US threatens Swiss with return to visas: report
Washington is putting pressure on Bern to allow it direct access to certain police records where fingerprints and DNA profiles are stored, according to a Swiss media report.
If Switzerland does not meet the American demands by June 2012, the US government will reintroduce a visa requirement for Swiss citizens travelling to the United States, reports the Tages Anzeiger newspaper.
This means that the 340,000 Swiss who travel annually to the US would have to visit the US Embassy in person to request a visa and pay a fee of 130 francs ($140).
Bern has so far resisted signing on to Washington's Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PSCS) agreement, a move that would give the Swiss citizens continued access to the US visa waiver programme, ESTA.
The programme currently enables Swiss citizens to enter the US using only their biometric passports, which became mandatory in 2010. ESTA was implemented to combat terrorism after the September 11th 2001 attacks.
If Switzerland accepts the conditions imposed by the United States, US authorities will be allowed direct computer access to Swiss police databases containing fingerprint details and DNA profiles.
Furthermore, US investigators could ask Switzerland to hand over the names, ages, passport numbers and criminal records of anybody suspected of terrorism-related crimes, Tages Anzeiger reports.
Critics fear that this data might not be protected once it reaches the US.