British tourists to be banned from travelling to U.S. unless they get permission three days before

British tourists will be banned from travelling to America unless they ask for permission three days before they travel, it has emerged.

But U.S. authorities promise the new security scheme will make dealing with America's notoriously difficult immigrations process far more pleasant - and added that immigration officials are even being trained to say 'Welcome to America'.

The new security scheme will see tourists having to apply for approval to travel to the United States online at least three days before they leave.

Anyone who is denied permission will be barred from the United States when they attempt to check in at the airport, the Department of Homeland Security has said.

port authority

Security check: Armed officers keep watch inside the British Airways terminal of JFK Airport, New York. New security restrictions will see British tourists having to apply for permission to fly to the U.S. three days in advance

The new procedure was introduced in August but it will become compulsory for all travellers from January 12.

Known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), it is aimed at tightening U.S. border controls amid fears of a repeat of the September 11 terror attacks.

It replaces the I-94 form that is handed out during flights to passengers from Britain and other countries that do not require visas.

Much of the information that must be supplied is the same: names, passport numbers, date of birth and destination. The application is free - and is valid for multiple trips to the U.S. over two years.

If valid, the applications will be approved in seconds, a Homeland Security spokesman said.

Even if an application is rejected, the applicant can still apply for a visa from the U.S. embassy.

Meanwhile, airports are stepping up procedures to make passengers' journey through customs and immigration more pleasant.

Officials are being trained to greet passengers with a 'Welcome to the U.S.', while videos of Americans saying 'welcome' will be aired to passengers standing in queues.

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