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Swiss visitors may get fast-track entry to US

Long waits at US customs is having a negative impact on Swiss visitors' image of the US, said Beyer. Keystone

Swiss travellers to the United States may soon benefit from speedy entry under a new agreement proposed by the US authorities, according to the American ambassador to Bern Donald S. Beyer.

This content was published on January 6, 2013 - 19:35
swissinfo.ch and agencies

He told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that participation in the US Global Entry programme managed by US Customs and Border Protection would put Switzerland on a list of “selected countries” whose citizens could gain fast-track entry.

Under the proposed scheme, applicants wishing to travel to the US must undergo a rigorous background check and interview and register online on the agency’s “Global Online Enrollment System”. They must also provide a biometric photograph and fingerprints.

Security checks would take place via Swiss authorities and no sensitive data would be transferred to the US, Beyer declared.

Individual participation is voluntary. But according to the ambassador, “Trusted travellers” would enjoy speedy customs clearance using electronic automated kiosks at selected US airports which could take as little as 40 seconds compared with 30-40 minutes at present.

Beyer told the newspaper that a US survey carried out among Swiss citizens indicated that long delays at US customs were damaging visitors’ image of the North American country.

Georg Farago, spokesman for the Swiss foreign ministry, confirmed that Switzerland had received the US offer.

No decision has yet been taken on the Swiss side, however. The matter is currently in the hands of the Federal Migration Office.

The Swiss foreign ministry is reportedly extremely keen on the idea. The newspaper said state secretary Yves Rossier had written to the migration office outlining a number of arguments in particular for the business community.

Rossier stressed that 340,000 Swiss travel there every year, some 550 Swiss firms were active, representing over 400,000 jobs, and some 75,000 Swiss lived in the US.

If Switzerland agrees to participate, it would join a handful of countries alongside the Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico and Canada.

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