10 August 2004
Deadline for Biometric Passport Requirements Extended by One
President Bush signs legislation August 9
President Bush has signed a bill that will give the 27 nations
participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) another year to
incorporate biometric security measures -- such as digital fingerprints
or photographs -- into their passports.
Citizens of these countries can now travel to the United States
without visas. Under a 2002 law, visas would be required after
October 26, 2004, unless the traveler has a passport with biometric
indicators. Congress extended the deadline for the biometric passports
to October 26, 2005, in order to give the VWP countries time to
develop them, said State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.
In an August 10 statement, Ereli also said the extension will
help "avoid potential disruption in international travel." Without
the extension, travelers from Visa Waiver Countries might have
flooded the State Department with requests for visas, since few
if any VWP countries have developed biometric passports.
One new requirement hasn't changed, however. Passports used for
travel in the Visa Waiver Program must be machine-readable after
October 26 of this year.
The State Department is working to modernize U.S. passports. "By
the end of 2005, all domestically produced U.S. passports will
be biometric passports," said Ereli.
Countries in the visa waiver program are: Andorra, Australia,
Austria, Belgium, Britain, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco,
the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore,
Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Following is the text of the Ereli statement:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
August 10, 2004
Statement by Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
EXTENSION OF REQUIREMENT FOR BIOMETRIC PASSPORT ISSUANCE BY VISA
WAIVER PROGRAM COUNTRIES
President Bush yesterday signed H.R. 4417 to extend by one year,
the requirement for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries to include
biometrics in passports. H.R. 4417 was passed by the House of Representatives
on June 14, 2004, and by the Senate on July 22, 2004.
The requirement for Visa Waiver travelers to have biometrics included
in passports was mandated in the Enhanced Border Security and Visa
Entry Reform Act of 2002. The passage of H.R. 4417 and the signing
by the President extends for one year, to October 26, 2005, the
deadline by which new passports issued must be biometrically enabled.
This extension was necessary to avoid potential disruption of international
travel and provide the international community adequate time to
develop viable programs for producing a more secure, biometrically
enabled passport. The original legislation required that Visa Waiver
Program country passports issued on or after October 26, 2004 be
biometrically enabled for use in Visa Waiver travel.
To mitigate security concerns related to this extension, the Department
of Homeland Security will begin enrolling Visa Waiver Program travelers
through the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology
(US-VISIT) program at all airports and seaports on or about September
30, 2004. Enrollment in US-VISIT allows the United States to continue
international efforts to enhance border security while facilitating
legitimate travel. The US-VISIT system is a fast and easy process
that requires two digital index finger scans and a digital photograph
from a traveler to verify his or her identity.
Another requirement for Visa Waiver Program travel will still
come into effect on October 26, 2004. On and after that date, all
passports used for travel in the Visa Waiver Program must be machine-readable.
Last year, the Secretary of State granted a postponement from October
1, 2003, until October 26, 2004, as the date by which Visa Waiver
Program travelers from 22 countries must present a machine-readable
passport to be admitted to the United States without a visa. Four
eligible countries did not request a postponement of the effective
date. Belgium was not eligible to request a waiver.
Although the addition of biometrics to the U.S. passport is not
covered by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act,
the Department of State has been working diligently towards developing
U.S. biometric passports. The United States recognizes the benefits
of biometric identity verification and strives to remain at the
forefront of international travel document security. By the end
of 2005, all domestically produced U.S. passports will be biometric