US demands for a fresh increase in security on transatlantic flights are threatening visa waiver arrangements for UK visitors.
The Home Office has admitted US authorities want to extend requirements for advance passenger information to include family members who are not flying, as well as passengers flying over the US. It also wants to allow armed US marshals on all flights between the US and Europe.
Brussels has balked at the demands despite the US linking them to extension of the programme that allows visitors from the UK and members of 14 other European Union states to enter the US without a visa. Other EU states such as the Czech Republic and Greece are excluded from this.
The EU has threatened counter measures if the US cuts the waiver programme. More than four million UK visitors enter the US without a visa each year and obtaining one is costly and time consuming.
However, Visit Florida UK director Colin Brodie dismissed the threat. “There is a lot of political posturing,” he said. “The US travel industry will be making a big noise about this.”
Brodie reported UK visitors to Florida rose 7% last year on the 1.5 million who travelled in 2006 and he anticipates a further increase this year.
However, visitor numbers have yet to return to the 1.8 million a year who travelled before the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001.
UK visitors are already subject to digital finger printing and photographs on entering the US. Nineteen pieces of advance passenger information must also be submitted before departure. The US has separately demanded this submission 48 hours before travel.
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