News September 2004 (MRP)

Machine-Readable Passports Required for Visa Waivers

The United States Congress has passed a bill extending the deadline for "visa waiver" countries (countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the U.S. without obtaining visas from a U.S. consulate) to provide their citizens with passports including biometric data such as fingerprints or digital photos that can be recognized by software. The bill became law on August 9, 2004.

Travelers from all visa waiver countries will be required to present machine-readable passports as of October 26, 2004. (Travelers from Belgium and four other visa waiver countries are required to present such passports now.)

The United States has not yet been able to provide its own citizens with biometric passports, but expects to begin issuing such passports by the end of 2005.

The Visa Waiver Program permits individuals from certain countries to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. Twenty-seven countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, which is for business and tourist visitors only, and does not authorize employment in the U.S.


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