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U.S. airports to provide automatic immigration checks to Koreans

Korea citizens will be exempted from face-to-face interviews at U.S. airports upon entering the country from as early as the latter half of this year.

The Justice Ministry and the United States Department of Homeland Security have signed a joint declaration to allow citizens of both countries to pass through the automated immigration control desk at airports, ministry officials said Thursday.

Korea is thus to become the third country in the world and the first in Asia to benefit from the U.S. Global Entry Program, following the Netherlands and Germany.

The GEP is currently available in 20 major airports in the United States to simplify the immigration processes for nationals of designated countries.

A similar unmanned desk system is also present in Incheon and Gimpo airports here.

The beneficiaries of the system, before leaving their home country, are to submit to the ministry their personal information such as fingerprints and photographs, which will then be passed on to the U.S. for registration.

They will then be allowed to directly pass through the unmanned GEP, without the need to undergo a face-to-face interview with an immigration control officer.

The two countries have also agreed to jointly build a webpage, through which their nationals may apply for the use of GEP, officials said.

“The U.S. decision to include Korea in its GEP customer list proves that Korea is keeping up a reasonable immigration control system,” said a ministry official.

The ministry also vowed to speed up the processes as to enact the system within this year and to facilitate the people’s entry into U.S. territories.

A total of 975,336 Korean citizens visited the United States last year, a 32.5 percent rise from the previous year’s figure, according to ministry records.

The number of U.S. nationals to visit Korea last year reached 693,892, showing a 7.1 percent rise.

By Bae Hyun-jung (