British visitors to the United States will have to register their trip with the American government 72 hours before they leave under new plans.
All travellers from countries which do not currently require a visa will be forced to tell the Americans that they are coming.
The rule is intended to bolster US security and was expected to be announced today by Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff.
The move is likely to renew the worries of big business in Europe that deal-clinching, last-minute flights could become more difficult.
Last year, European firms announced their concerns over a plan to introduce compulsory registration 48 hours before travel.
The plans to be announced today are expected to come into force in January next year.
At present, 27 countries participate in the ‘visa waiver program’, including the UK, most of western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Once a traveller has registered under the new rules for the first time, it will be valid for multiple entries over a two-year period.
The new system will begin accepting registrations from August.
To register, travellers will have to contact travel agents, airline websites or through a purpose-built US government website.
A spokesman for Homeland Security said the registrations would require the same information as the I-94 form now in use.
The official added that the government was trying to stop people like ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid, who tried to destroy an airliner with explosives hidden in his trainer.
Zacarias Moussaoui, the French man who was convicted of involvement in the September 11 attacks, also entered the US without a visa.
The spokesman said: “History has shown that it is naïve to assume a traveller from a [visa waiver] country automatically constitutes a lesser threat than a visa applicant who has undergone greater scrutiny prior to travel.”
In January this year, Mr Chertoff said there was only a “small window” to check on the background of most visitors from Europe and expressed the desire for better vetting.
He added: “Terrorists are increasingly looking to Europe as both a target and a platform for terrorist attacks.”
General Michael Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has also warned that al-Qa’eda was trying to recruit westerners as potential attackers for their ability to blend into the US.
In February, the EU outlined similar plans for travellers to Europe who do not currently require a visa for short visits.