Passengers flying to the US would not have to register before each trip under new rules being developed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, said Washington was developing a new electronic travel authorisation (ETA) system to improve security for air travel. But he stressed that the rule would not prove as disruptive as many travellers had assumed.

European companies in particular had expressed concern that business passengers would have to provide at least 48 hours’ notice on each occasion that they travelled to the US. In an interview, however, Mr Chertoff said the system would be designed to require registration only once every one or two years.

“The ETA …is not trip-specific filing. You don’t have to file it each time you take a trip,” said Mr Chertoff.

Under the system, Mr Chertoff said, people intending to travel to the US at some point would register online and then would simply provide their authorisation number each time they made a reservation.

“That really ought to allay the concern of business travellers that somehow it is going to slow them up,” said Mr Chertoff.

A spokesman for the European Commission said it favoured a system that “satisfies the security concerns of the US but with as little interruption as possible to travellers”.

Mr Chertoff welcomed suggestions by the European Union that it might introduce a similar scheme, saying: “We are always willing to abide by the same systems that we are asking others to abide by.”

The Department of Homeland Security also announced a new rule on Thursday that would require airlines to provide the US government with passenger information from passports 30 minutes before departure, as opposed to receiving the details after departure, as at present.

Mr Chertoff said the advanced passenger information system was partly aimed at reducing instances where aircraft would be forced to return mid-flight.

The department also proposed another policy – known as Secure Flight – to screen US domestic passengers against government watchlists. Carriers have supported the transfer of the screening process to a government agency and welcomed the decision to limit the information collected.

Additional reporting by Sarah Laitner in Brussels

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