updated 7/27/2006 2:34:16 PM ET 2006-07-27T18:34:16

U.S. residents with green cards, parolees and some Canadians will have their fingerprints checked every time they re-enter the U.S. by air or sea.

The new security checks announced Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security are part of the so-called US-VISIT program, which requires border-crossing documents to include a digital photograph and two fingerprints. The program, which currently has 61 million people enrolled from countries except Canada and Mexico, is being slowly phased in.

“We have a lot more steps along the way,” said Bob Mocny, acting director of the US-VISIT program.

Mocny estimates that the new requirement, which will take effect Aug. 28, will add 1 million to 1.5 million enrollees.

The purpose of the program is to make sure that their travel documents aren’t forged and to screen out criminals.

Under US-VISIT, the U.S. government has caught 1,100 criminals at ports of entry, Mocny said.

There are between 8 million and 12 million legal permanent residents — or green-card holders — in the United States. But only a fraction of them travel outside of the country, Mocny said.

Canadians who cross the border to shop, visit or take a holiday won’t need to enroll in the program, according to the proposed rule published in the Federal Register.

Canadians required to enroll — including nurses, agricultural workers, students and religious workers — will only have their fingerprints checked at land ports if a Customs and Border Protection official questions the validity of their documents, Mocny said.

Everyone who re-enters the U.S. through an airport or seaport will be checked, he said.

The program won’t apply to Mexicans coming into the U.S. with a border crossing card.

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