Tighter Visitor Rules Coming to Tunnel, Bridge in Michigan

Beginning next month, anyone with a foreign passport entering Michigan through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge will be fingerprinted and photographed as part of the federal government's stepped-up efforts to track visitors.

The changes do not affect American citizens, or native-born or naturalized Canadian citizens.

But foreigners who are permanent Canadian residents and cross into Michigan for work or pleasure will have to go through the new procedures beginning Dec. 6. So will every visitor with a passport from any other country.

The change could affect about 30,000 bridge and tunnel users annually, federal officials say.

Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary for border and transportation security with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the program, dubbed US-VISIT, does not single out visitors from any particular countries.

"US-VISIT is designed to be a comprehensive universal system that is applied to anybody," Verdery said at a news conference Thursday at the offices of the Detroit Regional Chamber in downtown Detroit.

"Anybody who has to have a visa will be treated the same," he said.

Prior to the changes, the federal government fingerprinted only foreigners who applied for U.S. visas, which are not required of citizens of a number of countries.

Under the new procedure, every foreign visitor will still fill out an I-94 form, which includes biographical information and where the visitor plans to stay in the United States.

But now officers also take a digital photograph and scan prints of the person's left and right index fingers. The fingerprints and photograph are then stored in a national database.

The process is repeated each time a person fills out a new I-94 form. Regular visitors can obtain multiple-entry I-94s.

The changes are already in place at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron and at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, one of 115 airports that went online with the new entry procedures in January. Fourteen of the country's seaports also began fingerprinting and photographing foreign visitors at that time. The changes will be implemented at the Sault Ste. Marie border crossing Dec. 20.

So far, about 12 million travelers have been processed, said Robert Jacksta of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division within Homeland Security.

The system has netted 300 criminals and immigration violators, federal officials said.