’s fingerprint.

But after having her fingerprint scanned and her photo taken at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Linnert’s only regret was that she did not get to see the feature that distinguishes her from the rest of the world.

“I wanted to see it on the screen,” she said of her fingerprint.

Although Linnert came to the United States from Hungary to study architecture at the University, foreign visitors such as her are now subject to the scanning procedure because of a Department of Homeland Security program launched Jan. 5 called US-VISIT.

The program, implemented at 115 international airports, requires foreign visitors with nonimmigrant visas to have their two index fingers scanned and digital photographs taken to verify their identities upon arrival in the United States. The results are checked against a database of known and suspected criminals.

But despite the new inconvenience, many incoming foreign students were indifferent to the process.

“I was surprised, but it didn’t bother me,” said Johanna Leinonen, a history student from Finland. Nina Cotolupenco, an accounting student from Moldova, said she also did not feel violated because she understands the need for the procedure.

Tim Counts, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said he has heard averages of about 150 to 200 visitors scanned daily at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Not all visitors are subject to the identification procedures – 27 countries, mostly Western European, are exempt from the process.

During a November test at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, results showed the procedure added an average of 15 seconds to the entry process. Many foreign students agreed that process moved swiftly.

“It’s just, like, two seconds,” Linnert said. Counts also said lines at airports have not been longer since the procedure was implemented.

The department also plans to start a similar exit program at air- and seaports later in 2004.

Although an exit fingerprinting process might be another added inconvenience, foreign students said they are willing to do their part to help keep the United States safe.

“As long as they just use it for weeding out dangerous criminals,” said Martin Uhrbrand, a student from Denmark studying English, “I’ve got nothing to hide.”