The fear of arriving is the newest anxiety

privacy       2004-01-19 
Robert Louis Stevenson's dictum that "to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive" has been turned on its head in the past two weeks. Fear of flying, a subliminal condition for travelers since 9/11, has acquired an even more chilling dimension: fear of arriving.

Just as we come to terms with the hassles of airport security checks, delayed and canceled flights and the threat, or promise, of air marshals, visitors to the United States are faced with new, onerous conditions.

Anecdotes of harassment by immigration and security officials toward people with the wrong names or the wrong skin color, or simply the wrong demeanor, do nothing to dispel resentment among road warriors at being made to feel guilty each time they pass a checkpoint.

Under the U.S. Visitor and Information Technology program, begun this year, immigration officials take fingerprints and digital photographs of all visitors entering on visas. Travelers from 27 countries, under the Visa Waiver Program, are exempt. The snag is that passports issued after Oct. 26, 2004, must carry biometric details; otherwise one needs a visa. None of the visa-waiver countries is able to meet the deadline.